buttonElvis Costello at Shibuya Kokaido (7th July '02)

Elvis Costello


When Elvis Costello hit the stage in Tokyo last Sunday, I felt like I'd hit a wormhole in the time:space continuum (which is a bit like OD'ing on deja vu). The Shibuya Kokaido is a modest fixed-seating theatre venue with classic plush red drapes as a backdrop on stage. The last time I had seen Elvis in concert was in an almost identical venue in Sydney - same seating plan, same drapes - when Elvis' was on tour promoting his third studio album, Armed Forces, in 1979. And except that 25 years had passed in between, the performance he delivered last Sunday was every bit as powerful.

But I did see him once, though very briefly, between these two concerts. That was at the Fuji Rock Festival in 1998 as I passed by the Green Stage. Though brief, that glimpse also hit me hard. There Elvis stood, alone in the center of a huge outdoor stage and armed only with an acoustic guitar in front of 10-20,000 people assembled under a blisteringly hot urban sky.


Elvis CostelloElvis Costello
Elvis Costello


He started playing Alison. And the clarity of his voice sent shivers down my spine. Even outdoors and under such extreme conditions, the quality of his performance was overwhelming. So when I next heard he was coming to Tokyo, I made a point of getting along to see him.

As a fan I don't feel I have ever walked away from Elvis, and yet the concert last Sunday made me realize just how much of his career I have missed. The radio had filled in most of the gaps over the years, but I hadn't owned one of his records since This Year's Model, his second studio album released in 1978.

But not being familiar with his new album, When I Was Cruel, released earlier this year, turned out to be a bonus. It allowed me to absorb his performance purely in abtractions - of voice, of lyric and of melody. His voice has not waned. It still sounds almost tangible - as if you could reach out and touch it, like a beautiful shard of crystal, or pluck on it, like the strings of a harp. It is as clear and strong as ever - possibly even more so, having become more tender and more layered with nuance.

His lyrics - as ever - are personal, like a page lifted from a diary or journal. And still sometimes playful; sometimes provocative. But the arrangements on some of the new songs are layered with menacing back beats or synchopated rhythms buried well below El's edgey guitar riffs and Steve Nieve's mad antics on keyboards and synths (and other assorted toys). While some critics may trash the production on When I Was Cruel, it is exactly these darker, moodier elements that drew me deeper into the music as they performed one after another track off the new album.

Elvis CostelloElvis Costello


There were also fun moments, like the bassist's thrash guitar antics on Tear Off Your Own Head (It's A Doll Revolution), for which he donned and dramatically doffed a blonde afro wig. Elvis was then seen wearing it when the band reappeared for their second encore - a magic meddley of early Costello, including Oliver's Army, Alison, My Aim Is True, et al, which the crowd thoroughly enjoyed (as did Elvis - backstage after the performance, I heard him say, "That was fun!").

I grabbed a songlist it was meaningless - Elvis is famous among his tech crew for throwing the playlist out the window and performing according to his mood.

And when Elvis did leave the building it was to shake hands and sign autographs for a long line of fans that stretched for a city block. These fans included not only old-timers (like me...:) but also many still brutally young ones, obviously at the beginning of their Elvis experience...


report by jude and
photo by saya38.

–³’f“]Ú‚ð‹Ö‚¶‚Ü‚·BThe copyright of the text belongs to Jude Brand and the same of the photos belongs
to "saya38" Takahashi. They may not be reproduced in any form whatsoever.

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