Gig review: Elvis Costello and The Brodsky Quartet


ELVIS Costello and the Brodsky String Quartet go back quite a way, having collaborated in the early 1990s with the quirky The Juliet Letters, then expanding that partnership into a periodically evolving song machine, currently on UK tour.

This concert demonstrated that much of the creative spark remains in the performances. The question is, do the songs have much more to say than they did when the uniquely stylised idiom was fresh?

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They certainly took one member of the Glasgow audience by surprise, who heckled Costello from the expensive seats, protesting that she hadn't paid good money "to hear this classical rubbish". She had come "for Elvis" – Costello, one assumes. She left, though her ghost prevailed in the singer's references throughout the programme to the "dearly departed lady".

What was on offer – and what may have confused her – was one particular side of the chameleon Costello. The sandpapery tenor and elusively spun melodies that magically find their way back to home base ran through his moody performances. Costello's husky lugubriousness sat like a woozy tenor sax amid the sinewy intensity of the string quartet.

In digestible amounts, it's a winning combination. At such unstinting length, however, it brought little light and shade to re-castings of Shipbuilding, This Useless Beauty (sung in a more luscious orchestral setting when he appeared with the RSNO last summer), the 1930s Johnny Mercer classic PS I Love You and others. Too much of a good thing.