New Musical Express, March 13, 1993

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Elvis Costello & The Brodsky Quartet

London Theatre Royal

Terry Staunton

Something strange happens to pop personalities as they approach middle age; they experience an overwhelming urge to be taken "seriously." Declan MacManus is the latest to set up stall on Respectable Street, and tonight is not so much a gig as a recital.

This ain't rock 'n' roll — this is gentrified. Costello, carrying a large, hard-back lyric book, has teamed up with a string quartet for a very unusual project; a series of "letters" inspired by a newspaper item about lost souls who've actually written to Shakespeare's Juliet Capulet. And though listening to The Juliet Letters at home can be heavy going, on stage, it works perfectly. Elvis has described it as a song sequence for string quartet and voice, and it has been suggested in some quarters that a different voice might have done the material more justice. It's true that certain passages expose weaknesses in Costello's voice, as was the case with the country album Almost Blue (trying to follow George Jones was a big mistake), but at times his natural frailty only enhances the songs' drama.

"Taking My Life In Your Hands" wouldn't be out of place on Imperial Bedroom, "Jackson, Monk And Rowe" might just be his best single in ten years, and "Damnation's Cellar" — a tale of choosing a dead hero to return to life — shows Costello hasn't lost his sense of humour: "The critics say Nijinsky, the dancer, of course / While the punters would probably prefer the horse."

Bonus encores of Kurt Weill's "Lost In The Stars" and Jerome Kern's "They'd Never Believe Me" are a treat, but there are no new arrangements of Costello favourites, although parts of The Juliet Letters does offer the venom and menace of old. No Armed Forces, or This Year's Model, but plenty of blood and Capulet.

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New Musical Express, March 13, 1993

Terry Staunton reviews Elvis Costello & The Brodsky Quartet, Sunday, February 28, 1993, Theatre Royal, London, England.

NME reviews the single for "Jacksons, Monk And Rowe."

Terry Staunton profiles Wendy James; an ad for Now Ain't The Time For Your Tears runs on page 20.


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Jacksons, Monk And Rowe

Elvis Costello & The Brodsky Quartet

New Musical Express

When was the last time a firm of solicitors lent their name to a cracking pop single? And make no mistake; deep in the weightiness and worthiness of The Juliet Letters, Costello's "song sequence" for string quartet and voice, "J, M & R" is a beautifully crafted four minutes which would grace any jukebox or radio show. Two verses of childhood reminiscences and then Elvis switches to a divorce petition, while the Brodskys' bold strings scrape out a motif that wouldn't be out of place on a Jim Webb epic. This is big pop!

The Juliet Letters is everything that McCartney's artwank meandering Liverpool Oratorio wasn't. A brave and largely successful move by El after the mess of Mighty Like A Rose, and the Brodskys are probably the best band he's worked with since The Attractions.

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Page scan and advertisement.

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