Zing went the strings of my orchestra. Yes, well the elderly gents in dinner jackets and dickie-bows standing behind Our Elvis were his... if only for one night. For supplementing Mr Costello and the Attractions at the Royal Albert Hall last week was none other than that venerable building's resident Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
From country shows in Aberdeen, America and England (see last week's RM for Rainbow review) to classical as in Knightsbridge. From a whisper to a scream. From the sublime to the ridiculous? Almost, because of, rather than in spite of, the scale of this grand challenge. I mean 60-odd string and horn players fleshing out "Watching The Detectives"? In front of 5,800 punters afraid to enthuse lest they should impinge upon the dignity of the building?
Obviously the evening had its high points. The maudlin, reflective material from Almost Blue benefited from the orchestral icing, particularly "Too Far Gone," "Brown To Blue" and "Good Year For The Roses." "Alison"' was similarly brilliant although the adventurously revamped "I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down" and "New Lace Sleeves" didn't work at all.
"Shot With His Own Gun" could have been a killer but it was Elvis' first song with the orchestra and understandably phased by the whole affair, his voice just wasn't strong enough.
Inevitably, he soon gained confidence, just like he had during the first part of the evening when he played a warm-up set with the Attractions comprising post '78 material and several unrecorded compositions.
Overall the evening was too starched white and formal to be more than intermittently enjoyable, both band and orchestra too nervous to let rip and not enough up-tempo stuff included or experimented with. An exception was "What's So Funny 'Bout Peace Love And Understanding" when the 20-odd strong horn section was audible for the first time.