Here we were able to watch the first
90 minutes of the England V Germany semi-final. Then
Costello was seen to move out of the gallery over-looking
the bar, where he had been catching the game too, to
go off and play, so everyone legged it into the auditorium.
He gave us the result during his first encore.
He began, just himself and his acoustic guitar, with
a rendition of ‘Just About Glad’ from 1994’s
back-to-basics album, Brutal Youth. He was subsequently
joined by Steve Nieve on keyboards, who contributed
a dextrous new arrangement of ‘Opportunity’
from Get Happy. The remaining Attractions, rhythm section
Bruce Thomas and Pete Thomas, made their entrance half
way through ‘Oliver’s Army’, giving
the familiar up tempo finish to what had begun as a
slowed down reading of the song.
The set featured quite a few songs from the new album,
'All This Useless Beauty', intermingled eclectically
with old standards from the back catalogue. It was interesting
to get the writer’s introductory glosses on some
of the new songs. ‘Poor Fractured Atlas’
is about yuppies going on skirmishes in the woods at
their company’s expense, to keep them stimulated.
‘All This Useless Beauty’ starts with the
image of a wife looking away from a painting in a gallery
to gaze at her husband. The reinterpretations of old
songs were also fascinating, like when ‘Distorted
Angel’ from the new album segued seamlessly into
a soul version of ‘I Don’t Want To Go To
Chelsea’. The night ended with the sublime ‘Alison’.
A master of his craft at the peak of his form, and England
losing 6 -5 on penalties to Germany. What more could
you ask of a night out?
First published in The Big Issues