Triumphant Liverpool return for maestro

Catherine Jones: Liverpool Echo: 29.06.10 TWO years ago he made a Capital of Culture appearance in this very hall alongside the RLPO. But this time Elvis Costello was the main attraction in a return visit to the city that, if it didn’t actually breed him, certainly raised the teenage music maker. And the former SFX schoolboy, who once played down the road at the Black-E for the princely sum of 50p, and whose mum was an usherette at the Phil, delivered a marathon two-hour, 26-song, guitar-saluting thank you. The one-time boy from Birkenhead has certainly come a long way, both physically (he now lives in the States with wife Diana Krall) and musically, picking up - magpie-like - shiny new genres during the last three decades, from pub rock to punk to pop to jazz and the current squeeze in this career of cross-fertilisation, bluegrass and country. It was the latter that dominated last night’s set, with a black-and- white boatered Costello playing alongside the six-strong Sugarcanes - whose members include dobro guitar maestro Jerry Douglas and Nashville Bluegrass Band fiddle player Stuart Duncan. It lent a bluesy, country feel and some delicious vocal harmonies to much of the Costello back catalogue, right back in fact to Blame it on Cain and (The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes from his debut album My Aim is True, and right up to his most recent output including Down Among the Wines and Spirits. New Amsterdam was given a waltz-like feel as it seeped in and out of a raw version of the Beatles’ You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away (Costello had spent Sunday afternoon supporting Macca at Hyde Park), while the singer showcased a number of new tracks including Jimmy Standing in the Rain - a tango-infused piece of storytelling with the repeated refrain "waiting on a platform at a Lancashire station", and the ragtime-style Slow Drag With Josephine, featuring a dual vocal with mandolin player Mike Compton. But there was also room for some of the most loved parts of the Costello canon, including Every Day I Write the Book, a pared down Alison, and a heart- rending, grandiose Phil Spector sound saturated Shipbuilding. There were times during the evening that the sound system distorted Costello’s vocals. But it didn’t seem to overly bother the packed Phil Hall. "You’re the best," he told the crowd as he, finally, left the stage.