(What's so funny 'bout) seeing Elvis Costello?

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 March, 2011, 12:00am

Elvis Costello
Hong Kong Cultural Centre

Elvis lives. In a remarkable solo performance in the Cultural Centre last night, Elvis - Elvis Costello that is - showed his songs are just as sharp, his lyrics as biting and his voice as powerful as they were when the British singer-songwriter burst onto the scene as the angry young man of pop more than three decades ago.

But my how the rest of us have aged. When I last saw him perform, on his Punch the Clock tour in 1983, we jumped up and down in front of the stage in a fug of sweat and lager. Last night, I clapped along self-consciously from my seat with middle-aged parents frighteningly like myself in a venue better suited to stage plays and minor orchestral works.

Elvis has hardly changed but we have - and watching his raw energy surge through the Cultural Centre seemed as incongruous as watching a string quartet perform on the main stage at Glastonbury. It was to his great credit that he had most of the 1,000-strong audience onto their feet doing a kind of mystery dance by the end of a gripping two-hour show.

Whippet-thin and strutting and skipping across the stage, with acoustic guitar and no microphone, the 56-year-old took to a bare stage. Perhaps sensing the oddness of the setting, he introduced Beyond Belief with the words: 'Allow me to introduce my special guest - It's me.'

Slower numbers like Alison, Good Year for the Roses and Shipbuilding were spine-tingling. It was the faster numbers like Oliver's Army and Pump It Up that made us feel our age because we probably all wanted to get up and dance but couldn't because of where we were.

Finally, during the encore, rebellion ripped through the audience and people rose to clap along to an aggressive and magnificent rendition of (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace Love and Understanding. Had we been younger, we might have ripped up the seats and charged forward for a proper pogo. Last night, we'd probably have done our backs in.

 

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