"Oh! I just don't know where to begin..." Squeeze, the newest of the new wave heartthrobs, pulled one of the finest opening acts around Saturday night February 7 at the Capitol Theatre. Few hands are gutsy enough (let alone talented enough) to open for the King of New Wave, but Squeeze romped and stomped and danced up a storm. Easily one of the tightest new combos around, Squeeze's harmony was precise and stinging as they performed such numbers as "Goodbye Girl" and "Pulling Mussels." The arrangements are a marvelous blend of power pop and new wave techniques — much in the same style as Rockpile and the Records. Personally. I haven't dug a pop hand this much since the fall of Badfinger.
It was a tough act to follow (boy, I'll say) but soon enough the psychologically deformed figure of Elvis Costello (aka Declan McManus) emerged forth as Attractions' pianist Steve Nieve banged out the first chords of "Shot With His Own Gun." Then without a moment hesitation, Elvis whirled into "Accidents Will Happen" as the second number and began his lyrically surrealistic audience assault.
Quite unlike the Armed Funk tour of '79 (where he was arrogant, vicious and downright antagonistic), Elvis rapped with the audience in his discresionate, if not forced manner. I prefer the hardcut Buddy Holly, ala Sid Vicious, to this new image of Elvis (he came off like an intellectual pop star — which he is). At this, his sixth album and second major tour, Elvis has become the epitome of eighties off-existentialism. He is poet-vocalist — he is guitarist-philosopher — he is angry and pitiful and enlightening all at once, and certainly the best lyricist in the genre (rivaled only by David Byrne in intensity.)
The Attractions are an integral part of the Elvis phenomena. They interpret Elvis' music intimately and accurately. Steve Nieve is amazing to observe; reminds me of either a psychic spider or a tripped-out hunchback (depending upon my state of drug.) Only the drummer, Pete Thomas, was less than perfect. For sure, the man's got a style and a rhythm all his own (well, almost) but he ended two out of every three songs with the same riff (but I only noticed this after my drummer Scott pointed it out.)
The show was a bit short at barely over an hour but included some real gems. "High Fidelity" off the Get Happy lp was a peak in the night's performance, as was the slow version of "Clown Time." Elvis didn't do too much off of the first three albums (unfortunately) but did include "Alison," "This Year's Girl," "Radio Radio" and "What's So Funny ('Bout Peace, Love and Understanding)." The audience took off on "Chelsea." Best number all night though had to be "Red Shoes."
Elvis returned to encore with Squeezers Martin Belmont and Glenn Tillbrook. And "Watching The Detectives" never cut deeper into the crowd. Great show! Short, but bittersweet.