Elvis Costello - Clyde Auditorium, Glasgow, Fri 11 May
Three-hour 30-song greatest hits show with patter aplenty
‘She’s filing her nails while they’re dragging the lake’ – has any songwriter anticipated the career ahead of them as clairvoyantly as Elvis Costello did on Watching the Detectives? The song appeared in 1977 but its writer has spent the decades since elaborating it repeatedly, in a song-world where devious vamps twist round their ring-fingers trusting schlubs who – you can’t help but notice – are not wholly dissimilar to Elvis Costello.
He diversifies manfully, of course, knocking out concept albums, collaborating with string quartets and the like but, in his heart, he’s forever sobbing next to a silent telephone, struggling to find a rhyme for ‘Jezebel’. A three-hour 30-song greatest hits show, then, is a formidable prospect, and proof conclusive that Elvis is not a man to keep waiting in a cinema queue.
Tonight, though, passes off without tears before bedtime. Costello is firmly entrenched now in that emeritus, elder-statesman career phase when the artist seems giddily stunned by the size of their back catalogue, and the fact that they can still manage to walk around a bit. Hence, tonight is a frisky, kittenish affair, with Elvis bringing up on stage audience members to spin the wheel that determines which song is played next. There is patter and showbiz anecdote aplenty, and a crack band who’ve been playing these songs since Elvis first had his heart broken. Thirty-five years on, old four-eyes remains a first love who’ll never run off with car salesmen named Trevor.