"I'd like to introduce my special guest," says Elvis Costello, tongue in cheek, midway through his sublime set at Plymouth Pavilions on Wednesday night. "It's me — both individually and as a band!"
His Detour tour is a solo affair, which offers the man up close and personal. He gives more of himself, tells witty stories and anecdotes throughout, shares with us on a different level than if he were in it with a bunch of bandmates.
The show feels even more intimate when he references his family; first, his father, Ross MacManus, musician, singer and band leader — we see footage of him performing "If I Had A Hammer" on the enormous TV screen which is an ever-changing backdrop to the show — and then his grandfather.
"I wouldn't be here if it hadn't been for Patrick," he confesses, before plunging into the most heart-felt tear-jerker of the night, inspired by the depression in the Thirties when Patrick, who had been a well-paid cruise ship musician, struggled to find work.
Naturally we get plenty of crowd pleasers, starting with "Angels Want To Wear My Red Shoes" and "Accidents Will Happen" but there are plenty of songs to appeal to the ardent fans — and with a back catalogue of over 400 tunes across 30 studio albums, there are certainly plenty to choose from.
His unmistakable, trademark nasal vocal has always been something of an acquired taste, and he is now sounding better than ever, with powerful projection and masterful vibrato which means that he is equally at home belting out tracks like "Oliver's Army" and Clash-inspired "Pump It Up" as he is delivering the magnificent "Shipbuilding" on which he accompanies himself on piano — stridently, discordantly, brilliantly — plus rare love song "She," which he croons tenderly.
Still one of the finest lyricists in the business we are reminded of some of those superb turns of phrase as the TV flags up belting one liners like "money pours down yet not everyone gets soaking wet" from "A Voice in the Dark."
Actually, though billed as a solo show, Elvis does in fact have an awesome support act in the form of Bob Harris favourites Larkin Poe, a sizzling sister act from Atlanta who deliver twisted gospel and dirty country blues from debut album Kin.
The pair provide backing on mandolin and slide guitar for Elvis late in the show and their harmonies on "Good Year for the Roses" are the icing on this delicious cake.
A standing ovation and rapturous applause says it all. Brilliant!