Elvis Costello, one of the most accomplished lyricists and songwriters of his generation, delivered a fabulous finale to close Festival of Voice 2018.
His current backing band, The Imposters, consists of Steve Nieve on keyboards and Pete Thomas on drums (both formerly of The Attractions) along with Davey Faragher on bass.
Together with two powerhouse backing vocalists (one wearing the finest pair of silver trousers seen this side of Studio 54’s heyday) they took the audience on a breathless journey through a prolific recording career.
The two-hour set included an astonishing amount of classics, including ‘Watching the Detectives’, ‘Pump It Up’, ‘Alison’ and ‘(I don’t want to go to) Chelsea’.
The sheer amount of hits in the set is unsurprising when you consider that the boy born Declan McManus began writing songs at the age of thirteen, and that 2017 marked the 40th anniversary of the release of his debut album, My Aim Is True. And even though the set was jam-packed with reminders of his glory days, none of the material sounded jaded – a deconstructed ‘Oliver’s Army’ being a case in point.
His between-song banter was self-deprecating and genuinely funny, and he delivered a great show, complete with guitar wig-outs, sunglasses indoors and mini monologues on film noir. He even threw in a cover of ‘Girls Talk’ by local boy Dave Edmunds, a nice hat tip to the city’s musical heritage.
His 64-year-old voice soared, bringing this reviewer goose bumps on ‘Shipbuilding’ and ‘She’ (which he apologises for not singing in the original French before launching into a Johnny Hallyday number. In French).
During his career, Costello has received numerous prestigious honours, including two Ivor Novello Awards for songwriting, a BAFTA and a Grammy. In 2003 he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and Rolling Stone magazine named him the 80th greatest musician of all-time on their 100 Greatest Artists list in 2004.
He is undoubtedly one of our greatest living musical talents, and I can’t think of a better way to close this year’s Festival of Voice.
Othniel Smith’s review: Elvis Costello And The Imposters, Wales Millennium Centre Festival of Voice