Blakeson - Writer

Cardiff-based film, theatre and gig reviews, cultural ramblings, whingeing, short films, etc.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Elvis Costello & The Imposters @ St David's Hall

Compared to many in attendance at the Elvis Costello and the Imposters show at St David’s Hall on Saturday, I must appear something of a part-time fan, only having seen him play five times before. They were all memorable occasions, though – twice at the old Cardiff Top Rank in the ‘80s, twice before at the Hall, and at the Feile Festival in Ireland in 1992, when he was going through his Jerry Garcia phase (also a fond memory of a rare holiday with my late brother.) The latest show, however, was especially magical.

The stage set-up is inventive, with its old-time entertainment theme – a fairground “test-your-strength” machine, a burlesque-costumed woman dancing in a cage, a lounge area with “solid gold” chairs; and, of course, the return of the Spinning Songbook – a wheel which members of the audience (marshalled by the Mysterious Josephine) are invited up on stage to spin in order to make song selections – although, in truth, it’s configured in such a way as to give Elvis something of a free hand. And Elvis himself acts the genial host, Napoleon Dynamite, with great assurance and good humour.

As for the songs themselves, the selection focussed, understandably, on his commercial peak period of the ‘80s – he kicked off a with a high-powered mini-set commencing with “I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down” and “High Fidelity”; the lyrical coda to “Alison” contained a nod to Jimi Hendrix; album tracks “London’s Brilliant Parade” and “Home Is Anywhere You Hang Your Head” received a rare outing; the recent “National Ransom” album was represented by  “A Slow Drag With Josephine” and “Jimmie Standing In The Rain”; during an extended “Watching The Detectives” he prowled the stalls (sadly I was way up in the cheaper seats); and the main set concluded with his Thatcher ode “Tramp The Dirt Down”, complete with impassioned spoken introduction. Highlights from the mercifully lengthy encore segment included a rendition of “I Still Have That Other Girl” from the legendary Costello-Bacharach album “Painted From Memory” and a climactic “What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love and Understanding”.

The voice was as cutting as ever; the mood in the house (inexplicably not a sell-out) was jubilant. Two and a half hours of peerless entertainment from the pre-eminent singer-songwriter of his generation.


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