It was partly a case of the legend preceding the human being and all his inherent frailties, partly a case of a sloppy backing band, and principally a case of the deified boy himself being unable to sustain the energy on the night. Elvis Costello was a disappointment at London's Roundhouse on Saturday night, and the more I think about it, the more disappointed I feel.
But then he had this gigantic reputation to live up to. Honestly, I didn't know what to expect — I hadn't seen Elvis Costello before. But I expected a LOT. I had a vision of this little bespectacled guy walking out on stage and in one graceful swoop opening his arms to embrace the entire audience and give a unique experience. Elvis didn't have a chance.
I really wanted to love him. I'm not too fond of My Aim Is True, but This Year's Model is one of the best albums released in years. I willed this to take my body apart, and put it back together again, but he only got as far as loosening a few valves. I'm not blaming him; had there not been this holy build. alp — I liken it to visiting Lourdes sure of a miracle — then I would have stumbled out of the Roundhouse dazzled by a rising new talent.
So lets put things in perspective: Elvis Costello is a good writer, singer, performer and artist who needs more time and leeway to become a great one.
I'm convinced that to justify his reputation Costello has a few loose ends to tidy Up. For a start, his band, the Attractions, who came more into the scheme of his things on This Year's Model, need to sharpen up considerably.
Perhaps it had to do with the absence of injured bass player Bruce Thomas (Nick Lowe adequately took his place), but I think it goes much deeper than that. The Attractions never actually felt comfortable. Steve Naive's keyboard playing at times uneasily confronted Elvis's songs rather than complementing them, while drummer Pete Thomas never helped the band swing, often bludgeoning his way through the set.
All this is, of course, relative to Costello's performance and might partially explain why he didn't settle down. After literally stunning the Roundhouse into silence during his all-too-brief acoustic set (only three numbers) and racing through songs with the Attractions, he suddenly and inexplicably sagged around the middle, to only partially recover towards the end.
But let's not forget the magical moments when be did connect, those incredible times when Costello and his audience physically joined. For me it was during "This Year's Girl." There was this slight, baggy-suited figure on stage commanding his followers, and they religiously mouthed the lyrics. It was a moment to savour and one that sent a couple of tingling vibrations up my spine.
I doubt if the audience will agree with my reservations. They cheered deliriously at the end and brought Costello and the Attractions back for a rocking finale with "Pump It Up" before Nick Lowe took stage centre to sing (badly) "Breaking Glass" and "Heart Of The City." By this time, the Rumour's Martin Belmont had joined the entourage and uncovered another little flaw. Costello could use a rhythm guitarist to beef up the sound.
Elvis was supported by the Mickey Jupp Bead, who deserve your attention. They're a tight, good-time combo who boogie infectiously and knock down barriers. Opening the bill were Chiswick's young rockabilly stars, Whirlwind, who played well if you like that sort of thing. I don't.