Rumours abound that it's going to be an acoustic set, a phone call to Radar records doesn't put anything straight, they said they'd heard that as well. (it was even printed as such in one of the music papers) but they assured me that it wasn't — but there again they said they weren't really sure, even about who was gong to be there with him — nothing like going to see someone with an open mind and an open band.
Arriving about 20 minutes before Elvis' set I was surprised to find so few people trying to get in. Having been unable to procure tickets they most probably thought there was no hope of entering this converted railway shed that Elvis would undoubtedly turn into a hallowed hall for the night.
Before the set, the general feeling of people at the bar seemed to be that they could write the review before he'd even started. They had a pretty good point. What else could I follow with after he'd been dubbed a genius by so many.
Costello began the set as usual with two acoustic numbers. Then the amps were switched on joining the electricity being generated by the packed audience. Even if it had been an acoustic set there was enough tension in that audience to power anybody through the night.
And that's what they did. Packed In at the front the palpitating mass pushed Elvis for more and more, the applause growing after every number. The dexterous Nick Lowe stood in on bass, doing a really fine job considering that he couldn't have had much time to memorise the numbers, joining Elvis on vocals as well.
I was slightly disappointed by Lowe's voice — rather weak In places — and by his played down involvement in the set.
Still it was Costello's gig. Even so It seemed a waste not to involve him more as the chance to see them both doing a full set together does not arise often.
In fact I was slightly disappointed by the sets as a whole. Maybe I was expecting too much. I had thought that the combination of Costello and Lowe would not only be sound wlse, an event not to be missed, but that visually, in the sense of the stage presence, the two would vitalise.
But it didn't happen. Remembering back to the Stiff Live Tour film Costello's presence did leave something to be desired, acting, either like a temperamental star or a blank clerk who can't handle the applause. Admittedly he was nowhere near as adverse at the Roundhouse and seemed to be enjoying himself more, and I think enjoying is the right word as he looked pretty bored in the Stiff film.
When you hear Costello's music on record it really makes you listen. But in concert I found my mind wandering towards the end. Even the two songs that must be his strongest — if only because you hear them so often — "Watching The Detectives" and "I Don't Want To Go To Chelsea" palled slightly when played among his other numbers. This could be because his style of writing for all his songs is based on a pretty straight-forward format, or his non-emphasis on any particular song when introducing it or his good but unchanging guitar playing.
My feelings were definitely not shared by the crowd as the applause swelled for his encores, one of them joined by Phil Lynott on bass, and as Elvis said at the end, 'we really did not know anymore songs,' you can only applaud Nick Lowe for playing as well as he did considering the short notice he had.
And Elvis? Well I did enjoy the show and I'm looking forward to seeing what you'll do next but I wouldn't say you were a genius, just very close to one.