When I say that I wish Australia could have seen the Elvis Costello Solo Version which went through America recently, it's no way detracting from the show he put on this night at the near-full Thebarton with the Attractions.
I've been fascinated with the way Costello's songs have adapted to different moods ever since I heard a bootleg of a Paris show in 1980 when Steve Nieve was hurt in a car accident and the Attractions roped in the Rumour's Martin Belmont.
The dual guitar attack gave it a furry funk attack that gave the songs a totally different view. In the Solo Acoustic instance, it would have been wonderful to see how the anger and compassion that has been a trademark of Elvis The Cee's songs, stand up in the naked flame. Still, expect some solo Costello bootlegs to filter into the country soon, right?
Costello's return to Australia saw some kind of artistic triumph. Since the subliminal peaks of Get Happy!!, Trust and Almost Blue, his music has taken a slide. Imperial Bedroom had its moments but there was a superficial glibness that permeated which was as worrying as it was irritating. I wonder how Costello himself views that album now?
Punch The Clock was a return to form; certainly the numbers like "Let Them All Talk," "Possession" and a truly inspired "Secondary Modern" saw the Attractions inject them with further vitality. Even a faulty microphone which marred the first part of the show could not detract from the sheer magnificence of the show.
The songs were drawn from virtually every area of his career — "Watching The Detectives" to "Oliver's Army" to "Everyday I Write The Book." His songs have moved in texture over the years but there's a definite continuity that comes through, courtesy those lyrics that have always been concerned and angry as Britain sinks, suffocated by its self-importance and myth.
"Girls Talk" had an air of paranoiac desperation while Dave Edmunds' cover was glib, and the anti-Falklands anthem "Shipbuilding" was in with a vitriol that Robert Wyatt's more melancholy reading lacked.
The Thebarton crowd could not be described as angry; yet regardless of the actual fury of songs like "Pills And Soap" this was one of the angriest and most violent prone shows I'd ever seen.
Unlike a lot of his London punk peers, Costello's works have yet to lose that rebelliousness or major talent. Why, El even threw a minor hissy when he walked off after the second encore of "Pump It Up," whacked his guitar against the amp and flung his plectrum into the crowd.