Thursday, October 29, 2015

Elvis Costello in conversation with Nick Hornby

29 October 2015

Going to see an author speak about their latest book can often be an underwhelming experience. Some writers turn out to be far less articulate in person than they are in writing. And even though they are speaking to an audience that may have paid a significant amount of money to see them, I've seen authors at book festival events who seem to have done no preparation and given little thought to what they were going to say. There were no such problems at the Royal Festival Hall on Thursday evening where I went to see Elvis Costello in conversation with the novelist Nick Hornby about his memoir 'Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink'. Unlike many authors Elvis is obviously an accomplished performer, very used to commanding a stage. I saw him play the Royal Albert Hall last year (reviewed here in October 2014). He's also a compelling raconteur and Hornby, clearly a genuine long-time fan, needed do little more than gentle prodding with random names and song titles (in the manner of Elvis's Spinning Wheel of Songs) to unleash the stories. Elvis was also meticulously prepared, slickly manipulating his iPad to share audio clips, family photos and videos on the giant screen above the stage. It was fascinating to see film of his father, Ross MacManus, singing with the Joe Loss Orchestra in the 1960s and looking the spitting image of his son. Questions from the audience prompted Elvis to share memories of particular gigs and his experiences of collaborating with Roy Orbison, Burt Bacharach and other legendary artists. One woman's question was simply "will you please play 'Indoor Fireworks'  (a beautiful but largely forgotten album track from Elvis's 1986 album 'King of America') when you tour to London next year? After a very entertaining discussion, Elvis ended the evening by performing three songs, accompanying himself on acoustic guitar, and rather wonderfully including 'Indoor Fireworks'. I hadn't heard this achingly beautiful song for years: it's a miniature masterpiece which brought a tear to my eye. It was an absolutely brilliant evening and I can't wait to read the book.

Indoor fireworks
Can still burn your fingers
Indoor fireworks
We swore we were safe as houses
They're not so spectacular, they don't burn up in the sky
But they can dazzle or delight
Or bring a tear
When the smoke gets in your eyes. 
                                               Elvis Costello.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home