Of all the publicity stunts this year, none has been more amusing or successful than the transformation of the humble D. P. Costello into the mighty Elvis.
Unlike most stunts it succeeded because it was based on solid ground. Elvis Costello might look like the fourth form runt that always got beat up but he can turn out witty songs with uncanny ease.
The Hope and Anchor was an eminently suitable choice of venue for his second (announced) appearance in London. His style of short sweet melodies meshed with sparse, restrained arrangements and playing have a lot in common with some of the ideals of other bands that have emerged from the London pub circuit.
As well as having the same sort of non-voice as Graham Parker (which doesn't mean he can't convey emotion just that he's not too good at hitting the right notes), his songs have the same roots in R and B and mid-Sixties pop. Unlike Parker, he's never raucous and his songs have real lyrical substance. He's almost as deft at the snappy zen one-liner as the master himself, Nick Lowe.
Not that he'll ever make it as a pop star. Unless, by some quirk of fate the bank clerk look sweeps the nation and he and his band suddenly find themselves at the pinnacle of fashion. He's also too tasteful, too diffident to make it as a teen idol. He seemed to delight in the tacky atmosphere of the Hope, drawing enjoyment from the crowd and injecting it back into his songs, often giving them a depth and immediacy they don't always have on record.
He started slowly, testing the audience with some of his more fragmentary tunes "Welcome To The Working Week" and "Pay It Back" and worked up carefully to the more rumbustious qualities of the likes of "Waiting For The End Of The World." An object lesson in how to structure a set.
Apart from looking just like him, his band (Peter Thomas, drums; Bruce Thomas, bass; Steve Mason, keyboards) had the same understanding of that famous maxim, the less you play, the more there is. A triumph of musical understatement.
He's no new genius but who is?