At the end of "I Want You," Costello's harrowing scoring of obsessive love, during which he had effortlessly covered a technical hitch by playing the tune in two different keys, the bloke standing behind me said to his mate: "How are they going to follow that?" "With the next one they do," his companion sagely replied. For there was no low point, no nanosecond of less than riveting music in this performance by the man and his band of almost 20 years, the Attractions.
Ostensibly this tour is to promote the current album, All This Useless Beauty, but as the songwriter noted, it would appear to be a well-kept secret throughout most of the globe. His commercial standing may be at an inexplicable low — for it is a very fine recording indeed — but there is always more to a Costello gig than the new record. This one spanned his entire career, and if some of the obvious favourites were there, they appeared in new and wonderful guises.
"Oliver's Army" was played acoustically (although with the rest of the Attractions joining Costello and pianist Steve Nieve seamlessly halfway though), following a touching "Veronica" and the much requested "Psycho." "(I Don't Want To Go To) Chelsea" was a slow funk groove that segued into the Isley's "Who's That Lady." "Pump It Up" featured drummer Pete Thomas on maraca and side drum and Nieve on zydeco accordion.
This was a knowledgeable crowd, rhythmically clapping and harmonically singing to choice album tracks and appreciating every classical keyboard flurry and Marc Ribotesque guitar burst. They were rewarded with a connoisseur's Costello — so in control was he, he even found time to cue the lighting operator.