Sydney Morning Herald, April 24, 2014

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Elvis Costello & The Imposters:
on the field but just off their game

Bernard Zuel

State Theatre, April 23
3-star reviews3-star reviews3-star reviews

The morning after this concert I was watching Bayern Munich and Real Madrid play in the European Champions League (Sleep? It's for wimps!) and the two cultural events began to merge.

Bayern, all but invincible in all competitions the past two years, boasting some of the best players and the best coach, had it all over Madrid in stats like possession and shots but never really convinced they were going to win. They seemed just enough off their game to nullify their natural advantages and bring them back to the pack.

Elvis Costello and the Imposters have a roster of songs regular artists would pay a Chelsea-level transfer fee to have for a game, let alone a season. In drummer Pete Thomas and bassist Davey Faragher, there's a business-time backline that handles everything perfectly and never asks to be noticed; in Steve Nieve there is a number 10 who can and does regularly make magic, lighting up the State brilliantly several times this night; and Costello, playing some tasty lead guitar on this tour, is both Pep Guardiola in the creative planning and, on his day, a supreme goal poacher.

So why did this show always feel nearly but not quite there? Fractionally not enough to make it a bad show, still better than most but, still, off the mark.

Some of it was tempo, as many songs ("Brilliant Mistake" second song in, "(I Don't Want To Go To) Chelsea" midway and "Sugar Won't Work" near the end, to name but three) felt about half a beat slower than appropriate. Some of it was sonic impact, with any punch slowed by volume and depth of sound that was maybe a quarter of a turn too low on the console.

Some of it was a not-always-convincing integration of newer songs from the album he made with the Roots last year, such as "Come The Meantimes" and "Viceroy's Row."

And some of it was Costello's voice faltering at times, such as in the vulnerable early stages of "Alison," "Shipbuilding" and "Suit of Lights," and at other times seeming distracted or not wholly engaged, as in "Accidents Will Happen."

All of that, the last point maybe more so, contributed to the Imposters playing well individually but not always wholly together. Making the passes but not penetrating, if you will.

You wouldn't complain about getting "Stations Of The Cross" and Jesse Winchester's "Quiet About It" at a show. There was, as ever, fun to be had with "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding." And "I Want You" had just the right feeling. Like I said, it's a roster to be admired. But in the end they were like Bayern: the work was being done but the extra class they possess, the finishing, was lacking.


Sydney Morning Herald, April 24, 2014

Bernard Zuel reviews Elvis Costello & The Imposters, Wednesday, April 23, 2014, State Theatre, Sydney, Australia.


2014-04-24 Sydney Morning Herald photo 01.jpg
Photo by Danny Clinch.


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