“Sex, love, death and dancing” is what the man promised and three hours, and God only knows how many songs, later, few could have disappointed.
Costello’s transformation from sneering angry young man to self-professed beloved entertainer is now complete and the change is almost entirely to be applauded.
The occasionally truculent performer of yesteryear has gone in the blink of almost four decades in the business and on Saturday he made a very welcome return to the Brighton Centre, just a year after his last appearance.
The show, billed as the 13 Revolvers – The Return of the Spectacular Spinning Songbook, saw Costello banging out gems from his back catalogue but the tunes were chosen randomly by audience on the spin of a giant wheel complete with his song titles or themes .
After a fairly furious four-song opening salvo, Costello briefly adopted the persona of Napoleon Dynamite (yep, that tag was one of his) and kicked off the audience participation in the style of a fairground barker.
Those who were in the market for the Costello chart-busters weren’t short-changed and were treated to Accidents Will Happen, Oliver’s Army, Watching the Detectives, a majestic Good Year for the Roses, the Charles Aznavour cover She and literally, many more.
There was also plenty for the diehards, including fan favourites and obscure album tracks such as All the Rage, Suit of Lights, Human Hands, and Deep, Dark Truthful Mirror.
He even managed to squeeze in a couple of tracks from his most recent album (2012’s National Ransom) without sending too many running to the bar.
Squeeze songwriter, and now Hove resident, Chris Difford also made a return visit to the Centre’s stage and the pair belted out Take Me I’m Yours.
The only duff note throughout the whole proceedings was a disappointing take on his classic anti-war song Shipbuilding, with a vocal performance as flat as a journalist’s pay packet.
That said, his voice was otherwise in great shape, especially so on the evening’s highlight Tramp the Dirt Down, the controversial song (written way back in 1987) celebrating the death of Margaret Thatcher.
He said singing it had become a bitter-sweet experience following the recent death of his father who suffered from dementia and “six months of misery”.
Costello dedicated it to “all the people done down in those years” and let rip with howling, snarling vocals reminiscent of the Judas-baited Dylan at Manchester Free Hall.
After an ecstatic audience response throughout and seven or eight encores (I lost count) Elvis and the Imposters (including Seaford boy and drumming legend Pete Thomas) seemed fairly pleased with events, and as well they might be.
It’s a rare thing to see a performer doing justice to his old tunes, and even rarer to play them with such energy and without any visible sign of boredom or reluctance.
Let’s hope he’s back next year.
By Steve Holloway