DALLAS — At the Elvis Costello concert Tuesday night at the Dallas Convention Center Theater the guy sitting beside me had smuggled in what looked to be a mini-recording studio.
He was explaining all its technical details when I asked him "Why?"
"When you've got everything Elvis Costello has ever recorded, and it may be months before another album, what else can you get?"
He was typical of the 1,600-plus fans who turned out to see Costello, the British rock and roller who operates on the fringe of New Wave.
Costello has attracted a cult following in the United States during the last year, mostly on the strength of his three CBS albums.
Many of the fans Tuesday night came dressed in nouveau punk attire.
Costello, who's been described as "rock's Woody Allen," was typically attired in '50ish fashion, down to his shiny silver shoes.
Backed by his three-man band, The Attractions, Costello wasted no time getting on stage, and even less time ripping through a 14-song, 65-minute set.
Bam, bam, bam and it was over.
Costello didn't take time to acknowledge the frequent standing ovations or the dancing in the aisles or the adulation all around.
Despite the exuberance of his fans, just what all the fuss about remains unclear.
Granted, Costello is an intense performer, and a gifted songwriter. But he didn't show anything musically that's any better or worse than a hundred other rock acts you've seen.
His best moments came on "The Beat" and "Pump It Up," both well staged and both explosive rock material.
What was outstanding about Costello's show were the lighting effects. It was one of the most intelligent uses of lighting I've seen.
At the show's end, the house lights were brought up, supposedly so anyone who didn't want an encore could exit. Some did, only because they probably thought it was over.
The warmup act was The Rubinoos, whose specialty is rock satire. These days, it's very fashionable to take swipes at other rock acts (and many are most deserving). Among their targets: Kiss.
When the audience finally wised up to what they were doing, they started joining in the fun.
Everyone got a charge from their version of "I Think We're Alone Now," and the encore, the old Seeds classic, "Pushin' Too Hard."
But seriously folks, how far can you go on satire?