Elvis who? Costello, and as trite as it sounds, he's the best thing to happen to music in a long, long time (That is, until somebody machine-guns K.C. and the Sunshine Band or puts rat poison in Boz Scaggs' frozen daiquiri.)
Elvis has been getting a lot of press coverage lately. "In a shroud of mystery," "from total anonymity," "former computer analyst," "a sweet Springsteen." All of these descriptions are already cliches. But Elvis doesn't need such comments. His performance last Saturday night proved all of that verbal garbage is really extraneous.
Unlike the majority of new wavers and Bruce Springsteen, Elvis arouses a different type of hype in the press; an "anti-hype."
He attracts written attention even though he doesn't solicit any publicity. Yet another Catch-22 to deal with.
Also unlike the aforementioned performer, Elvis seems to have what's needed remain in the forefront and will finally transcends whatever form of hype surrounds him and his music.
Elvis draws on the musical hooks of the 60s and the Dali-like lyrical honesty of the 70s into his material. He plays the best of both decades against each other, producing an immediately likeable sound.
No nightlong solos or marathon endings for Elvis. Both sets were composed of tight concise numbers; each number lasting no longer than it took to get the message across.
Elvis best describes his approach recently in an interview, "I write singles-length songs. If you can't get it down in three minutes, you ought to give it up."
In "The Angels Want to Wear My Red Shoes," Elvis sings "I used to be disgusted, now I try to be amused." This line reflects the general attitude Elvis exhorts in his songs: regret rather than sorrow, and resignation before remorse.
Elvis employs a good amount of poignant imagery in his songs. Although you'll never hear him mention any "newspaper taxis," you will hear a lot about "this camera that keeps click-click-click-click-clickin' in my (his) head."
During "Watching the Detectives," the drama of his performance becomes more apparent than at any other moment.
As he sings of "little fingers to blow you away," his presence becomes almost mechanical, like a mis-programmed robot capable of anything.
Whether he's dancing on one of the front tables or pointing the mike to the audience during "I'm Not Angry," Elvis definitely coaxes his audience to the point of either anger or laughter.
It depends how seriously you take him. It's difficult to tell how seriously Elvis takes himself. That's the great dilemma of Elvis Costello's entire stage presence. It's hard to listen to him without wondering about his appearance.
Nick Lowe, the producer of Elvis' only album, My Aim Is True, joined him onstage toward the end of both sets. The two play interchangeably extremely well. In fact, at one time many critics and insiders thought Elvis Costello was really Nick Lowe using a pseudonym as a clever outlet for his own musical wanderings.
Willie Alexander and the Boom-Boom Band opened both shows for Elvis. The Boom-Rom Band played with ample precision, but Willie has been listening to too many Lou Reed albums. Where Reed conjures a sardonic quality in his sound by using a flat vocal, Willie uses flatness about as effectively as fingernails on a blackboard.
At one point between songs, someone in the audience yelled "Fuck you" to Willie. He replied, "yeah, yeah, sex with the mike stand or sex with your own hand."
Something should be said about the sponsors of the show, the college's Student Union Board. What with last semester's Talking Heads presentation and this semester's Santana concert and Patti Smith poetry reading, those people have done more intelligent things for the Buffalo musical scene than Festival East and Harvey and Corkey combined.
And now they have brought us Elvis... great work!
No, I didn't see the future of rock 'n' roll last Saturday night. All I saw was a dynamic performer who pumps out some of the most instantly enjoyable music heard so far in the 70s.