Elvis Costello & The Imposters Colston Hall

Bristol24/7: Elfyn Griffith: July 18th 2016

In these most surreal and unsettling of times there’s nothing like a good dose of political pop to shake up and reinvigorate the senses. If that’s what you could term the music of our most brilliant troubadour of the tortured tune.

Elvis Costello’s music and songwriting have never seemed more appropriate. In a blisteringly powerful nigh-on two and a half hour set in a hot, sweaty, Colston Hall, songs written in the time of the Thatcher regime rung with as much meaning, pathos and portent now as they did back in those dark days.

A sublime Shipbuilding and Oliver’s Army, as part of a 45-minute encore, rang the registers of elated emotion and impassioned anger at current events through a prism of the past, their beauty and energy belying the message. Alibi was a strong nod to last week’s Chilcott Enquiry findings.

Costello and The Imposters started at a belting pace, Pump it Up, Big Tears and a be-sirened Watching The Detectives a statement of intent, the deliciously original angles of Moods for Moderns and a jazzed-up New Lace Sleeves segueing into Red Shoes. A stretched-out, magnificent, Cuban-spiced Clubland preceding the lovely bite of Little Triggers and an epic Stations Of The Cross.

Costello’s numbers are mini-epics in themselves, brilliantly realised and orchestrated, memorable and marvellous, his inimitable quaver cutting through the great musicianship – his own guitar playing (embellished with a few artistic rock-out flourishes tonight), and original Attractions’ Steve Nieve, performing wonders on grand piano, Hammond organ and all kinds of keyboards, and Pete Thomas on drums, with relative newcomer Davey Faragher on bass.

After a straight-edge cover of the old Charles Aznavour hit She, Costello reminded us of the fact that this was an Americana Weekend he was headlining with the pure Nashville flavour of The Bottle Let Me Down and Sweet Dreams. He swapped guitars for piano for new song Face In The Crowd and American Mirror. A storming ending finished with the punk pop vitality of Radio Radio before that 45-minute encore…

Nearly 30 songs later, after an ecstatic cruise through a sturdy back catalogue of nearly 40-years, and reminding us that politics and music, innovation and a big open attitude to musical influences, hooks, lines and sinkers, does work, he ended on a rousing (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding.

A true original.