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Articles and Reviews: MUSIC

Elvis Costello At The National Stadium
July 1996

Some artists are simply too good for their own good. They are so consistently excellent that we are inclined to become blasé when appraising them. Elvis Costello is such a one. If gigs were graded in this magazine on a one star to five stars system, Elvis would notch up seven effortlessly.
The Stadium seems to be trying to compete with The Olympia and The Point in that they now have a bar attached, called, appropriately enough, The Ringside.




Here we were able to watch the first 90 minutes of the England V Germany semi-final. Then Costello was seen to move out of the gallery over-looking the bar, where he had been catching the game too, to go off and play, so everyone legged it into the auditorium. He gave us the result during his first encore.
He began, just himself and his acoustic guitar, with a rendition of ‘Just About Glad’ from 1994’s back-to-basics album, Brutal Youth. He was subsequently joined by Steve Nieve on keyboards, who contributed a dextrous new arrangement of ‘Opportunity’ from Get Happy. The remaining Attractions, rhythm section Bruce Thomas and Pete Thomas, made their entrance half way through ‘Oliver’s Army’, giving the familiar up tempo finish to what had begun as a slowed down reading of the song.
The set featured quite a few songs from the new album, 'All This Useless Beauty', intermingled eclectically with old standards from the back catalogue. It was interesting to get the writer’s introductory glosses on some of the new songs. ‘Poor Fractured Atlas’ is about yuppies going on skirmishes in the woods at their company’s expense, to keep them stimulated. ‘All This Useless Beauty’ starts with the image of a wife looking away from a painting in a gallery to gaze at her husband. The reinterpretations of old songs were also fascinating, like when ‘Distorted Angel’ from the new album segued seamlessly into a soul version of ‘I Don’t Want To Go To Chelsea’. The night ended with the sublime ‘Alison’.
A master of his craft at the peak of his form, and England losing 6 -5 on penalties to Germany. What more could you ask of a night out?

First published in The Big Issues













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