Q: What’s the definition of an awesome gig?
Well, there’s probably lots of answers to that, but going home afterwards in a state of air-punching euphoria, and waking up with a nice glow the morning after are pretty good answers.
Ian Prowse was personally chosen as the support for the whole tour by Elvis Costello himself (see here for an interview with Ian Prowse), and it must be said that Prowse’s set on its own would have been worth the journey, and that it was a perfectly-picked support.
Opening with ‘Fireworks,’ the title track of the first album he made, as frontman of Pele, it’s clear that Prowse has an enthusiastic audience, and he truly holds them in the palm of his hand for his half-hour set. He’s a natural raconteur and whilst his thirty year career has many highlights (the aforementioned Pele, Amsterdam and solo), we get an edited highlights including ‘Here I Lie‘, from last year’s album of the same name, ‘Home‘ and finishing with his greatest song ‘Does This Train Stop On Merseyside?.’ He dedicates this to those who refuse to buy The Sun newspaper, like a true Liverpudlian. You sense that even those who have never heard his music before are seriously impressed; borne out by the fact that he does very brisk business selling his back catalogue in person after his set and after the gig. Utterly deserved.
What can you say about Elvis Costello? As someone who emerged in the punk explosion of the second half of the seventies, he’s never stopped evolving and indeed still leaves many of his then-contemporaries standing (not for him flogging butter, making lute albums or death). He’s made over thirty albums, produced the likes of the Specials and the Pogues, collaborated with artists as diverse as the Brodsky Quartet, Roots and Allen Toussaint, and written songs with Carole King and Burt Bacharach. Not too shabby.
He and the Imposters deliver a setlist that is truly career-spanning, and little short of amazing. While I would place 1981’s Trust LP fairly low down on my ranking of Costello’s oeuvre, he opens with ‘Strict Time‘ from that album, and follows it with ‘Clubland‘ and not long after gives us ‘Watch Your Step.’ Maybe time to reconsider it? The Imposters, particularly the wonderful piano work of Steve Nieve show that they are a proper band, and certainly not just a backing group.
Most recent album Look Now gives us ‘Burnt Sugar Is So Bitter‘ and ‘Suspect My Tears‘ but he also reaches back to his debut, My Aim Is True, for ‘Alison.’ It’s a stunning performance that includes a number of bona fide hits, including ‘Chelsea,’ ‘Watching The Detectives‘ and ‘High Fidelity.’ These songs still pack a punch forty years on. And with an encore that includes a particularly moving version of ‘Shipbuilding,’ a re-worked but still awesome ‘Oliver’s Army‘ and finally ‘What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love and Understanding?’
Few would dismiss Costello’s back catalogue, but do not underestimate his ability to put on a live show in 2020.
What’s the definition of an awesome gig?