Elvis Costello & The Imposters – SSE Arena, Belfast

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There are very few things in this life that we can guarantee. However, it was a fact that Elvis Costello and The Imposters would deliver a fantastic gig that would give the audience exactly what they wanted and more.

This was the exact case in the SSE Arena in Belfast.  With a career spanning five decades there was a lot of pressure to deliver a performance that would be worthy of his music royalty status.  He delivered this with ease and was even pretty cool whilst doing so.

With the unusual choice of no support act I was first of all very confused. This is something I had never experienced at a concert; this appears to be Costello’s trademark for his live shows. So did he need a support act? The short answer is no. The lights dimmed and the band boomed on the stage unannounced and were met with cheers and claps from the crowd. Then on came Elvis Costello himself with the suave ease that we have all grown to love. He did not need all the flounce, he simply came on stage and did what he does best; he played his guitar and sang.

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They opened with Pump It Up. This initially got the crowd moving and singing along. Listening to Costello sing live was like listening to the original record releases. His voice was flawless and as strong as ever. The next big crowd pleaser was the ever popular Watching The Detectives. The subtle lighting changes continued to reiterate that the crowd wanted nothing more than for Costello and the band to play the music that they loved. We did not need the extravagance, just the band and the classics. Everything about this concert screams minimalist with an essence of grandeur with the classic songs and flawless music.

Costello refrained from being overly interactive with the audience. This in itself felt like a personal touch. There were no continuous ‘I love you’ lines. There were, however, very personal jokes (one including the paleness of Ulster skin) as well as digs and laughs regarding song choices. One that stuck out for me was Costello’s apparent dislike of the song She. He did however acknowledge that this was a crowd favourite and played it flawlessly. His impressions of Elvis Presley seemed another personal touch for the audience; obviously it is not the first time he has heard his name resembles the King. Nobody on stage takes themselves too seriously and they feel that they can joke with the crowd whilst keeping a professionalism whilst performing.

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As the concert progressed we got to hear some very Pink Floyd-esque guitar work from Costello. Throughout various songs I was reminded of the classic ‘One Of These Days’ as Costello’s unique guitar work reminisced a variety of 1970s classics whilst staying true to his own signature style.

One thing I also feel is worth a mention is the obvious athletic ability of the keyboard player, Steve Nieve. I have never seen a keyboard player jump up and change instruments with such ease as I did Steve. Every time you looked away for a second he was playing either the keyboard or piano with such energy that you did not notice his constant changing. The bass guitarist, Davey Faragher, was as flawless as ever. He provided the unique bass lines that gave the entire concert it’s flair. Last, but not least, Pete Thomas on drums. Yet another unique addition to the gig. His constant energy gave Costello’s gig the nostalgic and flawless touch that we all craved.

In a nutshell there is not much else I can say about this concert other than it was downright everything you would expect from Elvis Costello and the Imposters. For such a simple and minimalist set, with no support group, it definitely left a lasting impression. The two encores both left the crowd wanting more but also as though they had a genuine satisfaction for the set list they had just witnessed. The perfect balance between classic and obscure was struck and Elvis Costello proved once again that he is not a force to be reckoned with. It just goes to show that you do not need all the flourish, sometimes a simple purple hue from the lights is enough to show the crowd that you deserve the description of music royalty.

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