Until Saturday night, I had always regarded Elvis Costello as a brilliant songwriter and recording artist who could never quite deliver his full potential on the stage. Obviously I have always seen him on the wrong nights, for I have had this image of an unsmiling, aloof figure delivering excellent songs with a whining voice.
The second of his shows at the Hammersmith Odeon changed all that. He still looked like and accountant trying to be trendy, in his sports jacket, grey trousers and waistcoat, short hair and dark-red spectacles, but he actually seemed relaxed and cheerful for a change, while his voice was as versatile as the range of material he tackled. Slick, inventive playing by his three-piece backing band, The Attractions, helped to make this surely the ideal Elvis Costello concert.
For a man who has written literally dozens of powerful songs. Costello was keen to include other people's material — everything from the blues to a country classic, "Why Don't You Love Me Like You Used To Do?" to standards like the ballad "One Day I'll Fly Away" or a rocker popularised by the other Elvis, "Little Sister."
Most of his own material came from his latest album, Trust, and were delivered with Costello either playing frantic guitar or gesticulating like a cabaret performer.
For the encores, he was joined by the vocalist, Glenn Tilbrook from Squeeze, and the guitarist, Martin Belmont, from The Rumour for a rousing selection including "From A Whisper To A Scream." It was a concert to remember.