The versatile vocalist puts on a masterclass as he returns to his teenage stomping ground
lvis Costello cemented his reputation with his first five albums that channelled the energy of the punk era into classic songwriting. Since then, he has experimented with genres from country to classical, collaborated with heroes such as Paul McCartney and Burt Bacharach, dabbled with a beard and even picked up an OBE this month. However, this barnstorming show finds him back where he was before any of it started. “I used to walk past this place on my way to school, but never did pluck up the courage to venture in,” the 65-year old says, pausing for the punchline. “It was a circus then, so I wouldn’t have been good for health and safety.”
So begins a two hour, 26-song masterclass, with a setlist that spans much of his back catalogue and in which stone cold classics come along as regularly as buses. Perhaps his cancer scare in 2018 that resulted in cancelled tour dates has given him a jolt, but he seems to relish every second of this return to his teenage stomping ground, making a grand entrance with arms raised like a champion boxer. Costello usually plays seated venues now, but the standing stalls and boisterous crowd make for an electric atmosphere. There is, perhaps, another reason for the singer-songwriter’s vintage form. He explains that his Liverpudlian mother, Lilian, is in the audience, which he hadn’t expected. She has been very ill and he reveals that she could have died, so Costello pays tribute to the “extraordinary women at Arrowe Park hospital who did so much for her. I can’t tell you how much it means that she’s here tonight”.
“I decided to also name the tracks that make these albums special to me,” he explained. “So, if nothing is written, head straight for the title track or assume that the whole damned thing is irresistible. (faroutmagazine)
“This is also a list of where I began and where I stopped listening. There are huge gaps and blind spots. Unsurprisingly, I favour songwriters over players, but any hit parade of great singers would have to include Johnny Hodges.
“Making this list made me listen all over again.”
Here it is, Elvis Costello’s 500 favourite albums: