Juke, October 5, 1991

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Elvis Costello

Tennis Centre, Melbourne

Dino Scatena

My God. If there's one song our Elvy should have included tonight, the last date of his five month world tour, it would have to be "Please Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood." How fickle and pathetic a music-listening public we really are.

First point of disgust. The venue tonight is at less than half-capacity: there's probably only 4,000 punters (tops) scattered around this post-modernist Coliseum.

Second point of disgust. Half of the crowd shouldn't be here. They just don't get it.

After the show, whines about Elvis' `sacrilegious' treatment of his classics murmur like excrement making its way to the sewers. Peasants!

An Elvis Costello show, like an Elvis Costello album, must be accepted for what it is; a journey to the boundaries of intellectual and musical structure. If you want to hear "Watching The Detectives" just like Elvis Costello & The Attractions used to do in those cozy old days of the late 1970s there's an album called This Year's Model you should go check out.

Don't get me wrong: this isn't hero-worshipping (he's probably fifth or sixth on my list of favorite songwriters). There's an abundance of Elvy's material which I'm yet to be able to digest but, being a mere mortal, I've come to accept my weaknesses. Or is it I just don't have the intellect to phrase pointed criticisms like, "Oh, that was shit." I don't know.

Anyway, tonight's performance is an example of living, breathing music. Many of the songs have been drastically rearranged. The classic example is, as mentioned, "Watching The Detectives." It's simple chordal structure is replaced with a walking jazzy melody and the main riff is dissected and given new meaning. Elvy is obviously enjoying the gentler treatment, letting short bursts of fulfillment escape from his vocal chords on several occasions during the song.

Maybe it's the fact that there's only four people on stage or maybe its the hollowness of the venue but there's incredible space and definition in the music when it's required.

The hollowness factor certainly enhances the power of "I Want You." With the music virtually stripped away, Elvy's voice echoes around the empty seats, making the piece more haunting (if it's possible) than usual.

The evening does have its more conventional moments. "So Like Candy" is beautiful, as is "Let Him Dangle" and "Almost Blue" (with our Elvis being quite impressive of the ivory).

The highlight of the evening is the fabulous "God's Comic," complete with allusions to The Monkees' "I'm A Believer." The crowd gets into the participation bit and Elvy seems to be having a really good time of it as well: "If you want Him to hear it, you're going to have to sing it really loud."

Being the last night of five months on the road, you get the feeling Elvy doesn't really want it to end. Third encore in, the suit has been discarded and our man is dressed in rap gear. Still tense from the manic "Hurry Down Doomsday," he presents the mellow, slightly rocked up "Alison." For the last salute, the immortal "Pump It Up."

Yes. An impressive display. If anyone had the foresight of taking a recorder with them, give me a call.

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Juke, No. 858, October 5, 1991

Dino Scatena reviews Elvis Costello with The Rude 5, Monday, September 23, 1991, National Tennis Centre, Melbourne, Australia.


1991-10-05 Juke photo 01 tm.jpg
Photo by Tony Mott..


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