Both headliner and opening act took swipes at current music industry trends in their sets here Feb. 16.
The day after losing the Grammy award as best new artist to A Taste Of Honey, Costello had this to say in introducing "Radio, Radio," his vitriolic attack on conservative radio attitudes: "Radio has changed since last time I was here — it's gotten a lot worse."
The song's key lyric: "Radio's in the hands of such a lot of fools / Tryin' to anesthetize the way that you feel."
The five-man Rockabilly Rebels also mock current country practices in the song — "Rockabilly Rebel," while at the same time paying tribute by name to such pioneers as Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley: "The Nashville sound has gotten sugary sweet / They've watered it down, eliminated the beat / Sounds like they've had too much rehearsal / Now it's time for a big reversal."
While there was a message of malcontent in the music, the emphasis in both sets was on unbridled rock energy.
Costello's 19-song, hour-long set was one of six soldout appearances in Southern California during the week, along with dates at the Long Beach Arena, Santa Barbara's Arlington Theatre and San Diego's Fox Theatre.
The 24-year old singer went out of his way to bring his new wave music more in line with the country orientation of the famed nightclub.
He added a steel guitar player, John McFee, to augment his basic three-man band, the Attractions, which consists of Steve Naive, keyboards; Pete Thomas, drums and Bruce Thomas, bass.
The Englishman also did a cover of the Jim Reeves country classic "He'll Have To Go" and a version of a macabre novelty by Leon Payne, "Psycho," about a twisted individual with a penchant for killing. (Yet ironically for someone who favors uncensored music, he toned down the song-clinching final line to "Mama, better let them lock me up" from the gallows humor of the original: "Mama - why don't you wake up?")
Costello concentrated on material from his new Armed Forces LP though he also included some favorites from his first two Columbia albums, notably "Alison" and "Mystery Dance."
The show ended on a puzzling note, with Costello declining to appear for a second encore despite overwhelming demand.
The Rockabilly Rebels, which is signed to Radar Records in England (along with Costello and Nick Lowe), is fronted by two lead singers, Campi and Colin Winski. Also in the lineup are Gerry Sikorski, lead guitar; Steve Clark, drums; and Kevin Fennell, rhythm guitar.
Its 40-minute set consisted of 15 tunes.