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Accidents may happen at unpredictable Elvis show

It's very rare that an act in the public eye for more than four decades can announce a show and people still don't know what to expect. Okay, the recent Kate Bush shows at the old Hammersmith Apollo generated massive publicity and rave reviews (many of which, I suspect, would have been far less exultant had she toured even intermittently over the past 38 years) but the idea of 'an acoustic evening with Elvis Costello' still prompts the question as to just what exactly you're going to get.

For fans of a certain generation the very idea that a bespectacled, geeky-looking chap would even dare adopt the sacred moniker of Elvis was shocking enough to begin with.

Also, as punk was doing its incendiary - if temporary - stuff, one of the era's most influential labels, Stiff, signed this bloke and put him into a studio with an American country-rock band, Clover, seemed highly improbable and even a tad deluded. How wrong we were.

That 1977 debut My Aim is True contained signs of a songwriting talent beyond fads or fashion, with the likes of Alison, Less Than Zero and (The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes sounding like they could have been written at any time over the previous two decades and still would have stood up.


When Costello formed the Attractions in the middle of that year he did inject a massive surge of energy into his sound which reflected the times but he was still evidently a man devoted to the craft of writing.

The sheer skill of Watching the Detectives, I Don't Want to Go to Chelsea, Accidents Will Happen and Oliver's Army marked him out as a songsmith with skill and ambition way beyond most of his contemporaries.

It may have seemed suicidal, career-wise, to decamp to Nashville to record a country album with legendary producer Billy Sherill but it did give him a huge hit with Good Year for the Roses.

That streak of stubbornness has seen him take on such diverse projects as guiding the Attractions into a soul style on Get Happy!, record a semi-classical album with the Brodsky Quartet, team up with Elvis Presley's former backing band on King of America and collaborate with Burt Bacharach.

Lob in production stints for Squeeze, The Pogues and The Specials and you have one hell of a career. What to expect from 'an acoustic evening with Elvis Costello' at the Bord Gais Energy Theatre on Thursday? God only knows, but it won't be dull.

>George Byrne