Speculation had been raging all day about the potential content of Elvis Costello and The Attractions' set. There was also the problem of what actually to call him, what with all the recent name changing confusing the life out of most of us. We finally settled on Delvoid Macstello, but it didn't seem really to fit, so we went back to Elvis.
The safe money on the set list was behind a greatest hits package. Like everyone else on the bill, his performance would be limited to 15 minutes. At the frantic pace that has sometimes characterised The Attractions' performances we estimated at least 20 songs in that period if the chaps were cranked up in classic fashion. Of course. there was also the possibility of a set full of cover version, or a set of completely new numbers, most of them written in the van on the way to the gig.
In the end, we got a bit of everything and nothing we expected. Really, there's no telling which direction Costello is ever going to come from, which is one of the reasons he's so fucking fascinating. Playing his first show with The Attractions since his Logan Hall miners' benefit gig last March, Elvis opened with "Leave My Kitten Alone" — teasingly dedicated to "Cait, my own little kitten from Clare" — plundered apparently from an old Beatles' B side whose clattering momentum, slashing guitar and dramatically raw arrangement had the crowd on their toes from the off. The following number was a new original, "Uncomplicated," whose tense, formidable voodoo stalk took the soul clout of Get Happy!! into previously uncharted territories. It's typical, apparently, of the album Costello's just completed with Nick Lowe and it sounded brilliant, but — informed sources suggest the one to look out for on the forthcoming LP is a song called "Tokyo Storm Warning."
Pulling another fast one on the bewildered audience, Costello followed "Uncomplicated" with a beautiful, wracked cover of Jimmy Cliff's "Too Many Rivers To Cross," after which The Attractions should have gone into the new cranked-up, dynamite arrangement of "I Hope You're Happy Now," a slice of vintage venom previously incorporated into Costello's solo acoustic show.
There was, however, a minor mishap and the great Pete Thomas thundered straight into the hammering intro to "Pump It Up." Elvis could only follow, which added a lot of extra tension to an already incendiary run in to the final tape. Having somehow patched "I Hope You're Happy Now" into the raging framework of "Pump It Up," Costello then launched Into a splendid snatch of Van Morrison's "Gloria." Everyone was besides themselves by now, not surprisingly with Van on next and all that. Morrison's representatives, waiting at the side of the stage, weren't at all amused it later transpired.
As The Attractions trooped off, so obviously glad to be back on the planks again. Van's people tutted disapprovingly.
"Some people," they said, "have no manners."
Pete Thomas was still howling with laughter, hours later.