An intro tape with a preacher pontificating is an apt sound for a man like Elvis Costello to take the stage to. He’s a musical preacher himself. Decked out in a sparkly jacket and red tie, Costello looked dapper as he and his ‘Imposters’ played a riveting set in the grand surroundings of Sheffield City Hall.
‘It’s Saturday night Sheffield…whaddya say?!’ chirps Costello amongst an opening duo from 1981’s Trust LP in the form of Strict Time and a wonderfully salsa tinged Clubland. ‘JusTrust’ is the name of the tour – it feels only appropriate that there is a generous smattering of material from Trust. Watch Your Step and From A Whisper To A Scream also made the set from the same album. The latter was a real highlight as the night progressed.
Accidents Will Happen, Greenshirt, (I Don’t Want To Go To) Chelsea are all aired early doors, amongst cuts from 2008’s Momofuku, Brutal Youth and the bands latest LP, Look Now.
In the first of many lengthy interactions with the crowd, Costello reminisced about how it’s been six years since he was in Sheffield with a band, as well as how good it was opening the tour in Liverpool as ‘his mam was there!’ In a remark about how he didn’t think his 90+ year old mother would make it a couple of years ago, Costello remarked that the same could have been said for him (after his battle with cancer). It is with this poignancy and reflection that you take a moment to really comprehend the fact that you are in the presence of greatness, and just how much of a treasure Costello is. Anecdotes continued with a story about when Costello accidentally attended someones wedding inspired the song, Henry Worth.
One of the best things about the show was just seeing Elvis Costello back on stage, enjoying himself and showcasing some of the finest songs ever written. Whilst there were plenty of older cuts to satisfy the crowd, the material from Look Now was really quite special as well.
‘We won a Grammy in the traditional pop category with Andrea Bocelli, John legend, Michael Buble, and the mistress of voodoo, Barbara Streisand.’ The extremely souful Suspect My Tears was rapturously received, as was Unwanted Number. Both tracks saw Costello using a falsetto style vocal whilst his backing singers gave both songs a Muscle Shoals, gospel soul feel. A little interpolation of Billie Jean also showed the playfulness that the band can have with their repertoire. Costello’s swagger was enthralling as he seemed to be thoroughly enjoying his Saturday night in Sheffield.
With Costello at the piano and backing singers, Briana Lee and Kitten Kurroi sharing a mic, Good Year For The Roses was another delightful cut. What followed was arguably the highlight of the night; I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down completely re-imagined as a soulful, gospel blues number. Again, this made it sound as if it should have been cut at Muscle Shoals.
Another run of ‘classics’ followed in the form of the punchy Mystery Dance, a rousing High Fidelity and an always sublime Alison. It can’t be emphasised just how good this band is. They are tight to the nail and the showcasing of the backing singers, being upfront with Costello, shows their importance to the bands sound in 2020.
Pump It Up unsurprisingly brought people dancing in the aisles. A huge standing ovation followed before Flutter & Wow and an emphatic version of Everyday I Write The Book which included more snippets and band intros.
Described as too wiggly for ballet school by Costello, Kitten Kuroi (backing singer) took a quick vocal solo before her counterpart, Briana Lee (who according to Costello is mischievous and brings mayhem and magic) reciprocated.
‘Professor’ Steve Nieve got his nod as well as bassist, Davey Farragher and the drummer; who according to Costello is full of Sheffield steel; got his bow for his hometown crowd.
When all was said and done and the final strains of Oliver’s Army and (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love & Understanding faded, the only conclusion to draw is that this evening was a resounding success. The multiple standing ovations proved it.
A superior showman and ringleader, Elvis Costello is an artist for the ages. With songs and swagger in abundance, Costello showed just why he is such a revered artist.
You can read our review of Elvis Costello’s special guest on the tour, Ian Prowse, here.
Photography by Mike Ainscoe. You can find more of Mike’s work on the At The Barrier Facebook page.