Steve Nieve Plays Elvis Costello

The Sydney Morning Herald: Michael Dwyer: 21st September 2014.

Melbourne Fringe review: Steve Nieve Plays Elvis Costello

Elvis Costello got lucky when Steve Nieve answered his ad in Melody Maker. The Royal College of Music keyboard wiz had never touched a Hammond organ before, so he pulled out the stops to impress. Then he cunningly pushed them back in again before the next guy auditioned. In skinny jeans, gold waistcoat and expensive shoes, he told that story over a sumptuous Steinway grand on this occasion: an evolution that paralleled his long-time employer's subsequent elevation to the ranks of the great pop classicists.

Actually, he had a funny story about Steinways, too. And once again, his bespectacled friend Declan was the hero.

His natural modesty has often failed to eclipse Nieve's stunning gifts as an instrumentalist. But in a solo concert piano setting, with the likes of Alison and Watching the Detectives extrapolated to points previously unimagined, the degree of his restraint these past 35 years became clear.

Shipbuilding was previewed in its sad, familiar grandeur before he stopped to tell the tale of its construction, then returned to pull it inside out with only those relentlessly descending chords anchoring its original desolation.

Burt Bacharach's trademark cadences in This House Is Empty Now were honoured, too, albeit under a larger chandelier, though the witty segue into Accidents Will Happen was almost unfathomable.

Nieve's conversational pitch and virtuosic technique drew laughs, gasps and a standing ovation from the tiny audience. But as befits a loyal accompanist, the astoundingly elaborate likes of Long Honeymoon and Shot With His Own Gun were as remarkable for Costello's composition as his own boundless perspectives.