"D'un garage a Paris"

The Northern Star: Karin Von Behrens: 23rd April 2014

Crowds flock to watch Elvis gig

THE atmosphere in the photographer's pit of the Mojo stage at Byron Bay Bluesfest is like the beginning of the Melbourne Cup.

Competitors all lined up and champing at the bit.

"This is the highlight of the festival for me", says one grinning, "this is what I've been waiting for".

Elvis Costello bounds onto the stage exuding energy.

His trademark black-rimmed glasses, fedora and suit make him look as though he's just stepped onto a New York street in the 40s, out to pick up a Babka.

The crowd goes wild and the photographers swarm.

It is easy to see why they are so enthusiastic. Costello makes even spittle look cool.

After the initial frenzy, thousands of fans - most of whom have feet so weary they can no longer lift them and lungs so lined with dust their voices have gone hoarse - relax into a rhythmic bumping motion, like a pony riding school.

Eventually they settle into the Byron Shire sway; eyes closed, not even sure themselves if they are still awake or dreaming, but certainly content.

Costello, born Declan Patrick McManus, gives it his all, bounding through a lively set including classics like Alison, Tripwire and Watching the Detectives.

Costello's band, The Imposters, also settles into the groove - bass guitarist Davey Faragher shakes his head from side to side in a "no, no, no" motion, while drummer Pete Thomas contradicts him with a pigeon thrusting "yes".

Steve Nieve, the French keyboard player is so immersed in the music, he could just as well be in his garage at home, building up a sweat.

The message, repeated frequently enough throughout the set one assumes Costello is trying to make a point, is "What's so crazy about peace, love and understanding?"

"I've been listening to him for years but I've never seen him live before", says Karen Burbury, originally from England. "I used to listen to him on my way to school on a little walkman thing.

"It wasn't a walkman, it was smaller.

"It was fantastic! It was far better than I thought it was going to be. Watching the Detectives was the best!"