Manchester Evening News: Beth Ashton: 14th July 2014
Thirty-two songs (before I lost count), eight guitars, five standing ovations, at least four encores and one bespectacled man.
Elvis Costello takes to the stage, picks up an acoustic guitar, makes an indistinguishable ‘woop’ noise down the mic and launches into Jack Of All Parades.
Guitar high, shoulders hunched up to his ears and one foot on a pedal.
He might have been born that way.
It’s four songs before Costello says anything comprehensible.
“I was thinking of singing about love and deceit,” he says. “But we’ve only got one evening.”
Touring solo for the first time in over 10 years, he rips through a version of Veronica that’s stripped to its bare bones.
It’s pitchy in parts but nobody at the Bridgewater Hall signed up for a polished popstar and his delivery is so raw that he could have written it last night rather than 25 years ago.
His guitars are lined up behind him with a simple “On Air” lit up alongside them and it’s as though he’s brought his adoring fans – and they are so adoring – into the studio with him for an evening.
The show seems off the cuff – at one point he stops to respond to a request for My Three Sons, “Oh yeah,” he shouts back at the heckler.
“Yeah, that’s a good one,” and obliges.
Between the anecdotes and stories (and there are a few) is a long electric performance of Watching The Detectives as the show gets heavier.
He’s not sparing with his loop pedal as the song layers and unravels.
It’s Costello jamming solo with Costello.
The only downside is that in a career spanning four decades and 690 songs, Costello was never going to let this be a ‘Best Of’ set and some of his biggest hits are noticeably absent.
As he tears through what makes up just four percent of his back catalogue, I try to think of his modern day equivalent and no one springs to mind.
He is truly incomparable and as the “On Air” light fades after two and a half hours and a standing ovation it feels as though it’s been a rare experience.
I’m not sure there’ll be a musician of Costello’s calibre again.