Sydney Daily Telegraph, April 28, 2014

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Elvis Costello and The Imposters
go through the past darkly


Steve Moffatt

Elvis Costello has been singing the Nick Lowe classic "(What’s So Funny About) Peace, Love and Understanding" for five decades now and when he gave it the thrash treatment at the State Theatre on Wednesday night his fans lapped it up.

Its refrain "Where are the strong, and who are the trusted? Where is the harmony? Sweet harmony" is as relevant today as it was when Brinsley Schwarz first recorded it exactly 40 years ago.

In fact most of Costello’s material for his two-hour set with The Imposters had that same sense of urgency, that same cutting edge, that it had when we first heard it.

He was last here with his band in 2011 and there were lots of similarities — the same high-powered opening five numbers on his signature Fender Jazzman, each one merging with the next number. Then an acoustic set where the temperature was lowered a little, before a rollicking hour of classics from his prolific back catalogue.

The Imposters were equally impressive, equally tight. If anything keyboardist Steve Nieve was given a bigger role as Costello didn’t break out into one of his goofy, left-of-field guitar solos till later in the evening, confining himself to jazz-based chord progressions and riffs for much of the first half.

Pete Thomas gave ample supporting evidence to Tom Waits’ claim that he’s "one of the best rock drummers alive," and bass guitarist Davey Faragher, the only American in the band, kept it all tight at the back.

The main difference was that the audience was up on its feet four songs in, sparked by a lone punter who raced up to the front of the stage, eyed nervously by a security guard, while Costello belted out "Possession."

By the time he got to "Everyday I Write A Book" five minutes later the first 20 rows on the stalls were swaying or dancing.

"Why wait till the end of the show?" Costello quipped as he switched from the Jazzman to his Gibson Super 400 to bring us into the modern era with a song from his 2010 National Ransom album, Stations of the Cross, written about a friend holed up in a hotel during the bad storms on the East coast of America.

The pace slowed for Ascension Day, a song from his recent collaboration with New Orleans R&B legend Allen Toussaint, which featured some wicked keyboards against a guitar that owed something to the old blues standard St James Infirmary.

But you couldn’t keep the crowd from dancing too long and Costello obliged even after magnificent versions of "Watching The Detectives" — complete with police sirens and a megaphone — and a heartbreaking five minutes of "I Want You" brought the official set to a close.

The encore set was opened with a tribute to American singer-songwriter Jesse Winchester, who died earlier this month. Costello had recorded "Quiet About It," a song about dying, for Winchester on the day that he heard of the death of his father, musician Ross McManus.

By way of contrast he played Winchester’s "Payday," a full-tilt rocker, before returning to his own material for some golden oldies including "Alison," "Come The Meantimes" and "Oliver’s Army."


Earlier in the evening 18-year-old Brisbane singer Thelma Plum sang and played some of her well-crafted songs, including "Breathe In Breathe Out" ("a f*** you to my ex-boyfriend") and "Rosie," dedicated to her 18-year-old kelpie.

If you like Angus and Julia Stone of the Swell Season you’ll enjoy Plum’s work. With her engaging stage manner, ethereal voice and unusual delivery, she is a talent to watch out for. She has released an EP called Rosie and you can check her out on YouTube.


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The Daily Telegraph, April 28, 2014


Steve Moffatt reviews Elvis Costello & The Imposters and opening act Thelma Plum, Wednesday April 23, 2014, State Theatre, Sydney, Australia.

Images

2014-04-28 The Daily Telegraph photo.jpg
Elvis Costello and The Imposters returned to Sydney's State Theatre after three years.

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