Elvis Costello at Glastonbury - The Guardian review

The Guardian: Mark Beaumont: 29th June, 2013

Absorbing, vital and brilliant stuff but at the Pyramid stage many people are just waiting for the Stones.

Where and when
Pyramid stage, 5.15pm

Dress code
Rich busker

What happened

Costello doesn't bring the fantastic spinning-wheel songbook he's been touring of late, or his cane-twirling carnival hawker alter ego Napoleon Dynamite, but he does bring the pause-free vivacity he's been exuding in his song-book shows, rattling through a fantastic opening flurry including the Blood & Chocolate highlight I Hope You're Happy Now, I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down and the louche ragga noir of Watching the Detectives with all the taut vitality of his new wave days. Time has blunted the sharper edges of some of these spite-tunes, but Costello's political charge still has a cutting relevance: Radio Radio, particularly, attacks media monopolies with a tongue-twisting vitriol.

Even when Elvis brings it all down, a scat jazz number called Jimmy Standing in the Rain and the Hawaiian relationship lament Good Year for the Roses, it's absorbing, vital and brilliant stuff. But aside from the bigger hits – (I Don't Want to Go to) Chelsea, a masterfully handled Oliver's Army – he struggles to get his energy across, and the reason soon becomes clear. Amid mild frugging to Pump It Up and What's So Funny 'Bout Peace, Love & Understanding, Costello drops in a cover of the Stones's Out of Time and the crowd suddenly perk up, punch the air and sing along. Today, the Pyramid is clearly a one-band show.

Who's watching
Loads of people camped out for the Stones and not shifting for no one.

High point
Costello's ode to holding Zumba classes in Thatcher's corner of the Royal Chelsea hospital, Tramp The Dirt Down, exposes an ironic distaste for anti-establishment sentiment in the latter-day Stones fan. Though he introduces it as "a song not about burying a person but burying an idea", some hiss and heckle, most talk loudly over it and one particularly meditative chap tweaks his nipples at the Guardian reviewer throughout.

Low point
With Costello's guitar lacking bite, Bedlam is a bit of a swamp blues blather, and in-ear monitor issues cause Costello to trample over the delicate melody to Shipbuilding in hob-nail boots. Also delaying the pivotal hook-word "heart" in the chorus to Watching the Detectives is like Costello spitting on your favourite Haribo.

In a tweet
Genius ignored for not playing Paint It Black.