Liverpool Olympia ★★★★✩
WHEN Elvis Costello was a teenager, his bus journey to school in Liverpool used to take him past the slightly weathered — putting it politely — venue that kicked off his new Just Trust tour. ‘Except it was a circus back then,’ he joked. ‘I never had the guts to go inside.’
But Liverpool Olympia was just about the perfect setting for this comeback tour, the first in the UK since Costello had to take time off after his recovery from cancer left him unable to perform. There was a sense of homecoming (he got quite emotional when he revealed his mother was in the audience), of renewal, of going back to his new wave roots, mixed with just the right amount of sentimentality. Of Costello just enjoying playing his best songs with his band The Imposters at a proper gig, rather than a polite, sit-down concert.
The tour is called Just Trust for a reason — perhaps because Costello feels the air of celebration that he can do this again at all, it was a generous set that revelled in all his hits. But even though Oliver’s Army and Pump It Up didn’t arrive until the rapturous encore — complete with Costello sporting a sparkling gold jacket — it felt like a genuine, two-hour musical journey. His breakthrough 1977 single Watching The Detectives was backed by an evocative gumshoe vibe, I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down was slowed back down to the original Sam & Dave pace, revealing Costello’s soulful range.
‘New’ song Burnt Sugar Is So Bitter — originally written with Carole King in the 1990s but only recorded for last album Look Now — was a glorious amalgam of all of Costello’s musical loves; blues, soul, rock, even lounge-pop.
By the last chords of (What’s So Funny ’Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding, pictures of Costello’s family had been beamed up on screen. He looked genuinely choked as he left the stage to the strains of You’ll Never Walk Alone; crowd-pleasing in Liverpool, of course, but a good summation of his enduring popularity, too.