Melody Maker, June 11, 1983

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Melody Maker


Elvis Costello And The Attractions

Mayfield Leisure Centre, Belfast

Barry McIlheney

It was quite a heady mixture. With such an outstanding legacy to draw on, any Elvis Costello concert is going to contain its fair share of quality pop music, and tonight there was the added attraction of a number of new nuggets on display. Sometimes, however, even quality pop isn't quite enough, and it is only right and proper to turn proceedings into a party political broadcast. And the unemployment nightmare of Belfast, six days before polling, obviously offered too perfect an opportunity for the emerging campaign leader to ignore.

It all started with an initially inoffensive sound on the tapedeck. Gradually, however, a few key insults emerged and it was clear that we were being treated to a healthy dose of pills and soap. There followed a near marathon examination of slightly less public politics, with the various targets being lined up, all under attack from a highly supple display of musical manoeuvres and the usual wonderfully controlled lyrical violence.

For this is surely where the Elvis magic lies. In contrast to the more strident polemicists who deal in the same line of business, Costello merely nudges and hints at the vagaries of everyday life with a difference, smiling and staring all the while like some demented Eric Morecambe with a hammer up his sleeve. It helps, of course, when you have the original Midnight Runners brass section behind you, no strangers to such a highly charged atmosphere, and presumably feeling very much at home now that they have finally found another soul rebel with the necessary bite to burn it down once and for all.

And after nearly two hours of all this, "Oliver's Army," and more, it was time for a little shipbuilding, with Costello's despairing vocals drifting out into the night, perhaps to disappear under the enormous bulk of Europe's largest dry dock crane just a mile down the road.

It is undoubtedly a sign of youthful naivety and optimism to read too much into such performances, but if ever there was a time and place for such qualities to playfully reassert themselves, it is surely here and now. A night for movement for the head, heart and feet, and a very welcome last chance for some radical dancing on the campaign trail.

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Melody Maker, June 11 1983

Barry McIlheney reports on Elvis Costello & The Attractions with The TKO Horns, Friday, June 3, 1983, Maysfield Leisure Centre, Belfast, Northern Ireland.


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