Melody Maker, February 7, 1987

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Melody Maker


Elvis Costello And The Confederates

Royal Albert Hall, London

David Stubbs

Elvis was so impressed with my reviews last week that he sent me seven complementary tickets. So I brought along some little friends!

GRUMPY (after the first four seconds, pure down-the-line, barnstorming bilge): Right, I'm off. Cheerio.

BASHFUL: Who are they? They look like off-duty plumbers!

DOC: The Confederates, well-seasoned session men who can lick a mean lick but stroke up a ballad the right way. There's Jim Keltner on drums, T Bone Wolk on accordion, er ... Benny Hill's hairdresser brother on bass and Michael Gambon on lead guitar. (I'm not quite sure about the last two.) Granted, there's no more futile a racket than uptempo R&B, oblivious as it is to any sense of tragedy, fragmentation or dramatic irony, exhibiting merely a boozy, obsolete fellowship. But "Little Angel," seized up and inflated like a tear, is a bruised thing of swollen beauty, embossed by Michael Gambon's beerless arabesques on slide guitar. No rednecks they!

DOPEY: These lyrics are a bloody slog. I've listened to "New Amsterdam" 40 times, now, and still don't know what it's about! Or "America Without Tears" — in that urgent, indignant sneer he intones: "So I put on my overcoat and went down to find / In Revlon and Crimplene they captured my heart." What's he playing at? It's all jewels and binoculars to me!

SNEEZY: If he showers any more phlegm on me, I'm going to catch pneumonia. He's worse than Roy Hattersley!

HAPPY: The tree of Costello is uprooted and tangled with twigs and branches, to be sure, but a masterpiece like "Little Palaces" is bark from the gut, a near abdication of traditional sympathy with the working classes. He claims tonight that he "doesn't hold out much hope," but no one feels more keenly or intricately than he the breakdown or explosion of the indigenous, both as myth and political entity.

Folk rally around Costello for an ancient warmth, a lost authenticity. If you're bored by him, then you're probably bored, generally. You've ceased to hanker for a central flicker of humanity, yearn for flash rather than flesh in the pan.

SLEEPY: I'm not bored, just filleted! An hour and three-quarter's saturation of sagacity! I've grown a beard! I must be the wisest man in England! Just fathoming "Suit Of Lights" made me cave in with exhaustion. Is it worth it?

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Melody Maker, February 7, 1987

David Stubbs reviews Elvis Costello with The Confederates, Monday, January 26, 1987, Royal Albert Hall, London, England.


1987-01-31 Melody Maker page 21 clipping 01.jpg

1987-02-07 Melody Maker cover.jpg 1987-01-31 Melody Maker page 21.jpg
Cover and page scan.


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