Melody Maker, March 4, 1978

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Melody Maker

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Elvis Costello

River Days, St. Louis

Patti Dewing

ST. LOUIS — Just when it looked as though God and the weather had permanently conspired against Britain's new wave ever lapping this city, up washed one Elvis Costello and the Attractions in the most unlikely part of town: old, ethnic, ultra-conservative South St. Louis.

Costello's support act was Billy Connolly, an unlikely choice that was emphasised by the fact that his earthy Scottish humour escaped all but a handful of British students — two Elvis dress-alikes and a copy of a skinhead in their ranks — who rousingly cheered him on with demands for their favourite routines. (The three emulators, plus a couple of confused-looking Americans, turned out in high punk, were the only out-of-the-ordinary sights to be found in the sizeable, friendly audience.)

"Divorce!" the Britons were last heard shouting, but alas for them, it wasn't to be granted. No time, I believe, according to schedule.

When Elvis Costello, looking like a manic distortion of Buddy Holly, eventually showed up on stage, he gave a yank to his tie and let loose on the opener, "Welcome To The Working Week," at approximately twice the speed of the record.

No doubt about it, these boys mean business — to the tune of 13 terse and catchy rockers and a (new) ballad, "Stranger In The House" (no "Alison" this set) in 45 minutes flat. Never before have I witnessed such — efficiency? — at a rock concert. Too much, perhaps, when you consider that the faster the songs go by, the more evident becomes their repetition. But to be honest, much of the programme did seem the more captivating for the fleeter tempo; and I must say, too, that there was not a slob to be heard among the band, in spite of all this noise we in America heard about the dire state of new wave musicianship.

As for Elvis, his guitar picking was, well, sensible, and his vocals — showing the Lynott lineage more distinctly live than on record, with the accent this gig on Lynott — carried a reasonable amount of clout, though suffering in intelligibility from the tacky p.a. stuck to him by some local moneygrubber (they've not brought their own system on tour).

Taken together, they achieved a taut, cohesive sound — more British in approach than that of My Aim Is True — which was at its best in the very popular "Less Than Zero," and in your reviewer's fond choices — "You Belong To Me" and the "Lipstick Vogue"/"Watching The Detectives" segue. By "Zero," the sixth song, the audience had formed a pulsating, protoplasmic wall at his feet.

To my mind, that was quite a tribute to the performance. But Elvis, it seems, is not one to respond much to an audience. And as I took note of this, I also began to realise that while he is electrifying it was a strange, cold and calculated vibration he was using. Indeed, he dashed through his measured paces like a good little android, running down a bit (no wonder!) when he reached No. 11, "Radio, Radio," but winding right back up again and racing on to the encoreless finish.

Almost before the-last chord had fully faded, Elvis and his entourage had zipped out of the door, the oft-hyped Elvis Costello Mystique (read: gimmick) secure from further penetration.

To say he'd played safe is putting it mildly. I mean, the club situation has been touted by new wave artists as giving them the advantage of closer audience contact over the "boring old farts" in their larger, more regulated venues. Yet here there was no chance to ply the musicians with pitchers of beer and beg them to play on and on. No hope of experiencing that ruddy euphoria that comes from a band and its audience having totally melted one another's hearts. Just time enough (barely) for Elvis Costello to do his bit, then take the money and run — and to leave behind a far more superficial impression that he need have settled for.

This, I pondered in the wake of his departure, is the new wave's New Messiah — this consummate player of the boring old Fame Game? The more I thought about it, the more I thought we'd been had.


Tags: River DaysSt. LouisMissouriThe AttractionsBilly ConnollyBuddy HollyWelcome To The Working WeekStranger In The HouseAlisonPhil LynottMy Aim Is TrueLess Than ZeroYou Belong To MeLipstick VogueWatching The DetectivesRadio, RadioDr. FeelgoodLee Brilleaux(I Don't Want To Go To) ChelseaNick LoweGraham ParkerWill BirchTom Petty

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Melody Maker, March 4, 1978


Patti Dewing reviews Elvis Costello & The Attractions, Tuesday, January 31, 1978, River Days, St. Louis, Missouri.


Ian Birch reviews the single for "(I Don't Want To Go To) Chelsea."


Melody Maker reveals that "You Belong To Me" was originally written for Dr. Feelgood's Be Seeing You album.

Images

1978-03-04 Melody Maker page 06 clipping 01.jpg
Clipping.


Chelsea boy


Ian Birch

Elvis Costello
(I Don't Want To Go To) Chelsea

1978-03-04 Melody Maker page 18 clipping 01.jpg

The man is an incredible talent. He pioneered a kind of white boy roots reggae on "Watching The Detectives" last year and further develops that here.

The title itself is almost enough (I'm a sucker for such trappings). A beautiful heaving bass and side-stepping organ underpins Costello, whose mixture of vitriol, desperation and hurt is as exhilarating as it ever was.

The sedate smugness of Chelsea and all it stands for is ripped apart. "She's last year's model / They call her Natasha / Well, she looks like Elsie." Once again Nick Lowe keeps it all rough, ready and dynamic.

The flip incidentally, "You Belong To Me," was originally written for Dr. Feelgood when Lowe commissioned Elvis, Will Birch and Graham Parker to donate a number (or two) towards Be Seeing You. The project never did materialise.



You belong to me


Melody Maker

1978-03-04 Melody Maker page 09 clipping 01.jpg

More rock trivia: "You Belong To Me," the flip side of Elvis' new fab 45, "(I Don't Want To Go To) Chelsea," was written originally — we're sure you'll be simply enthralled to learn — for the Feelgoods. It was commissioned by Nick Lowe who produced the F Goods' Be Seeing You album.

Basher thought, apparently, that the Feelgoods' repertoire could be brightened up by the inclusion of some new songs from the pens of hotshot new rock 'n' roll writers. Elvis, Graham Parker and Will Birch were all approached. Elvis' effort at least got as far as the recording studio before it was abandoned.

The Feelgoods had no actual criticism of the song; they'd be the first to agree that it's an ace choon. It was simply that, like a lot of El's songs, it was rather, ahem, wordy. Too wordy for Lee Brilleaux, at least.

It was only at the insistence of Lowe that Lee persevered with the song: "Awright Bash ... one more time," he'd say wearily as he attempted once more to master the lyrics. Lowe remembers him standing in the studio at the microphone, scanning the endless verses on the lyric sheet and finally tossing it aside with an exasperated "Ere, Bash, let's ditch this song ... it's a bit War 'n' Piece, innit?"

Lowe also presented the Feelgoods with an unrecorded Tom Petty song (Tom was pretty hot at the time). "Hold up," said Brilleaux. "Tom Petty? He's got long blonde hair and looks like a woman." No more was said.



Cover and page scans.
1978-03-04 Melody Maker cover.jpg 1978-03-04 Melody Maker page 06.jpg 1978-03-04 Melody Maker page 09.jpg 1978-03-04 Melody Maker page 18.jpg

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