Coming in at minutes off three hours it is hardly surprising that at times this gig was indulgent, self indulgent perhaps. There were certainly moments where my attention passed, some pretty heinous guitar solos and an awful lot of mad business with members of the audience and the spinning wheel of songs. That said I loved it, and the reason why is clear. Costello is an inspired performer, poet, pop songwriter and guitarist. But it is the voice that is at the heart of his work, and what a voice. Often strange, occasionally struggling to find the note, but it has a plaintive human quality that is irresistible. With every song you get a sense that he is giving up a little of his soul and with that he also proves that he is also one of the greatest vocal interpreters of other writers’ work. He performs with a three piece band that owes more to punk than the over-produced bands of today that rely on technology, backing tracks and serious lighting hardware to hold an audience. This was rock and roll, soul, blues, pop and the fine art of delivering a song with heart. He sings ‘Ship Building’ with heartfelt pathos and ‘She’ with real passion and on top thrashes out nearly every hit. For that I forgive the clutter of the format, the odd solos and rejoice in a talent that seems as vibrant today as it did back in 1977.
The Brighton Centre, 16 May 2012