Melody Maker, September 17, 1977

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Melody Maker


Elvis dies a death

Chris Welch

Apart from the inebriated gent observed threatening the St. John ambulance ladies trying to lay him on a blanket and take his photograph, it was a quiet, nay peaceful, Saturday afternoon at Crystal Palace Garden Party.

Perhaps a shade too peaceful for Elvis Costello, who burst upon the stage steaming with passion, straight from the stews of the Nashville Rooms only to he confronted with the biggest exhibition of natural apathy I can ever recall seeing at a rock concert at home or abroad.

It should have been the wonder singer and composer's big day. Expectations were high. A friend told me that he had been waiting 15 years in the rock business for someone like Elvis Costello. The man himself raced on stage with his tight little band, the Attractions, and launched himself into a succession of songs nearly all at the same tempo and pitch.

Despite his most manful efforts to arouse the crowds stretched out in the warm autumn sunlight, even the kindest of critics would have agreed that he died the death. At one point I observed exactly two people out of an estimated crowd of 20,000 clapping and they were both in the press enclosure.

Whatever happened to all his fans?

To be fair to Elvis his big problem was a strong breeze blowing towards the stage carrying most of his fine words and heartfelt sentiments back into the shell-shaped concert bowl. Manager Jake Riviera who rushed out into the audience came back reporting that you could hardly hear a note.

The p.a. system seemed to be operating at only half power, and I suddenly realised that at only a few feet away from the horn cabinets it was possible to conduct a perfectly normal conversation. I could imagine that Elvis in a club situation would he quite powerful, but either due to nerves or frustration he did not seem to know how to pace his set.

One number followed another with barely a pause, and most of the audience had obviously never heard the material before. Thus songs like "Welcome To The Working Week," "No Action," "Less Than Zero," and "Lip Service" had no effect.

I had a nagging feeling that I had heard the main theme that forms the basis of many of Costello's songs before somewhere. The melody of "Listen To The Falling Of The Rain," kept recurring. But then he is probably using the pop song structure merely as a vehicle in order to provide ironic contrast with his own bitter thoughts. I enjoyed the band however, featuring Pete Thomas (drums), Bruce Thomas (bass) and Steve Mason (keyboards).

It was a day of worthies, without any real excitement. Crawler and Brand X kicked off the day, the latter playing a workmanlike set before rushing off to France for another festival gig. Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes were excellent, a raunchy rock and soul band who reminded me of Zoot Money's Big Roll Band of the 1964 era, or even the original Amen Corner.

They sported a tailgating trombone player with a tone a mile wide, while Southside John in his white suit kept the soul licks a'coming. Applause came freely and the feeling of Sixties nostalgia was heightened when they played "You Don't Know Like I Know," the old Sam & Dave anthem. They were greeted with a tumult of huzzahs.

Santana caused many guitarists in the audience to wander about moaning "They should cut his (Carlos) hand off, he's too good!" And the moustachioed gent with the axe sure let loose a succession of fiery runs, helping to whip a percussion. laden band to heights of ecstasy over repetitive riffs. Just for contrast they actually played the Zombies' old bit "She's Not There," which caused raised eyebrows.

I personally remained unmoved by Santana while all around were cheering. It's all that Latin America Tico Tico rhythm I never liked, even at the Palais. It's too much like Edmundo Ros meets the Tornados. But by gum they could play, and Harvey Goldsmith and Michael Alfandary looked reasonably happy, there were no backstage rows, the sun shone so who's complaining?

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Melody Maker, September 17, 1977

Chris Welch reports on Garden Party X, Saturday, September 10, 1977, Crystal Palace Bowl, London, England.


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