Elvis Costello – Detour – Live At Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, Blu-ray (2016)
New wave auteur goes solo with forty years of worthwhile material.
Cast: Elvis Costello with Larkin Poe (Rebecca and Megan Lovell)
Studio: Eagle Vision EVB335309
Director: Joss Crowley
Audio: DTS-HD MA 5.1; PCM 2.0 Stereo
Video: 1.78:1 for 16:9, 1080i HD Color
Length: 121 minutes
TrackList: Red Shoes; Watch Your Step; Accidents Will Happen; Church Underground; As; Shipbuilding; I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down; Walkin’ My Baby Back Home; Ghost Train; When I Was Cruel No. 2; Watching The Detectives; If I Had A Hammer; Pads, Paws And Claws; That’s Not Part Of Him You’re Leaving; Down On The Bottom; Blame It On Cain; Alison; A Good Year For The Roses; Side By Side; Jimmie Standing In The Rain; Peace Love And Understanding; Golden Tom/Silver Judas
Bonus Tracks: Love Field; Either Side Of The Same Town; Brilliant Mistake; Ascension Day
Ratings: Audio: **** Video: ****
Elvis Costello got his start in the pub musical scene in England. He rose to some prominence as part of the New Wave vanguard in the late 1970s. With his band The Attractions he released several albums (My Aim Is True, This Year’s Model , Armed Forces , all three among Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time). Costello, who resembled Buddy Holly with his thick glasses, was a gifted songwriter. But he initiated controversy early in his career with some “allegedly” inflammatory racist remarks. He has spent the last two decades as an advocate for civil rights. In homage to Jimi Hendrix, he stopped playing a song on Saturday Night Live, and instead launched into the more subversive tune, “Radio, Radio”. Over the years, Costello has developed a varied musical career, drawing on r&b, country, jazz and pop. He collaborated with Burt Bacharach, Allen Toussaint, The Roots and a myriad of artists, crossing genres.
Costello has been touring as a solo performer. Eagle Rock has released a Blu-ray of one concert on this tour, Elvis Costello Detour – Live At Liverpool Philharmonic Hall. It is a retrospective of Costello’s life, reflected through his music. Using a giant TV prop on stage (and some living room furniture with vintage photos and film), Costello performs re-arranged versions of his songs. The guitar (mostly) and voice simplicity creates intimacy with the audience. Many of the songs are slowed down for emotional effect, like the opener, “Red Shoes”. A lot of the quirky phrasing has been replaced with soulful, jazzy vocal licks. Each song is preceded by a specific memory, whether it’s Gloria Graham (“Church Underground”) or his mother (“Shipbuilding” performed on piano). The anecdotal stories are warm, especially about his father (a big band singer) performing “If I Had A Hammer” on the same British TV show as The Beatles. There is a video of Costello in a white suit performing a weird version of this, and at the end he is joined by Rebecca and Megan Lovell of Larkin Poe.
The sisters play mandolin and electric slide guitar while doing some backup vocals. On cuts like “Pads, Paws And Claws”, “That’s Not Part Of Him”, “Down On The Bottom” and “Blame It On “Cain”, they explore various roots forms, including country, traditional folk, gospel and blues. When Costello goes solo again, he is standing inside the giant TV, and performs a heartfelt rendition of one of his biggest hits, “Alison”. Occasionally, he will do vintage pop standards (“Walking My Baby Back Home” and a Dylan-esque version of “Side By Side”). The big finish (with Larkin Poe) is an energetic take of “Peace Love And Understanding”. The bonus material includes four additional tracks.
The video quality of the Blu-ray transfer is excellent. The center images are crisp and hold up under the stage lighting. On video non-concert footage, the editing is precise, and there are no perfunctory audience shots. The audio defaults to 2.0 but is available in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Most of the concert is voice and a single instrument. Surround doesn’t necessarily improve the quality, so the stereo is just as good.