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Review: Books, Theatre, Movies, Albums & Gigs.

Elvis Costello and The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra

The Liverpool Philharmonic Hall

June 25 2008

Image: Elvis Costello 2008


 


As far as living iconic Scousers are concerned, few are more revered than Elvis Costello. Strange really, considering he was born in Twickenham and only moved to Birkenhead – over the Mersey on Wirral – when he was a teenager. That aside, however, Costello remains an icon with a back catalogue of material as vast and as varied as it is influential. Name a living legend playing today and Costello is almost sure to have played, written or arranged for them or with them. Not bad for a bloke who started out singing backing vocals on his dad’s advert track for R White’s Lemonade (yes, I’m A Secret Lemonade Drinker can be placed amongst Good Year For The Roses as an official EC recording).

So, with the beautiful auditorium of The Philharmonic Hall packed to the rafters, the man himself took to the stage dressed in a black suit, purple shirt, trademarked Buddy Holly spectacles and shiny winkle pickers to a rapturous ovation and, from there, held the audience pretty much spellbound throughout. No need for fancy pyrotechnics or images being played up onto high screens here, just let the words, the music of the fabulous RLPO (not a bad backing band, you have to admit) conducted by Clark Rundell and the warmth of the adoration wash over you and chill for a bit.

 

Starting off with All This Useless Beauty and The Girl In The Other Room, which Costello says has been adopted by his wife, Diana Krall, before breaking into How Deep Is The Red, the mood is gentle and strangely liberating.

Exchanging pleasantries and imparting anecdotes with the audience, Costello is clearly at ease and thriving on the atmosphere that is slowly but surely building, with three extracts from his Opera, Copenhagen, seeing soprano Gisela Stille take the stage to perform the songs of Hans Christian Anderson infatuant, Jenny Lind, with quite breath taking beauty.

The second half saw more of the old favourites taking a bow. Veronica was belted out with thumping gusto, Watching The Detectives with a big band, swing beat sound that works astonishingly well, Alison, which resonates a soulfully as ever and She is, well, a Charles Aznavour number no matter who sings it. Shipbuilding remains the highlight of the evening however. Originally written in protest of the Falklands War and the deprivation the county suffered to fund it, Costello proclaimed it as being as fitting to sing today as it was then. “Never in my lifetime,” he said introducing the song “did I imagine a Labour government would ever take us into an illegal war like this lot have.”

Oh yes, there’s still life in the old dog yet when it comes to protest and long it may it continue because, love him or hate him, agree or disagree with his politics, music needs the likes of Elvis Costello and his big bag of wonderful compositions.

This was a special night seeing an adopted Prodigal Son return to the bosom of his family and nearly ended with his being smothered by their love of his talent.


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“Writing gets me away for a while' from this world and into one where I, alone, can make or
break the rules as I see fit.” - Chris High 2003.
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