A year or so ago, a new genre burst onto a rather boring music scene: New Wave/Punk Rock. At first it seemed more like a culture than an actual musical movement. It also seemed too trendy to be a lasting force, and there was much speculation as to its life span.
Well, the speculation is over; this is the music of the late 1970's. And it's beginning to defy its original labels. New Wave/Punk Rock music no longer attracts only the safety pin and razor blade crowd — it attracts everyone into music simply because it has proved itself to be the most exciting, high energy rock and roll to appear in nearly a decade.
Late in April, Madcity was treated to a concert at the Orpheum Theater by three of this movement's most major acts, Nick Lowe, Mink DeVille and Elvis Costello. The audience was a near sell-out crowd, and although there were a few people in glitter rock attire, the diversity of the fans clearly demonstrated the mass appeal this kind of music has gained.
First on the stage was Nick Lowe, looking very slick in a red and black jumpsuit and well coiffed hair. No torn T-shirts here, just good solid pop/rock. He, along with his back-up band, Rockpile, performed songs from his latest album, Pure Pop for Now People, including "I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass," "Heart of the City" and "They Call It Rock." The set also included songs co-authored by Nick Lowe and his infamous guitarist, Dave Edmunds, like "I Knew the Bride When She Used to Rock and Roll" and "Here Comes the Weekend."
Nick Lowe's music lacks the anger associated with early New Wave British bands but it does have something they didn't — a sense of humor. Judging from his performance, Lowe has toned down the New Wave style, without losing any of its energy, and added a lot of polish to the genre. It's music like this that's bridging the gap between punks and people.
Mink DeVille gave the audience a taste of New York Punk Rock. Looking appropriately emaciated and hard core, this band fit the current visual image more than Nick Lowe did, as they performed such songs as "Cadillac Walk," "She's So Tough" and "Spanish Stroll." The band seemed to lack a lot of the polish and professionalism that could set them apart from hundreds of other good bar bands in this category, however. And although virtually all groups in this scene are understandably influenced by each other, Mink DeVille seems to be doing obvious imitations of Lou Reed and David Bowie. Their high energy performance turned on the audience but their lack of originality made Mink DeVille a little less than impressive.
And then there was Elvis Costello, perhaps the fastest rising legend in his own time. It's already gotten to the point that everyone assumes the mention of Elvis refers to Costello and no one else. Anyone who says, "I thought he was dead" has either been living in a cave or suffering from severe sensory deprivation. And his reputation is certainly well deserved.
Yes, he really does look like his album covers; a nice, conservatively dressed boy from London. But from the very first note played on the Orpheum stage, it's clear that Elvis Costello is one of the most major forces in rock and roll today. What he lacks in personal stage presence, he more than makes up for with his outrageously exciting music. His energy, anger and creativity had the audience dancing, screaming and applauding wildly as he performed such hits from his My Aim Is True album as "Detective," "Less Than Zero" and "(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes," as well as some cuts from his latest album, This Year's Model. Anything that disappointed the audience in the preceding acts was more than made up for by Elvis Costello as he received standing ovation after standing ovation until the crowd didn't even bother to sit down again.
To have three such acts as Nick Lowe, Mink DeVille and Elvis Costello performing on the same bill would be impressive anywhere. To have them performing here, in Madcity, at a theater like the Orpheum was a treat, indeed. Although this musical form is still in its early stages, it's already a force to be reckoned with. And in a couple of years, I'm sure we'll all feel lucky to have heard them when....