Hot Press, October 5, 1984

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Hot Press

UK & Ireland magazines


The spirit is willing

Nick Kelly

Elvis Costello And The Attractions / The Pogues
National Stadium, Dublin

A rainy night on the South Circular Road. The crowd queueing here and ordinary people waiting to see popular music's second generation God of the Ordinary People.

Inside The Pogues are playing to the rapidly filling rows of seats, playing with acoustic guitar, accordeon, tin whistle, very limited drum kit (one tom, one snare) and Kilburn voice. The Pogues play Irish traditional "airs" of the ayda-deedle-dy variety overlaid with raucous English singing. It's en amusing enough performance for a couple of songs but soon the unvarying ballroom-of-romance-style drumming (dumdish-dum-tish-dum-tish) begins to wear. I like their style, but I hope they don't think they're the future of rock 'n' roll.

Ten minutes later, Elvis Costelloe is on stage, dark glasses, black clothes and red shoes.

Everyone here wants and expects yet another superb live performance, another Elvis classic. But as he kicks off into "Sour Milk Cow Blues" the signs are a little ominous. The sound is muddy and the man himself seems to be having trouble with his voice.

Elvis is preoccupied, walking back between songs to sip from a plastic cup, to talk to a roadie. "I Can't Stand Up," "Watching The Detectives" and a countryfied "Only Flame In Town" are disappointingly subdued, ordinary, nearly. Eight songs in a flash of brilliance, a momentous rendering of "Shabby Doll" followed by a stomping "Girls Talk" then...

Then Elvis leaves the stage. An announcement is made that his voice is giving him a lot of trouble but that he'll continue in 10 minutes. Nobody, not even the most unquestioning Elvis worshipper, is enjoying this much.

The band take the stage once more. Elvis walks up to the microphone, apologizes for his voice, "In these situations a bit of human warmth usually does the job," he says, and invites the audience to come to the stagefront. Bouncers forgotten, the hordes pour down to fill the floor.

Then, spitting and sweating Elvis and The Attractions pull out the stops. A superb new song ("Help You To Be Happy" I think) followed by "Inch By Inch" and as he predicts, human warmth starts to thaw the ice.

Half a dozen songs later, he sings the shiver-sweet love song "Alison," and walks off.

First I thought he wouldn't be back. Then he emerges with his telecaster alone, not an Attraction in sight. Ignoring the shouts for various old favourites from many of the now thoroughly warmed up crowd, he gives us "In The Cradle" and "Peace In Our Time" his mouth twisting around the bitter words his plectrum sparsely picking and strumming.

This is the Elvis Costello he wants to be, a lover of mankind but contemptuous of so many men, be they Chamberlains or wolf-whistling fans. This is not pop. The band join him on stage for the beautiful anti-war hymn "Shipbuilding," "Oliver's Army" and finally "Pump It Up."

"You guys down at the front thanks for helping us through tonight. The next time we come my voice will be just fine!"

As the crowd left the stadium and discussed the game, the general verdict was that the house team came good in extra time, a real case of spirit triumphing over circumstance. Good enough to tide us over 'till replay, any road.

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Hot Press, October 5, 1984

Nick Kelly reviews Elvis Costello & The Attractions with opening act The Pogues, Saturday, September 29, 1984, National Stadium, Dublin, Ireland.


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Photo by Robbie Jones.
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1984-10-05 Hot Press cover.jpg


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