Birmingham Symphony Hall
I had been waiting two years for this and then the next night another one comes along (Crowded house). The Boy named If is such a good record that the excitement had been building up. In March 2020 this was the Look Now tour – since then he has released two new albums and reimagined This Years Model. On the eve of this tour he also released Rusty – a 6 song ep he recorded with the Imposters backing him and Allan Mayes his singing partner 50 years ago in his first band since leaving school.
Anyone who hasn’t heard it should – it features Bob Andrews from Brinsley Schwarz on keyboard on opening track and Costello himself on fiddle on one track. All of this is by the way. Onto the night – they bounced onto stage at 8.45pm and launched into Accidents Will Happen except that the sound was muddy. I was fearful that the same problems they had in Liverpool on the previous saturday were going to continue.This is the Symphony Hall – the best acoustics in the country. How could anyone fuck this up? Thankfully second song Green Shirt was perfect and so too the rest of the night. Song 3 Either side of the same town is a personal favourite and his voice was excellent even the falsetto parts which he reached with apparent ease. Then by the 4th song we got to see how this group has progressed – an absolutely brilliant version of Hetty O’Hara confidential – extended almost into a swing time jazz number – the interplay between Pete Thomas and Davy Farragher was jaw dropping. And so the night went on – the highlights were very much the Boy Named If numbers – particularly What If I cant give you anything but love? This tour The Imposters have been augmented by Charlie Sexton, Bob Dylan’s touring guitarist who added a significant extra dimension. He even coaxed some half decent solos out of Costello, no longer the little hands of concrete.
We got a lovely Good Year for the roses with great keyboard motifs from the wizard who is Steve Nieve and a fabulous We are All Cowards Now and Mr Crescent as a fitting finale to a great show.
The Imposters are a fabulous Rock and Roll band and in Pete Thomas have one of the finest drummers around.
Costello himself was ebullient, witty and entertaining between songs – scathing about the Daily Mail and Rod Stewarts choice of Sweet Caroline for the Jubilee celebrations. He was also gushing about the Rollling Stones performance in Liverpool which he described as ‘fucking brilliant’.
Reserved until the finale then raucous.
It made me think..
First saw Costello in 1978 and seen him well over 20 times now. The sound problems of the opening number are irritating and he is the only artist I have witnessed that issue with on multiple occasions.
It shouldn’t exist at the Symphony and to be honest the next night at the enormodome that is the NIA Crowded House offered perhaps the best sound for a live gig that I have heard in many a year.
Still I regard Costello as rock royalty these days and one of our very best songwriters. Still vital live but sort the sound out before the gig next time please.