Music review: Elvis Costello & the Imposters, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

They may have been around the block a few times now, but Elvis Costello and his bandmates have bottled the vigour of youth and alchemized it with the wisdom of experience, writes Fiona Shepherd

Elvis Costello
Elvis Costello

Elvis Costello & the Imposters, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall ****

With impeccable/inevitable timing, there always seems to be some Boris Johnson news to impart whenever Elvis Costello is in town, providing grist to his mill. One memorable Barrowland appearance was fuelled with cold fury by the announcement that Johnson had been made Foreign Secretary; on this occasion, Costello greeted the Prime Minister’s latest travails with withering sarcasm but kept some scorn in reserve for a certain honorary Scot’s performance at the Platinum Jubilee concert.

Overall though, this latest edition of the Elvis roadshow was a good-natured affair, with Costello enjoying the usual intuitive relationship with his Imposters wingmen Steve Nieve on keys, Davey Faragher on bass and indefatigable drummer Pete Thomas (“the senior member of the band by three weeks”). Stage left they were joined by a special guest, the hip (relatively) young gunslinger Charlie Sexton, a guitarist used to navigating the arcane cues of the Bob Dylan band, so essentially on holiday here providing inspired, dexterous embellishment and piercing backing vocals.

The glorious setlist comprised two hours of songs old and new, with a healthy complement of Nick Lowe offerings – not least Heart of the City to kick off and the air-punching (What’s So Funny ’Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding to end. Elsewhere, Costello ranged freely from the martial drums and cheesy synth arpeggios of Green Shirt via the western swing of Hey Clockface – from one of a number of recent albums which Costello could reasonably describe as “the new record” – to the classic country heartbreak of Good Year for the Roses.

Among the older favourites, a luminous Alison, heartfelt Indoor Fireworks and stealthy jazz arrangement of Shipbuilding hushed the room, while new wave classic (I Don’t Want To Go To) Chelsea and the trim wigout of Pump It Up maintained the taut energy from a band who have bottled the vigour of youth and alchemized it with the wisdom of experience.