Lafayette College Lafayette, May 8, 1987

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Falling asleep at a concert

Tony Jordan

I went to the Elvis Costello concert last Thursday night expecting to see some classic thumping, hard driving Elvis. What I got was a disappointment. Elvis played an all acoustic set, just him and his guitar. He did all his old songs in this new wave. It was interesting at first. Not many artists will take a risk like that. But not many artists can make a risk work and Elvis didn't. After a few songs the novelty wore off and the show became boring.

I'll be the first to admit that I wasn't a major fan of Elvis going in. I knew his hits and I liked them. I was hoping this concert would turn me on to Elvis but it didn't. It seemed that the rest of the crowd reflected my feeling. People started to wander, or sit listlessly in their seats. I even saw one person fall asleep. Elvis did manage to make a few songs stand out with his guitar playing or throwing in a cover version, but not nearly enough to keep me into it. Elvis tried to inject some humor into the show. He brought out what he called "his slides from his trip around the world," He would show a slide and make some comment or joke to go along with it. He got a laugh out of the crowd on a joke about Jim Bakker but all too often his jokes were biting and overly sarcastic. His cutting down of other rock 'n' roll stars just made him sound like the pompous baby that the press made him out to be.

For his encore he brought out opening act Nick Lowe for a duet which for me was one of the highlights.

For his second encore Elvis became one of his alter egos, Napoleon Dynamite and he revealed the Spectacular Spinning Songwheel. The Songwheel was a thirty foot high Wheel of Fortune with about forty different song titles on it. Some of the songs were Elvis' and some were cover tunes. He selected people from the audience and they came up, spun the wheel and then sat at the bar onstage and drank some Gatorade. Elvis would play the song that came up and then select some more people from the audience. He did about six songs this way and the Songbook was a great gimmick that brought a light, carnival atmosphere to the show.

For his last song, he did his classic "Pump it Up" and he gave this a new twist. He played acoustic guitar with a taped drum machine beat providing the rhythm. He turned the song almost into a rap and he paid homage to that style by inserting Grandmaster Flash's "The Jangle" and Prince's "Sign o' the Times." I liked this updated version because it brought a new edge to the song.

Elvis' opening act was Nick Lowe. Nick also did an acoustic set and his rockabilly style was much more suited for that type of set. Nick was very good and in fact I would have preferred to see more of Nick Lowe.

As for Elvis, I was disappointed. I really tried to like it but he just didn't stir me or the crowd. Elvis tried something new, it didn't work, and I hope he realizes it. I'll wait for the attractions.


The Lafayette, May 8, 1987

Tony Jordan reviews Elvis Costello, solo and with opening act Nick Lowe, Thursday, April 30, 1987, Kirby Field House, Lafayette College, Easton, PA.


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Photos by Andrew Leary.
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Photos by Andrew Leary.

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Page scans and clipping.


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