- 08 Sep 23
Armed with a grand piano and a selection of acoustic and electric guitars, the dynamic duo explore Costello's expansive back-catalogue filled with impressive arrangements and world-class musicianship.
While Elvis Costello has all the class and talent of an artist who's been performing for over 50 years, he also brings all the passion and engrossment of a young artist carving out his reputation - it makes for a captivating live performance on this balmy September night.
A two-man show, Costello introduces his long-time band member and piano-player extraordinaire, Steve Nieve - praising his incredible skills as pianist and keyboard player and joking that Steve recently "asked for a raise." Costello and Nieve make their way through four Elvis Costello & The Attractions hits, three Costello/Bacharach numbers and a selection of Costello's solo works - all delivered with Costello's celebrated showmanship and enjoyable anecdotes.
Kicking off the evening with the T Bone Burnett produced 'Jack of All Parades', the Dublin audience sits in silent reverence. There are plenty of familiar faces throughout the audience including younger fans like Villagers' Conor O'Brien and Bricknasty's Louis Younge. Sitting at a polished black Steinway grand piano, Nieve displays his unsung genius from start to finish. He delivers a jaw-droppingly dramatic rendition of the 1981 track, 'Shot With His Own Gun'.
Regarded as one of the greatest songwriters of his generation, Costello has worked with many of the greats including Johnny Cash, Allen Toussaint and the legendary Burt Bacharach. While Bacharach collaborated with dozens of stars like Dionne Warwick, Nat King Cole and Dusty Springfield, Costello proudly points out that he and Neil Diamond are the only two artists to have composed with Bacharach. He performs the first of three Bacharach co-writes, the 1998 earworm, 'Toledo'.
Further showing off his songwriting chops, Costello introduces his Paul McCartney co-write 'Veronica', followed by his own song 'The Deportees Club'. Recorded by Christy Moore in the late '80s, he jokes with the Dublin audience that he "better get it right".
With a name like Declan Patrick Aloysius MacManus there's no doubting Costello's Irish roots. He talks about his family roots in Dungannon and refers to the North as “the bit they stole''. He then treats us to an exclusive, first-time performance of a spoken word piece. Backed by a stark rhythmic beat, he is fully engaged in the performance. It's like Gil Scott-Heron tackling the complications of Irish history and emigration, featuring lines like “You can’t go home, you can’t go home, you can never go home”.
Other highlights included a stripped-back version of 'Oliver's Army' and the Charles Aznavour song (and Notting Hill hit) 'She'. Costello's voice is full of power and emotion throughout the night.
'Watching The Detectives' is given an almost two-minute long cinematic synth opening. It's eerie and it's impressive. He ends the set singing 'Shipbuilding', accompanied solely by Nieve's delicate piano playing.
Met by a standing ovation, Costello performs a welcomed encore including '(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding' and ending the night with the all-time favourite, 'Alison'.
While the setlist is loaded with hits, it's far from a nostalgic, 'singalong' greatest hits tour. At 69, Costello is as captivating as ever. For a man known for his fondness of a fedora - hats off!