Oh it was fanboy central downstairs at St James Theatre tonight – a lovely intimate venue with top sound. At one point, halfway through the intro to ‘Shipbuilding’ Steve Nieve, Elvis Costello’s erstwhile piano botherer and songwriter, asked “did you recognise that?” triggering an incredulous “yes”.
People had travelled from all over to see Steve take centre, well left of centre, stage with interpretations of Elvis tunes which most of the audience knew inside out and often that’s how they were played. In between we got little tales from the road and studio illustrating the song history that were a surprise and new to even the devoted nerd like me
His guest, Alex Cornish, admitted it was the most terrifying thing in the world to play an Elvis Costello song in front of a room of hardcore Costello fans but he played a blinder on both ‘Shabby Doll’ and ‘Alison’ which was the first communal singing of the night. Another young fella (who’s name I didn’t catch) also did stirling work particularly on the rarely heard Costello\Nieve co-write ‘Passionate Fight’ (bloke in front of me who said “Almost Blue” – bzzzzz, no, lose 5 points) and ‘You Lie Sweetly’.
My personal highlight was hearing Steve play ‘The Loved Ones’ which is the song that got me into Elvis big time and he hardly ever roles out despite Steve’s wonderful performance on the song. The main set ending with the room lustily enquiring ‘What’s So Funny Bout Peace Love & Understanding’ and a final shot of genius as Steve improvised a song based on five notes.
From the outside, the audience must have seems like smug trainspotting bastards , nudging each other while trying to guess the intro and yelling sycophantic in-jokes . From the inside, like the best pub sing-a-long and virtuoso piano recital the world has ever known