Elvis Costello pays tribute to Charlotte Church during his stripped back Cardiff gig

Wales Online: Steve Tucker: 26th June 2015

Elvis Costello entertained his fans at St David's Hall in Cardiff when he also gave a nod to the city's singers, including Charlotte Church

Forget the hippy vibe at Glastonbury, if such a thing still exists, if you wanted true ‘peace love and understanding’ you needed to worship at the altar of one of Britain’s greatest ever singer songwriters.

He may have risen on the shirt-tails of punk and new wave, but Elvis Costello has seen his career open up new vistas down the years incorporating country, classical and just about everything in between thanks to an astounding body of work currently standing at 30 albums.

As he took to the stage in Cardiff the love in the room was palpable and as he launched into the classic Angels Want To Wear My Red Shoes and followed it up with Accidents Will Happen’ that feel good vibe was only set to soar over a sprawling two-hour plus set.

Costello is now a long way from those punk roots - this was a stripped down set. Just the man, a piano and enough guitars to open a shop.

The faithful lapped it up, of course, but perhaps for a first-timer, although long-time admirer like myself, you did get the desire at times to have the sound filled out by some backing.

Some familiar classics sounded under-nourished although the presentation by Costello himself was never short of precise and at times astounding.

The lack of a band was actually most marked on those early spikier songs. Oliver’s Army, his biggest hit, sounded perfunctory whilst Watching the Detectives came across as messy with its clanging guitar breaks. Pump it Up lacked the required punch too.

The show really came alive when Costello got behind that piano with the quip, ‘Here is my special guest, me!’

Shipbuilding is a heart-breaker, a lament for lost times and made more poignant as Costello reminisced about his father Ross and grandfather Patrick who lost his work on the cruse ships back in the depression of the 1930s.

There was even a rare outing for the haunting She, a gorgeous journey through lost love that proved Costello’s voice, always slightly an acquired taste, is in fact maturing into the most beautiful instrument.

And that is what this show was, heart-felt. A large screen displayed images of some Cardiff heroes of music and beyond - Stan Stennett Dave Edmunds and Andy Fairweather Low all flashed up. But it was a picture of singer turned anti-austerity campaigner Charlotte Church which seemed to move Costello most.

He ended up blowing kisses at her, always a political animal himself, his kicking against the prevailing tide seems not set to let up just yet.

In the end Costello got some backing, with his support act, Larkin Poe, coming on, the American sisters provided mandolin and slide guitar accompaniment as well as beautiful harmonies on a gorgeous Good Year For The Roses.

The night ended with an outing of one of his earliest classics, (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding. A fitting finale indeed and a fitting sentiment too on a night when all those things ruled the Welsh capital.