Elvis Costello @ Festival Theatre, 18 Mar

Live Review by Lewis Wade | 24 Mar 2017
  • Elvis Costello live at The Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

After a couple of years on the road, Elvis Costello is bringing his run of Detour shows to a close. The show operates as a sort of intimate retrospective; Costello performs the entire show solo, frequently pausing to share family stories, childhood memories and other anecdotes both broad and specific. These range from Scottish independence and Theresa May, to his regrets, to memories of his father appearing on the same bill as The Beatles (but higher up, he quips).

Drawing from a rich and varied catalogue (and that's an understatement), the show is perfect for both the uninitiated and Costello fanatics alike. He performs on electric and acoustic guitar, as well as piano, mixing covers (Charles Aznavour, Sam & Dave), deep cuts (Vitajex, Just About Glad) and the hits (This Year's Girl, Watching the Detectives, Oliver's Army).

Though he can't quite hit all the high notes from his heyday, and the stripped back nature of the set doesn't always bring out the best in every track, the sheer strength of Costello's songwriting and his uncanny ability to wring out sentiment from the mundane and subvert modernist tropes with his unparalleled wit make for a highly enjoyable evening.

An off-mic rendition of Alison closes the main set (before two encores) and proves a highlight of the night. It's a demonstration of his ability to mesmerise an audience as the room falls to a hushed silence, bonded in awe and appreciation of the delicate and tender-hearted imagery being woven in front of them. At two and a half hours, the show isn't afraid to stretch out and revel in its tangents and obscurities, but Elvis keeps things moving at a swift clip.

Over the course of more than two-dozen songs Costello proves – even with just a few guitars, a piano and a couple of trademark trilbies – why he's one of the most celebrated and gifted songwriters of the last fifty years.

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