Daily Mail: Adam Woods: June 2012.
About 25 Years ago, Elvis Costello did a tour that revolved around a big wheel, which he named the Spectacular Spinning Songbook. The wheel bore the names of his best-known songs, fans were invited on stage to spin it, and Costello's excellent band - then known as the Attractions, now the Imposters - played whatever was selected. It was a bright idea that didn't come off so well in reality. Costello's manner with the fans was sour, and it was just too tantalising if your favourite song was sitting there on the list, not being played.
Now he has brought the wheel out again, and this time it works. His youthful acidity has softened just enough to turn into humour, and he has solved the set-list issue by simply cheating. As he puts it, in a piece of unanswerable logic: 'If you can't cheat in the Royal Albert Hall, where can you cheat?'
Now 57, Costello is three entertainers in one: a twisted post-punk, a caustic balladeer, and a rocking connoisseur. The post-punk launches an opening salvo of fast and furious tracks from his first few albums, resurfaces later for a rousing Oliver's Army and a furious Pump It Up, and evokes the spirit of 1977 with an entertaining republican rant.
The balladeer gives us subtly bruised feelings on Alison, elegiac modern history on Shipbuilding, and melodrama on Favourite Hour, as Costello delivers an anguished vocal accompanied only by Steve Nieve, the Tim Burton of the keys, playing a demented solo on the colossal house organ. It's like The Phantom Of The Opera, but better.
The Connoisseur embroiders his own songs with snippets of everything from Purple Rain to Day Tripper, slips in a well-judged cover (the Stones' song Out Of Time) and conjures up the sound of the Twenties on the intimate Slow Drag With Josephine.
Costello has done so many interesting things, from writing with Burt Bacharach to presenting his own chat show, that he has ended up rather marginalising himself. Seeing him serve up nearly three hours of eclectic brilliance, you feel that he must have another great album in him.