Elvis Costello Royal Albert Hall, Review - The Guardian

The Guardian: Caroline Sullivan: 5th June, 2013.

"Spin that wheel for England," Elvis Costello instructs. "For the people's coronation." Beside him is a deceptively calm fan, who's been brought on stage from the audience; behind them a giant wheel printed with 40 song titles, one of which will be played by Costello and his band. The fan spins for England, and the wheel stops at I Want You, from the album Blood & Chocolate. Costello sets about his 27-year-old song of bitterness and betrayal, starting quietly and ending on a pinnacle of sweet sadness. The applause reaches a climax, and the next fan is ushered on for a spin.

Costello first toured his "spectacular spinning songbook" show in the 80s, but this revived version must surely trump the original. Pop's original angry young man still has fire in the belly – he remarks that it's still worth playing the Thatcher-loathing Tramp The Dirt Down – but now he has perspective, too. For every jibe, there's a moment of avuncular kindess: a woman confides that Oliver's Army was her late father's favourite song, so Costello plays it; a chap called Ant proposes that they launch The Ant and Dec Show, and the singer – real name Declan MacManus – hoots delightedly. There's even a go-go dancer in a cage, grinding away to songs that may be compelling, but weren't written for cage dancing.

But around two-thirds of the setlist has been decided in advance, and here's where he hits his stride. An acoustic All Grown Up, with pianist Steve Nieve, is rich and burnished; Watching the Detectives becomes a dub labyrinth; Radio, Radio is as nervy as the day it was written. "The clock says we have to go," he says, then carries on anyway, still happily thumbing his nose at authority.