Sounds, May 13, 1989

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Good year for the oldies

Elvis Costello / London Palladium

David Cavanagh

Sunday night at the Palladium. The "funny Nazis" from Allo Allo were taking a well-earned rest from their labours, leaving the way clear for our man Costello to hypnotise friends, followers and freeloaders alike with a consistently intense and often blisteringly violent two-and-a-half-hour acoustic set.

In front of a stage set that rivalled the Tate bricks for sheer artistic uselessness, he warmed up with "Accidents Will Happen" and "Blue Chair." Then came two memorable moments of stuttering vitriol. "Deep Dark Truthful Mirror," one of a hefty whack of songs from the LP, Spike, and the legendary "Watching The Detectives" were so astounding that Costello himself seemed intrigued. He had to go to the piano to have a quick ballad, "Almost Blue."

By now songs from the vaults were mixing it audaciously with newer classics. "God's Comic," lengthy and poignant, somehow managed to include an anecdote about Swedish game shows, while the failed single "Veronica" was delivered as a shifty "Peggy Sue"-type shuffle. One of the evening's exemplary medleys took in "Radio Sweetheart" and "Jackie Wilson Said."

Returning with Nick Lowe, the by now seriously affable Costello considered "Indoor Fireworks," as well as Lowe's "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding?." A solo howl through "I Want You" fair removed the roof.

He'd done the full 90 plus extra time, but still he wasn't satisfied. Dragging on a huge, stuffed broken heart, he invited audience members up to choose their own highlights from his colossal back-catalogue. "Good Year For The Roses" and the much appealed for "Alison" scarcely prepared the assembled for an almost demented version of "Tramp The Dirt Down" — from where did all that energy come?

Oh, and just one more thing. The final, final, that-really-is-all-folks jaunt through "Pump It Up," accompanied by a sizzling and spitting beatbox, just may have been the most wilful display of composer perversity since Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music. The last "goodnight," after all the feedback, heartbreak and anguish, could just as well have been the sound of the stars going out.

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Sounds, May 13, 1989

David Cavanagh reviews Elvis Costello, solo and with Nick Lowe, Sunday, May 7, 1989, Palladium, London, England.


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Photo by Ed Sirrs.
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1989-05-13 Sounds cover.jpg


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