Eagle Rock [Release date 12.02.16]
Elvis Costello brought his Detour (scouse for ‘the tour’) show ‘home’ to the Liverpool Phil in June 2015. Performing solo with just guitar or piano (apart from when joined by Larkin Po sisters Rebecca and Megan Lovell on a handful of numbers), the format saw him stripping classics like ‘Watching The Detectives’, ‘Accidents Will Happen’, ‘Alison’, ‘A Good Year For The Roses’, and ‘I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down’ back to their core, punctuated by engaging tales of his life and career.
A great song can take just about anything a performer can throw at it, and Costello has written many of the finest of his generation. Add to the aforementioned, the likes of ‘Red Shoes’, ‘Shipbuilding’, ‘Blame It On Cain’, and you’re still just scratching the surface.
But if you’re looking for something polished, and note perfect, this isn’t it. Detour sees Costello exposed with no place to hide – in a single white spotlight – the singer and the song. And as he always has, he pours his very being into each number, the sweat and spittle literally dripping from him.
The renditions are at times raw, but that adds an authenticity that’s all too lacking in most shows you’ll see these days. Nor is it the most ‘visual’ of performances – a TV screen backdrop that provides a pictorial illustration of his stories his only companion.
The Phil too, is a funny venue – not really designed for ‘rock’ concerts and imposing a somewhat restrained atmosphere on patrons compared to that of, say, an old playhouse or theatre.
Curiously, it’s some of the less familiar numbers (to me at least) that capture the imagination most – ‘Church Underground’, and ‘When I Was’ being particularly impressive. But what is remarkable is how often you find yourself holding your breath – at times, Costello is that captivating.
Credit must also go to the Larkin Po sisters who provide both a musical and visual counterpoint – Costello the epitome of a thorn between two roses. A good year for the roses, indeed.
However good – warts and all – Detour is, it’s unlikely to switch doubters to the converted. But for those with even a passing interest in Costello’s music, it’s something to be savoured. Passion over polish, the singer and the song – when they collide, it’s all you need. ****
Review by Pete Whalley
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Pete Feenstra celebrated his 300th show in October 2019. Pete heads up a five-hour blues rock marathon when “Tuesday is Bluesday” from 19:00 GMT. Listen out also for his interview-based Feature show on Sundays (20:00 GMT)
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