Harvard Crimson, May 2, 1987

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Costello: Harvard's king for a night

Plays three-hour show at Bright

Joseph Tedeschi

What's so funny about Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, and a 30-foot-high Spinning Song Book appearing at hallowed Harvard?

Nothing. For some strange reason, after three years without a major campus concert, it all made sense to the more than 3000 adoring Harvard fans who heard the British new wave star sing at Bright Arena last night.

They saw Elvis Costello write himself into the Harvard history books by offering an electrifying three-hour performance which ran the gamut from tearful ballads to the tearfully ridiculous, all the while poking fun at the peculiarities of American pop culture.

The concert, a three-hour musical powerplay spanning Costello's entire songwriting career, drew four curtain calls from an audience on its feet.

It began innocently enough to the strains of the Polka music which greeted students as they entered Bright Arena at 7:25 p.m.

After forty minutes of seat searching, opening act Nick Lowe took the stage.

Lowe warmed up the crowd with a 45 minute set of his best known tunes including "Cruel to be Kind," and "I knew the Bride When She Used to Rock and Roll," which he played as an encore to the audience's standing ovation.

After the opening act, the audience was treated to another 30 minutes of Polka.

Elvis then strutted on stage, wearing his trademark horned rim glasses and clutching an umbrella with the map of the world. Dropping the umbrella, Costello promised a show that "would bring a new meaning to the words 'having the world at your feet.'"

By the end of the mammoth musical production few could disagree.

For the first hour of the performance, Elvis sang some of his more obscure songs. In between songs, the singer narrated a slide show which included photos of a naked woman, and the god Bacchus seated upon a tortoise, among others.

Costello then went on to play his tune "I Don't Speak English I Speak American Without Tears," back-dropped by a slide which displayed the word "THINK".

Throughout the performance Costello played on the audience's fear that he might make an early exit. Three times Costello shouted into the microphone, "Good night, and God bless," and then left the stage. Three times the English star was called back by chants of "Elvis" and standing ovations from the audience. He would play more than an hour of encores.

For his third encore Costello and Lowe returned together with their guitars and "sweet harmony" joined forces on "What's so Funny 'Bout Peace, Love and Understanding."

But Costello's fourth encore was a peculiar twist on daytime television.

Adopting the guise of an off-beat professor,Costello said "the greatest theatrical delights in the History of Harvard" will follow.

The Spinning Song Book — a wheel of fortune turned on its head — was unveiled.

Audience members were invited to climb the stage and spin the yellow and red wheel, which contained the most popular Costello song titles.

Costello's song-book included "Oliver's Army," "Alison," "Everyday I Write the Book," and "Party Girl."

As a final touch Costello directed the wheel to land on the title "Pump It Up" for the show's last song.

He took his electric guitar in hand...the crowd stood on its feet...people were dancing in the aisles... Costello wished "God Bless." The audience was left standing.

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Harvard Crimson, May 4, 1987


Joseph Tedeschi reviews Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe, Friday, May 1, 1987, Bright Hockey Arena, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.


Sophia Van Wingerden reports on fans reactions.





Costello fans rock in Bright

3000 pump it up with Elvis in long-awaited concert

Sophia Van Wingerden

Students did not fill Bright Arena last night to watch the Crimson stickmen pump goals into an opposing net but to watch Elvis Costello "Pump It Up."

To secure a good seat in the general admission area, a few truly dedicated ticket-holders lined up early yesterday morning.

David I. Grasfield '88, first in line, said that he began camping by the hockey-arena-turned-concert stadium at 9:30 a.m., sacrificing a section to keep his place in line. He did leave for an hour, though, to make a doctor's appointment.

"We opened champagne as soon as we got here," said Liam B. Lavery '89, who arrived at 2 p.m. with three friends from Lowell.

Other Costello die-hards travelled from great distances to hear the "King of America."

"I'm visiting Elvis," said Richard Early, who flew from Pennsylvania's Allegheny College to visit friends here but also to see the show.

Not all at last night's concert were Costello fans, or even familiar with his songs. Some were curious, others were bored with the usual pace of a Harvard weekend. All were celebrating the end of classes.

"A lot of people came not because they like Costello but because it's a fun thing to do," said Jeffrey A. Camp '89, an Undergraduate Council member who helped with security at the concert.

"I had never heard him before we got him to come here. Then I went and got some tapes and listened to him," Camp said.

Brian C. Offutt '87, who was also working security, said when he saw Costello warming up in the Arena he had to ask someone to identify him. "I didn't even know what he looks like," Offut said.

But, beside the newcomers to Costello, the audience certainly had its share of long-time, hard-core fans.

"This is one of the best [Elvis concerts] I've ever seen. He was just incredible," said Lee Courtney, a Hartford, Connecticut disk-jockey who came to see his 15th Costello concert.

"I love Elvis," said Richard S. Eisert '88. "The intellectual appearance fostered by Elvis' horn-rimmed glasses clearly made the administration more amenable to having him here," he said.

Whether or not the glasses did it, the show met with the approval of Dean of Student Archie C. Epps III, who said "I think [the concert] is great."

The concert was Epps' second exposure to the Elvis sound. "The first time I heard it was in my office this afternoon," when someone played a tape of Costello tunes, Epps said.

Although Elvis is a "very innovative performer" and the performance was "more mellow than I had thought," Epps said, "He's not Beethoven."

After the concert, Grasfield, whose full day of waiting paid off in front row center seats, said that Elvis had been well worth the wait. "It was the best concert we've ever been to," Grasfield said. "I would have come at 9:30 [Thursday] night.

Self-proclaimed "incredible fan" Tory Berka '87, who was one of the chosen few from the audience to share the spotlight with Costello ass he spun the song-wheel to select the finale, said "I touched him and he touched me."

Costello added more than a few fans to his following after last night's concert. "I've never seen Costello before and I was amazed," said James W. McInnes '89.

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