Elvis Costello's 'Detour: Live At Liverpool Philharmonic Hall Featuring Larkin Poe'

Jedd Beaudoin

Elvis Costello has a rich body of songs, so it's no surprise that when he turns up on the stage he bests even some of the greats.

Elvis Costello

Elvis Costello: Detour Live at Liverpool Philharmonic Hall Featuring Larkin Poe

Label: Eagle
US Release Date: 2016-02-12
UK Release Date: 2016-02-12

It may seem hard to believe, but Elvis Costello is often at his best when performing his powerhouse songs in the most stripped down setting possible. He’s proven this before and in spades when, in 1996, he issued a box set featuring himself and comrade Steve Nieve performing “You Bowed Down” and others across five EPs recorded in as many cities. He returns to the same approach for this film, taking to stage with piano and acoustic guitar and running down familiar hits like “(Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes”, “Watching The Detectives” and “Alison” and the less well-known “Pads, Paws and Claws”, and “Jimmie Standing In The Rain”.

The detours often happen between the songs as he tells us stories about his life, family and career, but they also happen in the form of the set, which winds this way and that, touching on some of the biggest hits but also ignoring others. Hey, it’s Elvis, and he’s never been one to do what he doesn’t, right? In fact, it’s those hits that are present which don’t always hold up. His rendering of “Accidents Will Happen” doesn’t hold up quite the same as “’45” or “When I Was Cruel No.2”. That's okay; at this point, most of us come for the deep cuts, anyway.

It’s good that “A Good Year for the Roses”, “Walkin’ My Baby Back Home” and “Ghost Train” are wheeled out, as they sound particularly fresh and vital right beside the almighty “Shipbuilding” and “I Can’t Stand Up for Falling Down”. Costello has, of course, aged better than some of his contemporaries and in ways that have nothing to do with his looks. Rather, he writes songs that hold the energy of their times but are weighted with themes and dreams that place them clearly on the side of the timeless, songs that can be written about somewhere in the wilds of England or the heart of Kansas.

What’s also remarkable is how well he carries it all off. If some of his peers occasionally roll their eyes at the thought of a storyteller show such as this, Costello doesn’t give off any hint that it’s beneath him, mostly because it’s not. This is this sort of thing that he does best: weaving humor and tragedy together with entertainment while performing songs that seem to mean as much to him as they do to the audience.

Although joined by Rebecca and Megan Lovell of Larkin Poe on several tracks, including “Blame It On Cain”, “Brilliant Mistake” and “Love Field”, Costello is never lonely and never in need of a full band on this outing. And, hey, even though one might at first be suspect of “If I Had A Hammer”, it’s better than you might believe. An audio-only version of this seems a must, though, and one of this disappointments of this DVD release is that it doesn’t feature a bonus disc of the music. No doubt something of that nature will roll out in the near future.


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