Melody Maker, March 16, 1985

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Melody Maker


Soul mining

Allan Jones

This might have seemed a belated gesture by Costello, but the particular suffering of mining communities has not ended with the return to work. There is still much to be done to relieve the continued hardships of families who've endured enormous deprivations.

I don't know specifically whether it was this grim knowledge that fuelled Costello's performance here, but at the Logan Hall on Saturday night, he seemed utterly consumed by the kind of articulate rage one remembers so vividly horn has very earliest appearances: mind you, he probably needed to tic at his best to avoid being upstaged by the rest of the bill.

The Men They Couldn't Hang were a revelation and their thrilling version of "Iron Masters" was simply heartstopping. It was matched head-on for emotional impact by the South Wales Miners' Choir, whose moving, dignified performance threatened to leave the house knee-deep in Kleenex. The old lump in the throat had barely cleared when Billy Bragg appeared to deliver a scorching broadside that climaxed with the incendiary "Between The Wars" and a fine new song, "Times Like These": more on Bragg In next week's paper.

Costello led The Attractions into the spotlight for the first time in over four months dressed like a dandy going to war, in an outsize Crolla jacket and fatigue trousers. From the careening opening salvo of "All You Thought Of Was Betrayal," the first of six new songs in the set, it was clear that this was going to be a performance of vintage power and persuasion. As they cleaved through a splitting, crackling programme it was dramatically obvious that The Attractions had fully regained the sensational, electrifying edge that had recently deserted them. There was no evidence here of the meandering indifference of last year's Hammersmith Palais shows. This was a furiously lethal outing, designed principally around brilliantly resurrected classics from the Costello songbook — "No Action," "Watching The Detectives," "You Belong To Me," "Less Than Zero," even a swooning "Alison" — and typically astute covers, notably an inspired reading of Merle Haggard's "No Reason To Quit."

The new songs fitted perfectly into the context of this fiery, impassioned performance. Mostly, they sounded like the most robust and spectacularly direct songs Costello has written since Trust. "Brilliant Mistake," "Sleep Of The Just" and, especially, "Blue Chair" — a successor of "Big Tears", structured around a devastating Pete Thomas drum pattern — blazed terrific melodic curves, Costello's guitar providing the principal instrumental focus, with Steve Nieve's keyboard forays held in disciplined support. I just hope that when these new songs are recorded, Elvis hauls in Nick Lowe to produce them and cranks that guitar RIGHT UP!

The most frenzied version I can ever remember of "Pump It Up" (Elvis on his knees creating abnormal havoc on six strings as The Attractions raged like hell in a temper behind him) was merely a dramatic overture to the final sombre drama of "Shipbuilding" that reduced the Logan Hall to an awed deeply felt hush. But the final word on a highly-charged, highly emotional evening, must go to the South Wales Miner who delivered a simple, heartfelt message.

"We have to thank Mrs Thatcher for one thing," he said, his voice choking with emotion. "She has brought people like you and people like us together. As long as we have that we'll never lose."

And, as Costello announced before leaving the stage at last: It's not over yet ..."

Tags: Logan HallLondonThe AttractionsBilly BraggThe Men They Couldn't HangBetrayalHammersmith PalaisNo ActionWatching The DetectivesYou Belong To MeLess Than ZeroAlisonMerle HaggardNo Reason To QuitTrustBrilliant MistakeSleep Of The JustBlue ChairBig TearsPete ThomasSteve NieveNick LowePump It UpShipbuildingMargaret Thatcher

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Melody Maker, March 16, 1985

Allan Jones reviews Elvis Costello & The Attractions, Saturday, March 9, 1985, Logan Hall, London, England.


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Photo by Andy Catlin.
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