If you could turn your attention away from the tortured lyrics which characterize all of Elvis Costello's songs, you'd hear the echo of 1950's rock 'n' roll.
But Costello's lyrics stamp him as a musical child of the 1970s. The lust, frustration and anxiety that the early rockers disguised in coy platitudes about loving and losing are stated plainly and painfully in Costello's songs.
Elvis Costello the brilliantly packaged anti-hero may be a fake but the fears he articulates in his work ring true.
His Saturday night concert answered all the expectations the crowd brought to Jock Hardy arena. Costello's set was short, tight and impersonal.
He sang his songs of bitter disillusionment and anger, working the audience up to a high point of involvement, then he fled the stage. The cries for an encore lasted 10 minutes after he'd gone.
Many fans lingered longer by the stage hoping that the abbreviated set was just a crude joke, hoping that Costello would come back to reduce the sense of frustration they felt contemplating their $7 ticket to the show.
But Costello is the master of creating and enunciating frustration. His music explores the nightmare of meaninglessness, exposing the fears of inadequacy which plague the British and perhaps the American "blank generation."
His subject is love in a loveless world. But he won't push his perceptions of futility and his sense of alienation out the easy exit of melancholy. He is true to his anger, his bitterness and his awareness of the chasm that exists between the way things are and the way we want them to be.
For an evening billed as a major "new wave" event in Kingston the drama was remarkably low-keyed. But the potential controversy had already gone out of the event when the Queen's student body determined that Costello's warm-up band, the Battered Wives, would not be permitted to work its art at the university.
Instead of the Battered Wives, whose name was considered to be objectionable, a band called Goddo appeared.
Although the students were saved the Wives' satirical identification with society's victims they were subjected to such unedifying fare as "Carole Kiss My Wip" from the replacement group.