Once when Van Halen's dashing young singer, Dave Lee Roth, was looking for an extra-heavy brick to throw at music critics, he said they were jealous of him because they all look like Elvis Costello.
It was not chance that Roth came up with that name. There have been few more unlikely pop idols since Buddy Holly, whom Costello superficially resembles.
From his appearance to his voice to his writing, Costello has found strength in apparent vulnerability. With surgical calculation, he has cut into rock's soft underbelly and focused on the frailties and frustrations of life and love from which Roth and his kind can only offer a transitory escape.
Roth lives out our fantasies; we live out Costello's.
Despite the crisp playing of his band, the Attractions, Costello can be obtuse in projecting his ideas.
Intricate word associations and nebulous tunes depend on a voice that alternates between soft intimacy and a harsh, unsteady whine. In either mode, Costello seems to balance precariously on the point of going out of tune.
Due to the breakdown of the truck carrying his equipment, the Mesa show was an hour late in starting. By the time Costello went on, anticipation was rife.
His entry was hardly dramatic.
Dressed in a crumpled charcoal-gray suit, a collarless black shirt and heavy-framed glasses, Costello looked more like an errant parson than a priest of pop.
His performance was efficient, with little movement or time wasted: Costello's diction was not too clear, but was comparatively colorful tonally.
He even did a reasonable job of Merle Haggard's "Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down," a song that did little more than highlight his vocal shortcomings when he recorded it last year.
The material off the new album, Imperial Bedroom, naturally lacked the sensitive orchestral arrangements on the record. But the three Attractions, and in particular keyboard player Steve Neive, gave thorough and dedicated support.
The crowd of 2,900 stayed on its feet till the end, and brought Costello back for at least two encores.
Part of the crowd's excitement was due to the Jetzons, whose professionalism and proficiency were outstanding.
If any local pop band has a chance at bigger things, it would seem to be the Jetzons. Their concepts are impressive, from their logo to their volatile, slick songs.
Their writing and playing have been refined to a tight format that may be short on variety but is very exciting.
Their blend of a remorseless beat, keyboard decorations and Bruce Connole's singing and incisive lead guitar deserved an encore. The crowd certainly wanted it, but apparently whoever was keeping time backstage didn't.