Ampersand, April 1979

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Ampersand

Magazines
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Elvis Costello

Paramount Theatre, Portland

Peter Sistrom

The last time Elvis Costello played Portland (a year earlier) his set was interrupted when a beefy firecracker exploded onstage by his feet. The band dropped everything and bolted. Costello stood his ground, finishing "Watching the Detectives" a capella, till the band timidly returned. This year's model, only the second stop on his American tour, was higher priced and better attended, crisper and more obviously staged than its predecessor, almost as short (its full length even with two encores was just over 50 minutes) and nearly as unsatisfying.

Except for a smattering of songs from This Year's Model (most of them in the encore) and a trio of unrecorded tunes, the evening was devoted to Armed Forces. That would have been fine, but the sound — which had been sprightly and clean for the opening act, the Rubinoos, a scrubbed and exuberant bunch of rock archivists from Berkeley — was badly mixed and poorly projected. The result everywhere in the hall was a murky, impenetrable wall of mud.

The botched sound was especially disappointing because of scattered hints that Costello had changed in the last year, that he'd matured and grown and was back with new lessons. A lot of those new twists showed up on Armed Forces and the crowd wanted more glimpses behind the mask.

But there were a few in evidence. Where Costello used to stave off his audience with a nervous, haughty arrogance, now he appears to want them to like him, or at least to recognize his humor. Uncharacteristically talkative, Costello filled the infrequent pauses between songs with oblique patter, spoken almost as dramatic asides. "Things have changed since the last time we were in America" he began while introducing "Radio, Radio," "They've gotten worse."

For their part, the Attractions — a band that keeps getting better in startling leaps — were excellent. In spite of the sound, the band's distinctive features — Steve Naive's enthusiastic organ, less one-dimensional and more idiosyncratic than it's been before, Bruce Thomas' dark bass lines and Pete Thomas' precise, staccato drumming — were more obvious in the unembellished live mix than on Armed Forces' layered thickness.

Probably no show that Costello could do would completely satisfy his audience, no matter how crisp the sound or how long the set. But soon after Costello's American tour began in February he appeared in a brief snippet of the Heroes of Rock and Roll TV special, tearing his way through a bitter and forceful reading of "Pump It Up." It was the same tune Costello chose to encore with in Portland and the televised version had a power, authority and wildness the Paramount show never approached.

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Ampersand, April 1979


Peter Sistrom reviews Elvis Costello & The Attractions and opening act The Rubinoos, Wednesday, February 7, 1979, Paramount Theatre, Portland, OR.


Ampersand reports on Carl Perkins' label problems causing him to drop out as opening act on the Armed Funk Tour.

Images

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Page scan.


Carl Perkins


Ampersand

1979-04-00 Ampersand page 09 clipping 01.jpg

Carl Perkins, author of "Blue Suede Shoes," has been derailed in mid-comeback by CBS Records, owner of Perkin's last label, Jet Records. After a triumphant swing of major clubs last fall, resulting in stories in Rolling Stone, Crawdaddy and Village Voice, Perkins was booked to open Elvis Costello's recent American tour date — sort of a twist on the Elvis and Carl dominance of pop music in 1956. But CBS, which has in waiting a reportedly dynamite Perkins album — featuring members of Presley's old band — decided not to finance the tour, according to a spokesperson at Jet. Perkin's manager is now label-shopping.



1979-04-00 Ampersand cover.jpg 1979-04-00 Ampersand page 09.jpg
Cover and page scan.

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