The art of the well-crafted song was on display tonight and, although there was precious little tinkering with the traditional form, there was enough subversive content to more than compensate for any lack of musical innovation.
Terry and Gerry's targets are generally poseurs and politicians. The anti-fashion tirades were distinctly lightweight with only Terry's effervescent warble giving the songs edge and depth. The preening hordes are duff types to go on about after all, especially since Ray Davies seminally ridiculed the "Dedicated Followers" back in the Sixties. Fortunately the political stuff is much better. Apart from the well-known "Butter's On The Bread" a classic mix of perception and wry humour there were plenty of other stinging satires to keep the mind amused. "Kennedy Says," in particular, was a real masterpiece, combining spoof and serious intent in a mock-religious paean to J.F.K.
John Hiatt began his set with "This Is The Way We Make A Broken Heart" a song he gave to Ry Cooder for the Borderline album. It was a clever opening, gently wooing an audience, some of whom may have come solely on the strength of his performance in Mr Cooder's band a few years ago. After this acoustic introduction, his highly proficient American band joined him for a noteperfect "I Don't Even Try" from the 1983 Riding With The King LP.
Unlike his support band, John Hiatt focuses inwards, to the counterpane war, the pain of jealousy, unrequited love and all the other daily deceptions that happen between people. His earlier work is often deliberately oblique but nonetheless far more satisfying than the less ambiguous tracks he aired tonight from the new album Warming Up To The Ice Age.
His attitude towards women, once shrouded in clever lyricism, now seems to have soured into a miserable mysogeny, that irony will simply not eradicate. "She Said The Same Things To Me", for example, was proceeded by some slick patter that only reinforced the song's glib arrogance and "Real Man" showed just what can happen when the willy becomes the rudder of your life.
However Elvis Costello joined for the encore (nattily dressed in matching jacket and shoes (!?) for gorgeous harmonies and soul power on "She Loves The Jerk" and "Living A Little, Laughing A Little," the show steamed on to a memorable conclusion, with everybody, and especially Mr Hiatt, well pleased with the experience.