Melbourne Age, October 12, 2009

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Costello's voice needs no guitars

Elvis Costello / Palais Theatre

Michael Dwyer

Guitars outnumbered Elvis Costello on his first solo visit in 25 years but each was outgunned in turn by a voice and body of work that barely needed accompaniment.

He skipped into an exuberant full house wearing a straw hat, charcoal suit and polka dot tie — and from the vaults soon barrelled "Red Shoes," "Veronica" and "Everyday I Write the Book," recalibrated to emphasise story and subtly recast melodies.

In high spirits, he shared recollections of his showman father's advice ("never look up at a note"), surreal snapshots of family life with twin three-year-old sons, and farcical memories of Concorde and caviar with the Attractions.

His main narrative thread was the Hans Christian Andersen/Jenny Lund obsession that binds his latest album, Secret, Profane and Sugarcane. The devastating pathos of "She Handed Me a Mirror" was a highlight. Nostalgia helped the peerless "Alison" resonate, but we were no less moved by "In Another Room," which followed.

It was only when the guitar was featured — in a clumsily electrified "Watching the Detectives" — that Costello's limitations as an instrumentalist detracted from his boundless brilliance as a singer-songwriter.

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The Age, October 12, 2009

Michael Dwyer reviews Elvis Costello solo, Saturday, October 10 and Tuesday, October 13, 2009, Palais Theatre, Melbourne, Australia.


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