ELVIS’ army has gathered from far and wide. Well, quite a lot from Glasgow anyway and, as he thunders on past the last train witching hour in a packed nearly three-hour set, chances are a few of them ended up here to stay.
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Costello has a novel approach to the perennial “problem” facing long-established stars with an expansive back catalogue of hits. He dusts off alter-ego Napoleon Dynamite (who predates the film of the same name, by the way) to introduce the “spinning songbook”.
“Take a look at these hits”, he says, and sure enough there are plenty of them when you see them on paper, or indeed 20ft multi-coloured disc. In similarly gimmicky vein, the set features a cage-dancing podium bedecked with beads, and there is a dancing girl and a game-show style hostess. The latter – “the mysterious Josephine” – fetches members of the audience up to spin the wheel to pick a song which is then played, while said audience members watch on stage, initially from golden bar stools at the end of Steve Nieve’s piano, before eventually being cajoled into a wee dance on the podium.
Costello, in fine, ageing like fine wine voice throughout, also goes for a couple of wanders, including one up to the circle to sing Almost Blue, while the other prop, the “Hammer of Songs”, like a fairground test your strength game, allows a Canadian couple to request Clowns and Fiddlers. It’s showy, fun and adds unpredictability without unduly diverting proceedings – in fact, only four or five songs are selected this way and the vast majority of classics that had been “missed” are dextrously woven together in a rousing finale or, more accurately, second half.
The band are excellent, adapting seamlessly to the various impromptu amendments to the set list and giving every sign of enjoying themselves immensely, not least Nieve scampering back and forth behind a mighty suite of keyboards. Tramping Down the Dirt finishes the set, followed by a generous encore including Oliver’s Army, and ending up with Love, Peace and Understanding, the sentiment and the sound rousing the Festival Theatre to its feet in a well-deserved ovation.