LIVE AT THE ROYAL ALBERT HALL

According to a Hip-O press release, a concert from London's Royal Albert Hall is planned as a future release in The Costello Show series.

But which Royal Albert Hall concert? Not counting brief sets at benefit concerts and guest spots at other artists' shows, Elvis has performed there at least 17 times!

JANUARY 7, 1982

The most obvious candidate for official release is the one known to have been recorded with an official release in mind: Elvis' first Albert Hall appearance from January 7, 1982. The 110-minute show is most notable for its second half, during which Elvis, the Attractions, and guitarist John McFee are joined for 14 songs by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. This was the first time Elvis had performed his music with an orchestra. One song, "I'm Your Toy," was released as a single that April and included as a bonus track on the Rykodisc and Rhino reissues of Almost Blue. The rest have remained in the vault, although a soundboard recording circulates unofficially. (Some copies are marred by static, but a static-free version has circulated more widely in recent years.)

While it lacks the historic nature of the second half, the first half of the show is a strong set in its own right. Featuring McFee but not the orchestra, this portion circulates only as a below average audience recording, so the sonic upgrade of an official release would be especially welcome. That is assuming, of course, that an official release would be a two-disc set with the entire concert, since it is not difficult to imagine a standalone release of the show's second half. Encouragingly, Hip-O has consistently described The Costello Show series as featuring "complete concerts."

It is worth noting that this concert was also filmed professionally, although there is no evidence that plans for The Costello Show series include DVDs.

Setlist:
EC/Attractions/McFee: Big Tears; Strict Time; Secondary Modern; Green Shirt; Kid About It; Watch Your Step; Shabby Doll; Almost Blue; Success; Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down; Colour Of The Blues; How Much I Lied; The Long Honeymoon; Clowntime Is Over; Big Sister's Clothes
EC/Attractions/McFee/Orchestra: Shot With His Own Gun; Accidents Will Happen; Sweet Dreams; Just A Memory; Too Far Gone; I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down; Watching The Detectives; New Lace Sleeves; Brown To Blue; Town Cryer; Alison; Good Year For The Roses; I'm Your Toy; (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding?

DECEMBER 1982

Elvis and the Attractions returned to the Albert Hall for two shows in December 1982, this time with the Imperial Horns (the precursor to the TKO Horns, with a slightly different lineup). Two songs — "The World And His Wife" and "Everyday I Write The Book" — from the epic 38-song performance from December 24, 1982 were released on the Rykodisc Punch The Clock. However, the fact they did not make the transition to the Rhino version, with Elvis dismissing them as "lo-fi" in the Rhino liner notes, may not be a good sign for an official release of the full show unless higher quality tapes exist. (My view is that the real problem with the tracks on the Ryko CD is that they run 3% too slow, and that is a problem that can easily be fixed. The fidelity is acceptable if not exceptional.)

A second show December 27 ran an even longer 40 songs, but it is unclear whether it was recorded professionally. Both shows include the original ballad version of "Baby Pictures," a song which was drastically reworked for its ill-fated studio version (eventually released on the Rhino Punch The Clock).

December 24 setlist:
EC solo: New Amsterdam; The World And His Wife
EC/Attractions: Pidgin English; Hand In Hand; Green Shirt; Shabby Doll; Back Stabbers/King Horse; ...And In Every Home; Watching The Detectives/Help Me; Kid About It; Temptation; Mouth Almighty; From Head To Toe; Two Steps From The Blues; Everyday I Write The Book; You Belong To Me; New Lace Sleeves; Good Year For The Roses; Almost Blue; Alison; Beyond Belief; Clubland; Imperial Bedroom; Shot With His Own Gun; Baby Pictures; Big Tears; Shipbuilding; Oliver's Army; Big Sister's Clothes
EC/Attractions/Imperial Horns: Possession; Secondary Modern; High Fidelity; Town Cryer; Watch Your Step; Man Out Of Time; Clowntime Is Over; I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down; Pump It Up


December 27 setlist:
EC solo:
New Amsterdam; The Comedians; The World And His Wife
EC/Attractions: Pidgin English; Hand In Hand; Green Shirt; Shabby Doll; Back Stabbers/King Horse; ...And In Every Home; Watching The Detectives/Help Me; Kid About It; Temptation; From Head To Toe; Mouth Almighty; The Long Honeymoon; Everyday I Write The Book; You Belong To Me; New Lace Sleeves; Good Year For The Roses; Almost Blue; Alison/Living A Little, Laughing A Little; Beyond Belief; Clubland; Imperial Bedroom; Just A Memory; Baby Pictures; Shot With His Own Gun; Big Tears; Big Sister's Clothes; Shipbuilding; Oliver's Army
EC/Attractions/Imperial Horns: Possession; Secondary Modern; High Fidelity; Town Cryer; Watch Your Step; Man Out Of Time; Clowntime Is Over; I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down; Pump It Up

JANUARY 1987

Elvis next appeared at the Albert Hall for a six night run during the Costello Sings Again tour in 1987. There were three nights with the Attractions (January 22, 23, and 24), then three with the Confederates (January 26, 27, and 28). It is unknown whether any of these shows were recorded professionally.

While I would certainly welcome the release of any of these shows, I doubt that one is planned for the Royal Albert Hall CD. If a Confederates show from the Costello Sings Again tour were to be released, the obvious choice would be the October 23, 1986 New York concert previously released in part on the Rykodisc and Rhino versions of King Of America. And if, as seems likely, the planned Royalty Theatre release features an Attractions concert from November 1986, another Attractions show from only two months later would risk being seen as redundant.

Granted, there is plenty of the variety between the November 1986 and January 1987 setlists, and fear of redundancy did not prevent Hip-O from issuing concerts from February, March, and June of 1978 on This Year's Model: Deluxe Edition, Live At The El Mocambo, and Live At Hollywood High.

The January 1987 setlists can be found at the Elvis Costello Home Page:
1989-1994

Elvis played seven full-length concerts at the Royal Albert Hall during his time with Warner Bros. Records: three solo shows in May and June 1989 (only the June 1 setlist is available online), an October 11, 1992 appearance with the Brodsky Quartet (the setlist is not available, but presumably they played The Juliet Letters), and three shows with the Attractions during the Brutal Youth tour in July 1994 (July 5, 6, and 7).

Since Hip-O's reissue program only covers Costello's 1977-1987 catalog, these would appear to be off limits for The Costello Show series.

APRIL 15, 1999

Elvis' last headlining appearance at the Royal Albert Hall to date was April 15, 1999, as part of the Lonely World Tour with Steve Nieve. All indications are that Hip-O's reissue program does not cover this period, but the fact that Elvis was under contract to Hip-O's parent company at the time at least makes an official release slightly more likely than the 1989-1994 concerts mentioned above.


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