Nashville — Elvis Costello's recent performance at the hallowed Opry House here nearly turned into a tug of war between very tight, and very strict, hall security and Bruce Thomas, the Attractions' bass player, and Costello, with the fans caught in the middle. But fortunately for all concerned, security relented, the band played on, and the fans got their money's worth, and then some.
There's some special charisma surrounding rock's current angry young man an almost devious, yet endearing quality, a tough yet approachable attitude. Dressed in his trademark rumpled, oversized suit and narrow tie (and looking more and more like Buddy Holly), Costello's Nashville appearance was one of only three scheduled American concert appearances this year. It was only fitting that he include Music City on his limited tour, especially since he cut his last album, Almost Blue, here.
From the audience's appearance, it was obvious that no one had come expecting to see a country concert. Mini skirts, headbands, leopard skin prints, narrow ties under Costello lookalike suits and close cropped hair cuts strolled through the mezzanine of the Opry House.
Costello played it smart that night. Realizing he might lose his audience if he jumped right into his country set, he opted instead to grab the fans with his jumping rock numbers.
Following a potent, spicy version of "Radio, Radio," Elvis introduced the Doobie Brothers' John McFee, who seated himself behind a steel guitar, where he remained throughout most of the set. And what followed would have surprised almost anyone. A few thousand people decked out in everything from punk regalia to snappy new wave to preppy outfits were actually cheering, applauding and dancing to classic country tunes. In less than an hour, Costello had accomplished what parents the world over had been trying to do for years — get the kids to listen to something other than rock.
Costello's Nashville appearance was a memorable occasion. His performance is still edged with all the sass and verve that catapulted him to the forefront of Britain's new wave movement. But there's more to Costello than a rumpled oversized suit and a pair of thick glasses. He's got the backbone to move ahead and try new things, while many of his peers are still sitting back.