Melody Maker, October 4, 1980

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Melody Maker


Costello stands up, The Cats fall down

Elvis Costello / Rainbow, London

Patrick Humphries

Somewhere over the Rainbow were all the memories of former glories — Beatles, the Clash, the Who, and the Marx Brothers.

It was also where Elvis Costello and The Attractions played their first — and probably only — major London gig of 1980 to mark the theatre's 50th birthday, with a support act tipped to be the hottest thing since thermal underwear.

Riffs with quiffs came courtesy of the Stray Cats, the American trio steeped in Fifties rock. They may have sounded great in a sweaty Memphis bar in 1956 but in the draughty confines of the Rainbow on a Monday might in 1980, the novelty wore off pretty quick.

With an awful bass sound, and a graduate with honour from the Dave Clark School of Drumming, Stray Cats tried too hard to generate excitement. They struck me as too derivative, pale imitators rather than innovators.

Two hundred thousand quad for a deal? Stroll on!

Costello stamped on in a red bomber jacket and baggy khaki trousers and went straight into "Shot With His Own Gun," accompanied only by Steve Naive's rippling piano, a strong, passionate new song and one that sounded like a worthy addition to his impressive roster. Then on came the rest of the Attractions and for the next 75 minutes and 15 or so songs they never let up.

It was obviously not going to be an excuse for Costello to revel in former glories and rest on his laurels. New songs vied for prominence amidst the old favourites. "Luxembourg" and "The Beat" got the place moving like a Glasgow hogmanay. A new song, "From A Whisper To A Scream" came complete with a riff at relentless as a headache, while Costello crouched on his knees and pounded through the song.

The sound balance was pretty dreadful, the rhythm section all but drowning out the rest, and the vocals were virtually inaudible. But despite that, the Attractions were superlative, notably drummer Pete Thomas, who played with a verve which elevated the drummers role by sheer unerring ability.

Potent and brooding, thriving on the energy both in front and behind him, Costello tore through new songs - "Lovers Walk," "You'll Never Be A Man," and "Club Land" — all intimidating in their intensity. Then there was the steady stream of old favorites, all performed with a blistering earnestness only breaking the pace with a sensitive "Alison."

"Temptation," "I Don't Want To Go To Chelsea," a spellbinding "Green Shirt," with Thomas' staccato dram crashing out like machine guns, "Big Tears," the marvellous "Less Than Zero," "Watching The Detectives," "Accidents Will Happen," "You Belong To Me" were all brilliantly delivered.

Two encores followed, hammering versions of "Oliver's Army" and "I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down" (a copy of which backed with "Girls Talk" on 2-Tone was dished out free at the door). A scorching "Pump It Up," with more searchlights than the Blitz brought the proceedings to a triumphant close.

Costello demonstrated just who was the boss. A pugnacious figure at stage centre, convinced of bin own convictions, and not afraid to showcase new material because be knows it can stand next to the very best of his past work.

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Melody Maker, October 4, 1980

Patrick Humphries reviews Elvis Costello & The Attractions and supporting act the Stray Cats, Monday, September 29, 1980, Rainbow Theatre, London, England.


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