Elvis Costello & The Imposters State Theatre Sydney 19 April 2011

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

There may be someone out there who's still labouring under the delusion that this rock'n'roll caper is essentially a young man's game, but if there is, he or she definitely wasn't at Sydney's State Theatre on the evening in question here.

While two and a bit hours of Elvis and The Imposters mightn't have burnt with the incandescent rage that fueled shows in the Angry Young Man period, there was passion aplenty running right through the opening straight from one to the next salvo of I Hope You're Happy Now, Tear Off Your Own Head, High Fidelity, Uncomplicated, and Either Side of the Same Town.

Elvis poured it out, Davey Farragher's bass threatened the foundations of the building, Steve Nieves burbled away adding punctuation on keyboards and Pete Thomas was, well, Pete Thomas on drums. He mightn't be the most physical drummer in the universe, but if that's the case you wouldn't want to be that other bloke's kit (unless, of course, you're a masochist who's into serious and sustained pummelling).

That probably comes as no news to anyone who's experienced the electric Elvis before, but, given geographic isolation and financial issues, this was the first time I'd experienced the glorious racket with serious intent that is Costello and The Imposters.

In between songs towards the end some bloke down the front interjected "Get serious, Elvis!", prompting a muttered "This is f-cking serious" and another sonic assault on the senses.

Things slowed down a tad for a funky Everyday I Write The Book, an impassioned workout through New Lace Sleeves (lazy writing, that, just about everything on offer was impassioned, but it's the best I can come up with at the moment and, a week later that's still the case so it looks like it'll be staying) and a Watching The Detectives that rocked out without going into total guitar effect overload. Turpentine didn't quite lift the paint off the Gothic, Italian and Art Deco influenced Heritage listed structure, but must have gone close.

We got a bit of light and shade in the form of Good Year For The Roses, Momofuku's Flutter and Wow and The Spell That You Cast before  Oliver's Army, I Don't Want To Go To Chelsea, Beyond Belief, which almost was, a raucous blast of Clubland, and Stella Hurt to finish off the main set.

Pre-show discussions about the set list had predicted an acoustic solo mini-set somewhere along the way, which is the way the encores started. A chatty introduction was followed by a warm reading of Jimmy Standing In The Rain, before bringing out the Secret Sisters to provide harmonies on Slow Drag With Josephine.

Their opening set had delivered a charming batch of retro country numbers, and if their contributions to Josephine seemed a little tentative, Why Don't You Love Me Like You Used To Do? showed off both the Sisters' delicious harmonies and Costello's long held but hardly secret bent towards the country end of the spectrum.

The Sisters gone, out came The Imposters along with one of Costello's favourite guitars for a seated stroll through Luxembourg, before the volume and intensity went back through the roof for Monkey To Man and I Hope.

A seventeen number main set followed by a five song encore would, under normal circumstances be about par for the course for most acts, but we're talking Costello here, and the man's known for multiple rather than single encores, so they were back out for another go, starting with a rocking and substantially rewritten National Ransom, which ran more or less straight into a rumbustious King of America and a predictable final one-two punch (as one was needed by this stage!) of Pump It Up and What's So Funny About Peace Love and Understanding?


© Ian Hughes 2012