Elvis Costello - Hong Kong Cultural Centre

South China Morning Post

Elvis lives. In a remarkable solo performance in the Cultural Centre last night, Elvis - Elvis Costello that is - showed his songs are just as sharp, his lyrics as biting and his voice as powerful as they were when the British singer-songwriter burst onto the scene as the angry young man of pop more than three decades ago. But my how the rest of us have aged.

When I last saw him perform, on his Punch the Clock tour in 1983, we jumped up and down in front of the stage in a fug of sweat and lager. Last night, I clapped along self-consciously from my seat with middle-aged parents frighteningly like myself in a venue better suited to stage plays and minor orchestral works.

Elvis has hardly changed but we have - and watching his raw energy surge through the Cultural Centre seemed as incongruous as watching a string quartet perform on the main stage at Glastonbury. It was to his great credit that he had most of the 1,000-strong audience onto their feet doing a kind of mystery dance by the end of a gripping two-hour show.

Whippet-thin and strutting and skipping across the stage, with acoustic guitar and no microphone, the 56-year-old took to a bare stage. Perhaps sensing the oddness of the setting, he introduced Beyond Belief with the words: "Allow me to introduce my special guest - It's me."

Slower numbers like Alison, Good Year for the Roses and Shipbuilding were spine-tingling. It was the faster numbers like Oliver's Army and Pump It Up that made us feel our age because we probably all wanted to get up and dance but couldn't because of where we were.

Finally, during the encore, rebellion ripped through the audience and people rose to clap along to an aggressive and magnificent rendition of (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace Love and Understanding. Had we been younger, we might have ripped up the seats and charged forward for a proper pogo. Last night, we'd probably have done our backs in.


The Rebel Kind.com

Last night the Elvis Costello show rolled through our clotted metropolis of Hong Kong and put on a spectacle worthy of the ages. Throughout his over two-hour solo performance, Elvis finessed, lathered, charmed and slayed with the ferocity and precision of a matador in the ring. The stage was literally "in the round" with the crowd surrounding Elvis and prompting him at times to stroll the periphery, arm raised in mock self-aggrandisement like Mussolini at Rome's Palazzo Venezia. The only thing missing were chants of "Elvis Is King!"

With a wink to China's surveillance state, he opened with "Green Shirt" from 1979's Armed Forces:
There's a smart young woman on a light blue screen
Who comes into my house every night
And she takes all the red, yellow, orange and green
And she turns them into black and white

From there he dipped deeply into his rich catalogue, stretching from his first-ever recording - "Radio Sweetheart" - to the ragtime-inspired, "A Slow Drag With Josephine" off his most recent, the excellent, National Ransom. Highlights included a genuinely acoustic rendition of "Jimmie Standing in the Rain," done without electricity when he stepped away from the mic and unplugged his guitar; a mash-up of "New Amsterdam" and the Beatles' "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away"; a smoldering "Almost Blue," sung again unplugged as he strolled around the stage; a truly moving version of "Shipbuilding; and "Oliver's Army" with the shout out for us, "Hong Kong is up for grabs!"