Review of concert from 1983-10-17: with Attractions, London, Hammersmith Palais
Sounds, 1983-10-29, p43
- Edwin Pouncey
FILE VERSUS VILE
RANK AND FILE/ ELVIS COSTELLO
HERE WAS an evening where, if you were wearing glasses, you were considered to be one of the crowd. Probably just bad thoughts on my part but the Palais seemed to be bursting with four eyed fans holding onto slick, greasy programmes, just waiting for their man.
To help them last out a little longer, on stride Rank And File all the way from Austin, Texas, armed with a country styled repertoire that was aimed straight from the hip, for the heart. RAF's set was damaged by mike trouble but most of their material came over strong enough to round up applause from many of El's early arrivals. Loudest hollers were reserved for such adrenalin pumpers as 'Coyote', 'Amanda Ruth', 'I Went Walking' and a full speed ahead burst of energy and frustration that was crammed into their version of the Roy Acuff song 'Wabash Cannonball'.
Like most of their contemporaries, RAF keep it simple, using a guitar and drum backbeat that fire the songs home with the power of a nail being driven into a Redwood. Bassist Tony and guitarist Chip Kinman keep shifting leading roles for atmospheric effect, Chip's voice being a high flyer while Tony's is a grizzly growl. In the shadow lurks Junior Brown with his delicate pedal steel while Slim Evans bangs out a rebel pow wow on his drum kit.
Apart from the problems which put them off their stride, RAF still managed to make my ears ring before they strode off into the sunset. And full marks to Elvis for providing us with such a raunchy support. Speaking of whom
The simple piano chords of 'Pills And Soap' boom out like a school assembly hymn and the sound of His Masters Voice hovers stark and alone over the heads of the awe struck throng. It's the opener for a set that commands respect for both the performers and the songs, and got it with an almost slavering devotion.
'Watching The Detectives' scores heavily with the crowd and is rewarded with a thunderous reception as Elvis puts his most famous standard through its paces. Aided and abetted by The Attractions, The TKO Horns, and Afrodiziak, Elvis' sound is full and bursting with a kind of confidence that left me feeling bloated and slightly sick.
I couldn't help thinking that here was a high grade of musical stodge being cooked up and rammed down eager, open throats who would swallow anything they were given. The Master's words and political opinions were smothered in a thick coating of instrumentation that destroyed many of his most effective heart pouring moments. Maybe I was standing in the wrong position to fully appreciate the Costello Wall Of Sound, maybe I was simply bored. I chose the latter and left him to it.