Yorkshire Evening Press, June 8, 2015

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Yorkshire Evening Press


Review: Elvis Costello, Detour, Harrogate International Centre, June 6

Charles Hutchinson

ONE man was desperately keen that he left the building before Elvis did. So keen, as he squeezed past your reviewer, that he missed the encores. All 12 songs of them.

"I'll get up for you," I volunteered. "That's OK. As long as I don't have to listen to any more of this noise," he said, brushing past in his urgency to exit Costello's first Harrogate show since the Royal Hall in 1984, wanting the Attractions but encountering too many detractions.

It should be noted that Agitated of Harrogate appeared to be alone in his disquiet, but Costello's set until to that point had been challenging, with the likes of After The Fall, Harry Worth, Stella Hurt and Wave A White Flag testing even the most enthusiastic devotees.

It is the perennial dilemma of a still prolific songwriter that while he wants to flick through all his songbook, the concert-goer craves the hits. When playing solo, as he does on Detour– dat's Scouse for 'the tour', he jokes – the harshness of tune and bitterness of lyric of Costello's later years becomes more exaggerated.

The trouble is, if you were to suggest a substitution, it would always be in favour of bringing in an earlier song, be it Clubland, Pills And Soap, Tramp The Dirt Down, Indoor Fireworks, Tokyo Storm Warning or So Like Candy, all absent from the Harrogate show, as they were from the Birmingham Symphony Hall concert your reviewer had encountered the previous Sunday.

However, as a cursory look at Setlist.fm, will testify, no two shows on the 21-date Detour are the same, allowing the 60-year-old Costello to detour in any direction with 400 songs in his canon, plus a repertoire of unpredictable covers stretching back to the jazz age.

At Birmingham, Elvis's younger brother, Ronan MacManus, had opened the show with his group Brand New Zeros and joined him later for a couple of encores. At Harrogate, it was straight from the career retrospective of promo videos on a giant retro television set to Elvis's entry in a natty navy blue suit and white Stetson.

The TV screen would play its part in a show that had family and reflection at its core, as Elvis switched between guitars, even ukulele and a loudhailer, or sat at a piano stool or in his blue chair, peppering the songs with stories from his life and the musical exploits of his father, Joe Loss's singer Ross MacManus, and his grandfather in the First World War. Watching father Ross looking the spit of Elvis as he sang If I Had A Hammer on TV, "you could see where I got my dance moves from", he said.

The Costello waspish wit had a sting in his tales too, with a dig at David Cameron and some teasing at Harrogate's expense for being the "weird sex capital of Europe".

If the setlist craved indulgence, nevertheless Elvis the showman's skills of musicianship and deep, dark, truthful voice were undimmed. Shipbuilding and a ballad reinvention of I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down stood out on the piano; Watching The Detectives hammered the loop effects pedal into submission; 2014's The Last Year Of My Youth is the veteran's best song in years; and when he turned the TV set into a mini-stage for Oliver's Army, he brought the house down.

A tender rendition of Buddy Holly's Not Fade Away on a special Holly Foundation guitar would surely have delighted even the early departee. Elvis will not be fading way or leaving the building any time soon.


Yorkshire Evening Press, June 8, 2015

Charles Hutchinson reviews Elvis Costello, Solo, Saturday, June 6, 2015, International Centre, Harrogate, England.


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