He's just the same, of course. Barrel-chested and perspiring -bashing away at his Fender In a red flamenco shirt — like some frustrated teenager in a suburban bedroom, never quite achieving the sound that's inside his head. But out front... well, how things change.
Where before Elvis might have made the crowd silent with awe by opening with a crushing. desperate "I Want You," tonight the fans clasp sweaty hands at the song's opening flush of chords — swaying slowly throughout like old soldiers on Remembrance Sunday — until the number slides to Its end and they let out great, belching cheers.
Elvis can't help but enjoy it of course, when, having asked if anybody was at the Albert Hall in April, a huge rip-roaring noise surges up from the first ten rows, or when he announces that he's going to play a song he's never done live before (always a cue for muted applause) and "Human Hands" receives the kind of ovation "Alison" usually gets; but the jubilation tends to take something away from the songs themselves, turning them into cheery totems of times gone by — when his followers were still fumbling in university dorms over Debbie Harry and becoming v-neck revolutionaries in the name of New Wavery until graduation, glasses and live-in girlfriends.
There are still gorgeous moments though, like a stunning "Deep Dark Truthful Mirror" where Elvis, larynx seemingly tied with elastic, stretches way beyond any lager-haze reminiscences and leaves his audience open-mouthed and momentarily shorn of bellowing facilities.
The gig is, however, mostly steeped in memories, never quite something to be appreciated for its face value. Even spiky renditions of "Sulky Girl" and "London's Brilliant Parade" are treated more as stinging returns-to-form than near-perfect, timeless pop vignettes.
So we end with a thunderous greatest hits thrash of "Radio Radio," "Pump It Up," "I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down" and "Oliver's Army." Pete Thomas all spidery arms and machine gun rolls, a long-haired Steve Nieve ebbing back and forth behind the organ, crunching out the melodies just like the old days — and for a while you're reminded that here's a band who, despite everything, can still sound as dark and desperate as ever.
All too soon the lights are coming on and the crowd are filing out, next stop work, responsibility and Madness on a credit card booking the next time around.
Elvis meanwhile, heads backstage, just a little bit more misunderstood.