He looked like an angry Woody Alien, this diminutive Englishman with the close-cropped black hair, black horn-rimmed glasses and rumpled gray suit.
He strutted and stomped in place behind the microphone on the Zoo Amphitheater stage Saturday night, defiant and cocky as you please, and everybody loved him.
Never mind that this former accountant has the audacity to call himself Elvis Costello. Anyone who plays progressive pop-rock as ingeniously crafted as this can pick any moniker he wants.
Beneath a starlit sky with a sliver of crescent moon hanging in the southwest, more than 6,000 people were treated to one of the tightest, most varied rock 'n' roll performances this town has seen in some time.
There were brassy, hard-charging rhythm and blues numbers like "Let Them All Talk," "T.K.O." and "Possession" to warm the blood of the hard-core rockers, and gentler, more introspective tunes such as "The Bells" and "Shipbuilding" to enhance the mood created by the mild temperatures and gentle breezes.
Costello and his backing band, The Attractions, were as slick as perfumed hair oil and twice as shiny, spieling off a remarkably varied repertoire of "new music" ditties that borrowed from jazz, pop, rock and country to jell into a tasty musical pie which would have pleased just about anyone.
Some of the best moments came during "Everyday I Write the Book," wherein Steve Nieve's telegraphic electric piano underlined Costello's rhythmic melody and vocal imagery of troubled love, and "Alison," Elvis' PG-rated teen-love ballad about infidelity.
The opening act, Aztec Camera, was also intriguing in its own way. Something of a throwback to '60s psychedelia, this British group offered an unusual set of acoustic-electric rock with a fragile sensitivity.