Santa Monica Civic — It is unfortunate that a poor sound system slightly tarnished what otherwise would have been a brilliant evening of contemporary rock 'n' roll by three of the best acts spawned in the new wave.
Elvis Costello, who has already established himself as a highly-intense, often "angry" performer, demonstrated the most pronounced reaction to the sound problem by throwing his guitar offstage several times and finally kicking over one of the offending amplifiers.
While he was playing, however, there was no stopping him. In less than a year, Costello has created one of the most impressive bodies of work perhaps to come out of the 1970s. His songs contain the powerful point of view and individuality reserved for the most valuable artists.
As a performer, he has moved beyond the stiffness he sometimes displayed during his debut here last fall. Now he is more apt to move around the stage and make use of movements, the most effective of which were some exaggerated hands-to-head thrusts.
And even though his This Years Model album has only been out a short time. Elvis continues to supplement his shows with healthy doses of material not found on his two albums.
It is easy to zero in on the anger and frustration in his songs (while bypassing the humor and satire), but then a big part of Elvis' message is missed. He is looking from a new vantage point, so his lyrics don't simply rehash the same frustration voiced by the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan 10 years ago or Elvis Presley and Eddie Cochran 10 years before that.
His hostility is not just directed at an overly-technological society, but more specifically at a mass media-dominated culture and a new generation raised totally in that media-laden environment. Costello is saying. "Don't trust celebrities — including myself."
This isn't to say an Elvis Costello concert isn't fun, as his songs musically blend these themes with the exuberance and infectiousness of 1950s and '60s pop. Not to mention clever lighting tricks which turned Elvis green with envy during "Alison" and red with rage for "Living In Paradise."
Mink DeVille preceded Costello with a solid set of R&B-infused rock. Lead singer Willy DeVille increasingly is a dynamic singer whose gruff vocals recall the spirit of Howlin' Wolf. Seeming somewhat reserved during the first portion of the band's 45-minute set, DeVille became thoroughly engrossing during its final three or four numbers.
Nick Lowe, who opened the show with Dave Edmunds and Rockpile, will be reviewed here separately.