Costello is a classic, and he keeps on proving it. Impatient and insatiable, he can't stop.
Tonight, he was edgy but confident, belligerent but still able to enjoy the warmth from an audience which greeted him like a long-lost friend — "we haven't played in London for a while, ta for coming." Mostly, he was wonderful.
He drew songs from everywhere — there was a fast and spiky "Oliver's Army," a tough and probing "Watching The Detectives," a cunningly paced "Big Sister's Clothes." There were songs from Almost Blue, and there were new ones like "Human Hands" and (I think) "Shabby Doll."
If I wanted to be churlish, I could criticise Steve Nieve's piano playing for occasional lapses into florid overkill, and El's delivery of the guitar riff in "Temptation" sounded a bit peculiar.
But there's hardly a group anywhere you can compare with the Attractions. Their rapport with Costello now verges on the telepathic, and their versatility is of course legendary. The first encore, for instance, found them switching instantly from a radically rearranged and slowed down "I Can't Stand Up" into a raging "From A Whisper To A Scream."
Throughout the whole set they hardly paused, with most numbers growing immediately from the one before. Thus, "Clubland" found the balletic Nieve doing callisthenics round the piano before darting across to an organ to embellish "Accidents Will Happen" with shrill interjections.
And from there, it was straight into "our new single," the much-applauded "Sweet Dreams." They kept it pretty simple, though Nieve inevitably seemed to grow an extra pair of hands with which to massage the piano keys.
Elvis seems pretty much in control of the ballad format now, and turned in an especially accomplished reading of the agonised "I'm Your Toy" while Thomases Bruce and Pete maintained a skeletal tempo. It's very nearly uncanny how Costello can surrender himself so completely to the vicious labyrinths of love right after charging through "The Beat" with mounting hysteria, them jumping into "High Fidelity" with intent to strangle.
But anyway, it was great to see the chaps looking fighting fit — a Christmas treat, for sure.