This is my 5th blog post of Elvis Costello gig memories, you can read the previous posts here.
Bridgwater Hall, Manchester, 10th October 2003
Having moved from London to the north west a couple of months previously, this was my first ever visit to the Bridgwater Hall. We had good seats on the front row of the balcony and Elvis was promoting the “North” album which tells the story of what was happening in Elvis’ private life more directly than any of his other albums. It reflects on the end of a relationship (with Cait O’Riordan) and the start of a new one (with Diana Krall). The man himself said “These might be the most personal songs I’ve ever written. But none of that means anything unless other people can see themselves in them.”
The gig was just Elvis & Steve Nieve which is always good news for a piano enthusiast like me. After the disappointingly short sets of some of the 2002 gigs I’d been to, I was very happy to see Elvis & Steve playing for 2 ½ hours with a really good mix of old and new. It’s always a thrill to hear Steve play songs like “Clubland” and “Shot With His Own Gun.” He also plays the country stuff like “Good Year for the Roses” and “I’m Your Toy” beautifully showing that he’s a true master of the piano as well as the forte.
Elvis played the piano himself for “I Still Miss Someone” and dedicated it to Johnny Cash who’d died a few days before.
And once again, the whole thing ended with him singing an unamplified “Couldn’t Call It Unexpected” which I never tire of hearing him sing.
Leeds University, 28th May 2005
A few days before this, Elvis’ beloved Liverpool FC had fluked a European Cup win against Milan. Elvis was playing in Norwich that night and had delayed going onstage until after the match and the penalty shootout had ended. Apparently, he’d pulled out all the stops and played a storming set to make up for his late appearance. But even so, several of the Norfolkfolk had objected to this and had caused a bit of a stir with angry letters to newspapers and the like. What a bunch of wusses.
A few comments were made during tonight’s set about the football. I remember Elvis asking the crowd if they would like workshy pretty boy Harry Kewell back at Leeds United and how Elvis would be very happy to “fucking drive him there myself.”
This gig is possibly my favourite Elvis gig out of the many I’ve blogged about which is strange because the album Elvis was promoting here (The Delivery Man) is one of my least favourite Elvis albums.
But it’s all about the setlist. And what a setlist this one was. Opening with a powerful “Blood and Chocolate” double header of “Next Time Round” and “Uncomplicated”, a load of other great songs that aren’t played that often followed. Less Than Zero! Shabby Doll! Kinder Murder! Hurry Down Doomsday!
But the main thing I remember was a long run of classics near the end. What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace Love and Understanding has been a final song at so many gigs that we thought that was the end but then it was followed by a quickfire run through Oliver’s Army! Pump It Up! The Monkey! No frickin’ Action! I Can’t Stand Up for Falling Down! and then High Fidelity! Phew! Ambassador Costello, with these rockin numbers you are really spoiling us.
The show closed with a quieter one, The Scarlet Tide, dedicated of course to those plucky, lucky lads of Liverpool FC.
The Picket, Liverpool, 5th July 2007
Another amazing gig and definitely the smallest venue I’ve seen Elvis in.
As a favour to an old friend, Elvis agreed to play a warm-up gig for his River in Reverse tour at the tiny Picket club in Liverpool. I’m not sure if tickets actually went on general sale for this and looking back I’m still amazed that I managed to get in to this “secret” gig. I heard about it very early from a friend and I sent a begging email to the Picket’s MySpace page not really expecting a reply. But surprisingly, I ended up with a pair of tickets so Mrs Garbanzo & I found ourselves standing about a metre from the man himself surrounded by people that Mrs G told me were members of The Coral and The Zutons.
Not the usual backing band for Elvis here but just before the gig, we’d actually seen Elvis, Steve Nieve, Allen Toussaint and some other blokes arriving and there didn’t appear to be any dressing room for them so they were just standing around in a narrow passageway next to the bogs. Mrs Garbanzo shamelessly feigned needing a pee just so she could walk past and speak to Elvis. I’m not sure that saying “excuse me” to the great man whilst he moves slightly to the side really counts as having “had a conversation with Elvis Costello” as she’s been claiming ever since.
The “some other blokes” we’d seen standing around before the gig were Allen Toussaint’s band and they were all just as fantastic as you’d expect to find backing a legend from arguably the greatest musical city in the world (I mean New Orleans, not Liverpool, although both could make a decent case). The brass section were particularly brilliant and I particularly remember the trombone player playing some great stuff (it says here he’s called Big Sam Williams).
They played most of “The River in Reverse” album and lots of the classic hits Allen wrote for Lee Dorsey. Elvis was in fine voice for all of that and they also played “Deep Dark Truthful Mirror” which was the first song that Elvis and Allen collaborated on.
Another highlight was Allen’s instrumental piano solos, including one based on the song “Big Chief” (sampled very effectively by Lily Allen)
I took some photos and videos at the gig. Unfortunately the camera I had at that time would only take 1 minute of video at a time but here they are anyway.
- Live Review: Elvis Costello, Liverpool Philharmonic 10th June 2013 (trustthewizards.com)
- Elvis Costello gig memories – Part 4: 2002 (trustthewizards.com)
- Elvis Costello gig memories – Part 3: 1995 to 2002 (trustthewizards.com)
- Elvis Costello gig memories – Part 2: 1992 to 1994 (trustthewizards.com)
- Elvis Costello gig memories – Part 1: 1989 to 1991 (trustthewizards.com)