When All This Useless Beauty didn't get the PR push he felt it should, Elvis Costello didn't pout and write "slave" on his face. He and Attractions' pianist Steve Nieve set off to showcase it.
Recorded live last May in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston and New York, the five EPs in this limited edition boxed set make Costello's case. Most of Beauty is included, and several tracks — notably the caustic "Starting to Come to Me" — are as fine as anything he's written.
But the beauty of the collection is in its spare, inventive arrangements - not just those given the new material, but the familiar "Watching the Detectives," the less-familiar "My Dark Life" and covers of "My Funny Valentine" and Jerry Garcia's "Ship of Fools," recorded, appropriately, in San Francisco.
Costello is in fine form and high spirits throughout. His anecdote about being interviewed by a German reporter, dropped in the middle of "Little Atoms," is priceless.
If you have the time, and at just over two hours it doesn't require much, play the discs back to back. It's almost as good as being there.