London Guardian, November 7, 1994

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London Guardian

UK & Ireland newspapers

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Elvis reanimated


Mike Ellison

The Attractions prove as cathartic as ever and provide far more than just nostalgia. The sneer is gone but Elvis gives service with a simile.

Yes, they're all at it. The Beatles are reforming (in as far as it's possible); Led Zeppelin (or at least half of them); The Eagles (health permitting); but Elvis Costello And The Attractions?

It just happened that way, says Costello. And then it just happened that the Attractions helped to produce his best-received album in years, Brutal Youth. Now it just so happens that he has another Best Of album to promote. Would the performance of 10 years ago be no more than an act now? Actually, no. Costello and the band were stunning in the Shepherd's Bush Empire in the first of four consecutive weekly shows, offering nearly 30 songs in two hours from across his career.

The unforced urgency of the past might have become the studied rush of maturity, but it was never less than convincing. Clues to the strategy of rock's master lyricist were everywhere. Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford, the creative elements from Squeeze, opened the night. They were described once as the Lennon and McCartney of the eighties and McCartney once called Costello the closest thing he had found to John Lennon.

The gap between sets was filled with the music of Johnny Cash, once the father-in-law of Nick Lowe, sometime Costello producer and a contributor to Brutal Youth. A bust of Beethoven adorned the keyboards, a reminder of Costello's interest in classical music.

A parrot hung from a cymbal stand, daring the onlooker to speculate that this was merely a reprise of former glories. More likely, it probably just meant that Declan MacManus has done a lot.

He opened with "I Want You" from his last album with The Attractions, Blood And Chocolate, back when vinyl was still king.

What did he mean? He wanted the band, he wanted the audience? It didn't matter, he had them both and the song's prowling menace as well.

Costello was clearly enjoying himself in an intimate venue after playing the Royal Albert Hall earlier in the year, adopting the ironic pose of a dissonant guitar hero against the motor of Pete Thomas's pounding drums and Steve Nieve's Hammer House of Horror, end-of-the-pier keyboards.

There was no sense of space between the old and the new. Cherished early landmarks such as "Watching The Detectives" and "I Don't Want To Go To Chelsea" sat alongside Brutal Youth's "Pony Street" and "London's Brilliant Parade" like members of a close family in a snapshot rather than distant relatives.

The only missing element was the original sneering bitterness of the outsider, replaced by the amiable authority of the songsmith's service with a simile.

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The Guardian, November 7, 1994


Mike Ellison reviews Elvis Costello & The Attractions, Friday, November 4, 1994, Shepherd's Bush Empire, London, England.

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1994-11-07 London Guardian page 2-05 clipping 01.jpg
Clipping.

Page scan.
1994-11-07 London Guardian page 2-05.jpg

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