Elvis Costello, Colston Hall, Bristol, June 21. As good a storyteller as he is a singer

Wells Journal: Tom Henry: 22nd June 2015.

The straw hat and powder-blue suit suggest a certain statesmanlike jauntiness but when Elvis Costello begins to sing, we recall what we knew him best for - the sneer, the strangulated vowels and, above all, the hooks and barbs of his lyrical talent.

Making a solo appearance at Bristol's Colston Hall (albeit joined by US support act Larkin Poe for a stunning finale) Costello thrummed his way through a collection of era-defining music; songs that have not just stood the test of time but seem to hold new relevance for an uncertain, unequal modern world.

Costello kicked off with The Angels (Wanna Wear My Red Shoes) even as a sizeable proportion of the packed audience rushed in from the bar. He followed that with 'Accidents Will Happen', 'Shipbuilding', 'Ghost Train', 'Watching The Detectives and 'Walkin' My Baby Back Home' ("in the key of Maurice Chevalier..") plus many more.

Stripped of bass, drums and organ, Costello was free to play around with structure and tone. The original Stax influences behind 'I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down' were dropped in favour of a piano-led Gospel take on the song and a melancholy, minor-key version of the old music hall number 'Side By Side', against a backdrop of Tony Benn electioneering in Bristol, was a sharp, sideways swipe at the politics of austerity.

One of the evening's most pleasant surprises was the fact that Costello is as good a storyteller as he is a songwriter. Should he ever do a spoken-word tour, he'd be a guaranteed sell-out. Funny, insightful and with no small measure of Scouse wit, Costello told stories of his parents, grandparents and his time, pre-fame, as a computer operator.

Alt-country female duo Larkin Poe, who provided support with a spectacular set of their own, joined the main Attraction for several numbers before Costello grabbed his trademark Fender Jazzmaster guitar and tore through 'Oliver's Army', 'Pump It Up' and 'Alison', bringing the audience deservedly to its feet, bringing to a close a class evening from a unique artist.