George Washington University Hatchet, March 6, 1978

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Elvis Costello remains true
to the aims of Warner crowd

Jeff Levey


Elvis Costello could be the savior of Great Britain. If he could tap all the energy within himself and inside the bodies of those who frequent his concerts, all that country's energy problems would be solved.

The role of savior, however, would probably not satisfy Costello. "Next time I come to Washington," the pigeon-toed, scrawny rock classicist proclaimed from the stage of the Warner Theatre last Tuesday, "I'm bringing an army to destroy this place." Don't underestimate him. He has the power.


Yet the energy stored up in Costello was seeded by rage as is most evident by his stage appearance. His narrow lapels and ties, cuffed jeans, horned rim glasses and battered guitar make Costello appear like a remnant of the fifties. But his complex lyrics, powerful beat and goofy stage manner make for a change from the nice boy image of the golden era.

This is no nice boy. When the music begins to move, he only wiggles his knees and his tongue. So all that rage, all that pent-up anxiety and passion, emerges from his mouth. In concert Costello is a powerhouse, but you wouldn't know it from watching him; one has to listen.

But then few actions are needed to excite the thousands of fans Costello has generated in less than a year of public exposure. The sellout crowd at the Warner went wild at Costello's every movement, which only included an infrequent twitch of an eyebrow or strum of the guitar. The crowd's energy finally burst as it rushed to the front of the theater and up against the stage when the 1½ hour set came to a close. Costello's spunky melodies, repeatable choruses and odd looks left no one disappointed.

The fast moving set included few of Costello's familiar material from the album, but proved that, unlike Bruce Springsteen, this new star on the rock scene has enough material to stick it out a few years.

One new tune, "Miracle Man," which alluded to something called the Academy of Garbage, was the most notable. It possessed the same driving rhythm of most cuts on the album and included the humorous lyrics that mark most of Costello's songs.


Now, don't get me wrong. Costello is no God, and he does have some faults. Most of these can be found with his band, the Attractions, who might have some musical ability, but refused to show any of it Tuesday night. Costello also left few in awe at his guitar work.

Obviously, what has brought Costello this far, and what will carry him even further to rock immortality, is his own personality and presence. As seen in his last encore, which had Costello alone on the stage, he turns on an audience with little help from his friends.


The GW Hatchet, March 6, 1978

Jeff Levey reviews Elvis Costello & The Attractions, Tuesday, February 28, 1978, Warner Theater, Washington, DC.


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Page scans.

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