Review: 'Triumphant' - Elvis Costello, Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry.
Pete Clemons oversees concert at University of Warwick venue
Last night Elvis Costello made a triumphant return to Warwick University armed with a dozen or so semi-acoustic guitars, a baby grand piano, a support act called Larkin Poe and a ukulele.
The stage was set up to be reminiscent of a 1950s' living room within a Victorian terraced house. It was even complete with a 1950s' style television, albeit on a much grander scale, which ran videos from Elvis’s illustrious past to the awaiting audience as well as adding visuals to the evening’s events.
The atmosphere had all the hallmarks of an evening of reminiscence. And so it was to be as the set opened with ‘Lipstick Vogue’ a track from the classic ‘This Year’s Model’ album.
As a teenager Elvis Costello and the Attractions was, to me, simply another ‘punk’ band. Albeit a very good one and who produced a clutch of great albums
However, during the intervening years, Elvis has written with people the likes of Burt Bacharach and Allen Toussaint who Elvis paid a tribute to. And over a forty year plus career Elvis has amassed hundreds of songs to in his locker.
As such, this was not going to be a total return to those days with the Attractions. This was a career spanning gig, with songs from those glory days with the Attractions such as ‘Mystery Dance’ and ‘’Accidents Can Happen’, mixed in with other classics like ‘Shipbuilding’ and ‘Ascension Day’.
I mentioned the fact that this was a return to Warwick University. And Elvis himself was quick to touch on the dates he had played at the campus well over forty years ago with and early band of his, a duo called Rusty.
I did get the sense that, despite his songs still having that cutting edge, Elvis himself had mellowed slightly. There were also several poignant moments throughout the proceedings as if to prove that point.
One was when Elvis explained how his Father Ross MacManus, once a member of the Joe Loss Orchestra, would recreate the hits of the day for BBC radio.
Elvis went on to inform us that his Father, as part of the Joe Loss band, had also played at the 1963 Royal Variety performance attended by the Queen, the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret and had shared the same bill as The Beatles.
Ross MacManus had performed his version the Pete Seeger song ‘If I had a Hammer’. And footage of this performance was shown on the giant TV during the interval before Elvis returned to the stage for his encores – which almost turned out to be a set in their own right.
Elvis also reminded us that the 1963 Royal Variety Performance had been the same show where John Lennon, toward the end of The Beatles set, famously delivered the following request to the audience to end their set ‘For our last number, I’d like to ask for your help. Will the people in the cheaper seats clap your hands, and for the rest of you, if you’ll just rattle your jewellery’.
A final touching moment was at the end of the main set. Elvis segued a rendition of ‘You’re Wondering Now’ into his final song as a tribute to The Specials drummer John Bradbury. Photos of John were also portrayed on the TV screen.
Coventry two tone fans will not need to be reminded that Costello co-produced an album by The Specials and, in the song ‘I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down’, has an ultra-rare release on the two tone label. A copy of this single can be viewed in the Coventry Music Museum.
Elvis Costello is now seen as one of the finest songwriters to have ever graced this country. And on this evidence it is easy to see why.