"Who are you?" shouted a voice from the audience in the gymnasium of Lehigh County Community College, Schnecksville.
Elvis Costello, 23-year-old rising star of New Wave music, put down his guitar during his song "Watching the Detectives" to posture, effete and sinister, behind the microphone stand.
When other voices in the crowd called him "Spaceman" and "Burnout," his translucent skin seethed anger as he pointed the lyric "Don't get cute..." at the unappreciative, and brandished the mike stand menacingly.
Of course he expected such a reaction. He created it.
The former computer analyst from Acton, England, is already a master of stage presence.
Well-studied pantomime accentuates his basic rock 'n' roll format. Certain movements and gyrations betray traces of the influence of David Bowie and Elvis Presley.
His pale Buddy Holly features provide a perfect blank screen for his chameleon emotions and carefully chosen colored lighting effects.
The tight reign he holds on publicity and press, along with the solid quality of his lyrics, is Dylanesque.
Echos of early Beatles guitar riffs weave through excellent organ reminiscent of the Doors.
Despite similarities, Elvis doesn't like comparisons. "People are always trying to pin you down to sounding like somebody else," he says. But he admits. "It's better to be compared to somebody good."
When he claims his only concerns are playing and maintaining sound quality, his sincerity is doubtless. The 1,000-member audience in the gym elicited as enthusiastic a performance as he could give Carnegie Hall.
That is the distinction between the artist and the performer — this dedication to perfection of the work.
The fans, mostly young, responded well. They rushed to the edge of the stage as soon as he opened the set with "Mystery Dance."
Other selections from his album My Aim Is True (Columbia JC35037) included "Waiting For The End of the World," "Less Than Zero," "Blame It on Cain," and "Miracle Man."
Also heard were unrecorded numbers "Radio, Radio" and "You Are Not Just Another Mouth in a Lipstick Vogue."
After pacing nervously backstage through the opening acts, an aura of poised ease radiated from him.
Though early reviews call him rigid, the impression given Wednesday was one of complete control. Even his carefully outdated wardrobe produced its desired effect.
The band jumped quickly from one tune to the next. Elvis spared song introductions until late in the show.
Good feedback from the fans may have heightened his own enjoyment of the evening. This was evidenced by his return for an encore reportedly uncustomary for him.