Sydney Morning Herald, July 12, 2002

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This time around, Elvis really rocks

Elvis Costello and the Imposters / Enmore Theatre

Bernard Zuel

Key moment no. 1: "Spooky Girlfriend." Here was a slice of warped dance music — slinky, sly and not at all slight — coming across as virtuoso R&B producer Timbaland's running head first into a seaside brass band. You could see why Elvis Costello wants Destiny's Child to record the song. And why they should hire the Imposters for grunt.

The last time Elvis Costello was here, backed only by pianist Steve Nieve, the nights were deconstructions or at least reductions with songs pared to their essential elements of melody and hook. Those were nights for sitting down.

This tour, with the fluid, light fingered Davey Faragher more than capably replacing long-time bass player Bruce Thomas, alongside original Attractions drummer Pete Thomas and Nieve, is as far from quiet and polite as can be.

This is a rock 'n' roll show with relative subtlety traded in for plenty of volume, consistent hustle and a seesawing balance between visceral and intellectual.

Key moment no. 2: "Tart" seguing into "Beyond Belief" seguing into "Accidents Will Happen." The Imposters shimmied from the Costa del Sol-flavoured angular ballad "Tart" into a nervy, bustling ithat chased itself all the way into "Accidents Will Happen." The underlying theme was bristling power. You shouldn't be sitting for this.

While being at their core what Costello has called "beat music" and therefore seen by some as a return to his roots, the new songs are intriguing variations on regulation Costello. Thrown together into the relentless revue style show the old and new didn't merge so much as bounce off each other, sparking different angles.

Key moment no 3: "When I Was Cruel." Coming out of the barrelling '50s style rocker "Honey Are You Straight Or Are You Blind?," the mood almost naturally turned to '50s noir. With a sampled voice intoning one word and a drum loop repeating on itself we were in a macabre dance that seemed the perfect soundtrack to a David Lynch ballroom scene.

No radical change in arrangements this tour. But that wasnt a loss, not when delivered with the kind of energy typified by the windmilling arms of Thomas who drove "Radio Radio" with pounding toms and the duelling guitars and keyboards of "(I Don't Want To Go To) Chelsea."

Key moment no. 4: "I Want You." In the fourth encore, the exuberant power-pop double from 1978 of "You Belong To Me" and "Pump It Up" looked like the obvious way to end the show: the room bouncing, the energy levels peaking. But a sharp right turn took us into I Want You, the darkest and disturbing of obsessive tales. With the lights turned to blue, the Imposters holding themselves back and Costello almost maniacally repeating key phrases, the song now had a real murderous edge. It was what you expected but more; traditional but twisted. A lot like the night. Impressive. Very impressive.

Elvis Costello and the Imposters play the Enmore Theatre tonight and tomorrow and the Canberra Theatre on Monday.

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Sydney Morning Herald, July 12, 2002


Bernard Zuel reviews Elvis Costello & The Imposters, Wednesday, July 10, 2002, Enmore Theatre, Sydney, Australia.

Images

2002-07-12 Sydney Morning Herald photo 01 dp.jpg
Photo by Domino Postiglione.

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