Manchester Evening News, April 28, 2009

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Manchester Evening News

UK & Ireland newspapers

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Elvis Costello and The Brodsky Quartet

Bridgewater Hall, Manchester

Rob Allen

There are times when you just have to accept and respect another person's authority regardless of how they make you feel, such as when you're under the surgeon's knife or when a set of blue flashing lights start to flicker on the car behind.

You can only submit, knowing you‘re at their mercy. Similarly, it could be argued, that when a magisterial pop heavyweight like Elvis Costello puts you in musical head-lock for three hours you have to tread carefully as not to seem disrespectful, he is the one and only Elvis Costello after all.

Accompanied by the Brodsky Quartet, all former students at the Royal Northern College of Music, the man who so cleverly laced his perfect pop tunes with biting social commentary clashes with leading lights of the international chamber scene.

Having recorded together to create the successful Juliet Letters album 16 years ago, it's not new ground for Costello or the four classical musicians.

The very sight of Costello is enough to feel a little awed but when the music starts with "Accidents Will Happen," the familiarity with his strained, nasal vocal, relaxing into a comfortable vibrato, is genuinely exciting.

The good times roll with "Rocking Horse Road," which fleetingly morphs into "Wild Thing," and "I Almost Had A Weakness" with it's bleak, comic lyrics and beautiful violin breaks.

A consistent theme is Costello's disrespect for the microphone, instead using of the venue's flawless acoustics to let his voice carry into the audience naturally.

The whole group appear to be touring in a taxi as the stage set up is minimal, resulting in even a gentle stamp of Costello's foot to thump over the subtle strings.

The second half opens with the classic "Pills and Soap," a much needed classic which shows Costello at his uncompromising best, delivered with the same menace for which it is remembered.

"Down Among The Wines and Spirits" is a new number performed alone and unamplified, a highlight which Costello struggled to better for the remainder of the evening.

From the unfortunate, virtuoso displays with scratchy guitars to the snails pace rendition of the otherwise beautiful "Shipbuilding" it becomes too great an effort to pretend it remained enjoyable.

Polite applause was mistaken as a request for a second encore, which was deserved for reputation and a fantastic sense of humour, but not for entertainment value.

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Manchester Evening News, April 28, 2009


Rob Allen reviews Elvis Costello and The Brodsky Quartet, Monday, April 27, 2009, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, England.


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