Elvis Costello And The Imposters

By Clare McCabe

Artist:  Elvis Costello And The Imposters

Date / Venue:  Sunday April 27th, Civic Theatre, Auckland

Hard to believe I have never seen the legend that is Mr Elvis Costello live. Perhaps this is because by the time I was old enough to attend live events, he had moved from the fabulous New Wave tunes of the 70s (My Aim is True and Armed Forces) into his more poppy style of music and onwards. But let's not forget Elvis has been playing music for over 35 years and has covered a lot of different genres of music in his long career. So an Elvis concert will have something for all eras of fan.

And the Civic was the perfect venue. So glamorous and old-school. I wonder if Elvis requests this venue when he comes to New Zealand? It certainly suits his audience - looked totally packed from where I was sitting with a mixture of young and old, though mostly older fans.

First up we get a quick ½ hour set from Tom Lark and his skivvy-wearing pals. They were certainly enthusiastic, especially the dark-glasses wearing keyboard player with a nod towards Ray Manzarek ofDoors fame. These boys certainly love a good harmony. Almost expect them to be playing a little beatnik café on a back street. Perhaps their next stop?

A short intermission and then on comes Mr Costello and the Imposters. It's good to be back, he says. Getting to be a bit of a habit...

Now Mr Costello does love his guitars - and he certainly had a large selection last night - with a few on stands behind him on the stage and many more just out of sight on side-of-stage. It seems he plays each one with a different style - up high for some songs (and I mean high) and then down low and fast for the older tunes. And he does love that Fender Jazzmaster. You know, I would totally love to hear Elvis collaborate with someone like Jack White on guitars - now that would be a sight to see.

Up early we get a great version of Everyday I Write the Book, a particular favourite. Elvis certainly hasn't lost any of the power in his voice, at times singing away from the microphone at the end of his songs. He does some great ballads and does love to tell a story, either between songs or within the song lyrics. There was heavy, crashing organs and noisy guitar. There was a hint of 1930s music-hall style in some of his tunes. We got the wonderfully slow Good Year for the Roses.

Remember this man has a back catalogue of a LOT of songs, imagine even choosing what you want to play each night. I read in one of his recent interviews that they have practised over 150 songs together in recent years - so I bet if you didn't stop them, they would just keep playing for the audience as long as they were allowed.

Elvis' band on stage last night consisted of the wonderful Steve Nieve on keyboards. The man has a great variety of organs/keyboards to choose from and he does love to play them with great enthusiasm. Mr Davey Faragher casually plays away at his bass to the side and Pete Thomas does a great job on those drums.

A short break and then they swing into the old stuff (thanks Elvis). Oh here comes Watching the Detectives, complete with megaphone. Perfect. We get (I Don't Want To Go To) Chelsea. We get Oliver's Army, Pump it Upand the superb Alison. And they keep coming - to the enjoyment of the large crowd, now standing and swaying away to the hits. Elvis turns up the guitar and solos out. And everyone smiles.

There was a little bit of singing along at the Civic last night (Alison anyone?) and quite a bit of dancing in the second half when the whole crowd downstairs stood up to the opening chords of Watching the Detectives and never really sat down again.

What a great showcase of the history of music from one man and his fellow musicians, some of whom have been with him from the beginning. Thanks Elvis and friends. We know you'll be back soon as you love it so much down here. See you next time.