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Blog // Sounds
March 21, 2011

Elvis Costello

It has taken a while to write up this review of Elvis Costello’s stellar Hong Kong Arts Festival performance. I’ve struggled to do justice to his deceptively simple but powerfully crafted show. Elvis Costello entertained, cajoled shocked and seduced Hong Kong in a solo performance. He was alone on stage with seven guitars (though he […]

Elvis Costello Hong Kong Arts Festival

It has taken a while to write up this review of Elvis Costello’s stellar Hong Kong Arts Festival performance. I’ve struggled to do justice to his deceptively simple but powerfully crafted show.

Elvis Costello entertained, cajoled shocked and seduced Hong Kong in a solo performance. He was alone on stage with seven guitars (though he only played five), some effects, an amplifier and a small sequencer that he used at the beginning and end of the concert.

Sometimes musicians are apologetic when they perform acoustic versions of their songs. Not Elvis Costello.

In fact, his onstage persona, containing as it does no small measure of vaudevillian showman, egged the crowd on at every moment. He played loud, he played soft, he pulled the lead out of his guitar and went totally unplugged singing and whistling without a microphone.

His song selection was a mixture of new and old material arranged well for this format. I was expecting Elvis Costello to sing well, but it was great to be reminded that he is also a very solid, high energy guitarist.

Although he gave us wonderful versions of every song, the highlight for me was his take on All Or Nothing At All; played with equally measures of Bossa Nova insouciance and earthy blues grit (in Asia one has to endure a lot of painfully flaccid Bossa-style music).

Make no mistake though, this was hardly a golden oldies, easy listening style concert. Right when everything looked like descending into clap-along mass karaoke Elvis Costello came out with the lights blacked out and blasted a megaphone, Tom Waits style, silencing a slightly shocked audience.

It was change of direction for the Hong Kong Arts Festival to bring us an artist like this (unlike previous years there are no Jazz artists on the bill this year). But, I’m glad the organisers took this step. Elvis Costello entertained, surprised, impressed and ultimately wooed a nearly full concert hall and reminded us that great rock music is, in itself, an art-form.

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