Elvis Costello should tour with his mother. It would do him a world of good. She could soothe his brow. Angry young men need their brows soothed a lot. She could spend special days with him. If she had been on the road with him Saturday night, she could have wished him a happy birthday at Riverbend. She could have even joined in when the 5,863 people at the music center sang "Happy Birthday."
Best of all, she could have taken him aside before the show and said: "Now, Elvis, I know it's your birthday. You're 30 now. It's time you start acting like a big boy. Stand up. Stop mumbling. And, do your best."
Costello needed that. His performance, 21 songs, plus eight encores, spread over one hour and 53 minutes, couldn't have been longer, but it could have been better. For a change, Costello and his four man band, the Attractions, took some time with his tunes.
Anytime Costello averages more than 3 minutes a song, he is spending lots of time. Usually he goes through three numbers in the time it takes to cook a two-minute egg. While Costello was lingering over his songs, he should have lavished a little care on them.
"Alison" was the only piece whose words and music received any special handling. The others shot by each other like 28 space ships passing in the night.
It's not that the other songs were done poorly. It's just that they could have been done better. What Costello did on "Alison," singing the melody in his throaty mumble instead of uttering it matter-of-factly, telling a story.
Costello should take lessons on song delivery from his opening act and former producer, Nick Lowe. Blessed with the ability to write new material that sounds as if it has long since stood the test of time, Lowe can sing the snappiest lines with uncommon grace, wit and charm. He's English, so he can get away with that and still call it rock and roll.
The abbreviated 40-minute set from Lowe and the three sidemen he calls his Cowboy Outfit, left the crowd standing and shouting for more.
When it became obvious no encore was coming, the cheers turned to boos.
Forty minutes of Lowe's pleasing voice, which is as clear and bouncy as Paul McCartney's but
has a certain rowdiness to it that s all its own, Just wasn't enough.
Along with Lowe's voice, the crowd wanted to hear more selections from his fine new album Nick Lowe and His Cowboy Outfit.
The one song from the LP that Lowe did play, "Half A Boy and Half A Man," which talks about "the 20th century's latest scam," offered only a small taste of this musically rich album.
The crowd also enjoyed Paul Carrack's singing. Now manning the keyboards for Lowe, Carrack once sang for Ace and Squeeze. He sang two hits from his old bands, "How Long Has This Been Going On" and "Tempted," respectively.
It was too bad Lowe and his Cowboy Outfit couldn't have played longer. But then, it wasn't their birthday.