THREE years doing Eng Lit at university, and all I can remember is:

''Great art exists in limitation.'' Goethe, I think. German bloke.

Wasn't in a band. Never sure what it meant. Until last night.

Before the explanation, however, the confession. In recent years I

have wilfully limited my exposure to the poppy angst-rock of Elvis

Costello. Elvis's chamber baroque'n'roll with the Brodsky Quartet last

year, The Juliet Letters? Dug it. Stretching himself. Fabby. But when it

came to guitar-based stuff, I figured Elvis couldn't surprise me any

more. Wrong.

Last night Elvis's voice wasn't great, buoyed with mugs of Lemsip

because he had a cold. And the overall sound wasn't the best, and when

Elvis sang his new single, London's Brilliant Parade, I found myself

wishing for the energetic brashness and studied naivety with which young

mock-cockney pretenders Blur hymn the cheeky, chirpy streets of the


And just as I began to feel ashamed for my shallowness, it began

coming together. In extremity. Under the cosh. With his voice being raw,

Elvis had to rein in the quasi-jazz scat-vamping efforts he's been wont

to do. No repetitious stretching of phrases. Keep it focused. Logically,

sticking to the old songs should have worked best, too.

But great art admits no logic, because it was Elvis's new ones, from

the Brutal Youth LP, which emerged under pressure as stripped-down gems.

Clown Strike; Kinder Murder and the awesome Rocking Horse Road. So, Sir

Elvis. I admit my shortcomings, and I apologise. You are always a

complete education.