Costello’s last visit to Edinburgh saw him deliver a two-and-a-half-hour tour de force that will be hard to forget.  It’s a night that Elvis himself has good reason to remember.  Having decided not to go public about a recent cancer treatment he had thrown himself back into public performance a little too soon. Edinburgh saw him at the top of his game but by the following night in Newcastle he had overstretched himself and later tour dates were cancelled.  Happily, a brief respite saw him return to active service and, following a double-header tour with Blondie and further Imposters’ dates in the U.S and U.K, he is back in front of an Edinburgh audience once again.  Billed A Tour To Trust, the shows are not intended to lean heavily on Costello’s 1981 album Trust, but to indicate that we should trust Elvis and The Impostors to deliver the goods.

The opening salvo of Strict Time, Cubland and Green Shirt make it clear that, at this point in the tour, Elvis and The Imposters are as tight as a  Lorraine Pascale tee shirt. And while the one-time kid with his mumbo jumbo can still slash through his songbook with all the vim and vigour of his younger years, he’s now learned to pace himself; the non-stop song machine of former times is now leavened with slower songs and amusing anecdotes.

Following a darkly brooding Watching The Detectives, Elvis moved to the piano with the slightly rumpled air of a high school headmaster who has slept in the classroom because he’s afraid to go home to his wife.  Settling in behind the piano, a request for Radio Radio from the audience seems unlikely to be fulfilled. Instead, we are treated to a slightly gospel-tinged Good Year For The Roses, Elvis’ soulful vocal being bolstered by back up singers Kitten Kuroi and Briana Lee.  After A Face In The Crowd from his seemingly still putative Broadway musical, it’s back to the guitar for a hit-laden final stretch.

Elvis is always at his best when he is belting out the fast-paced numbers.  Pete Thomas hammers out Uncomplicated’s pounding beat, (I Don’t Want To Go To) Chelsea retains all its hard-wired energy and High Fidelity still fizzles and swaggers like an old Stax single. Burnt Sugar Is So Bitter, a newer song written with Carole King, fits right in with the hits.  From A Whisper To A Scream keeps the energy flowing before the pace eases slightly for Alison and the ever-joyful Everyday I Write The Book.  Pump It Up brings the crowd finally to its feet (back in the day they would have been there from the opening notes of the first song, but none of us are getting any younger) taking us to the end of another first-rate performance from Elvis and The Imposters.

There is, of course, an encore: three songs with an anti-war theme.  Shipbuilding seems unsure if it wants to be Almost Blue at first but is as affecting as ever.  Oliver’s Army contains a verse I don’t think I’ve heard before and (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding remains the best way possible to end any gig.

“Where are the strong?” Elvis sings, “Who are the trusted?”  As we all walk through these trouble times, Costello’s Tour To Trust is just what we need to help us on our way.

John Scott

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