The headline act of this year's Salisbury Festival turned up in a dark suit and white hat. Elvis Costello (ne Declan Patrick MacManus), the veteran English singer songwriter, filled City Hall on the middle Friday. I did at one point — and I've done a lot of soul-searching since — wonder whether I'd stumbled into a karaoke evening. His voice, sometimes shouty, sometimes painful, didn't always seem to be in tune and even if it was, it certainly wasn't always tuneful.
That must just be his schtick, I said to myself. He was certainly very good on the guitar and I'm sure his fans — who sang gently back to him during an early song — thought he was brilliant. There was humour to his performance, too, although I did wonder whether he was trying a little bit too hard to be cool.
Despite some pleasant, maybe even beautiful passages, I slipped away around half way through. Elvis Costello, I learned, just wasn't for me. I enjoyed two or three of the songs, but give me Paul Simon or Leonard Cohen any day.
One man who certainly is a Costello fan is Labour MP Alan Johnson. So much so that he apparently arranged to meet the singer backstage after the show. I'd interviewed Johnson twice at the Arts Centre that afternoon. A second event had been arranged after his first proved a sell-out. During one of the interviews, when I suggested that the result of the General Election might have been very different had he been at the helm, there was a spontaneous round of applause.