For Elvis Costello, rock success has moved quickly, and it has added to an already enigmatic persona.
An angry ugly duckling of a guy with the suave trappings of rock stardom, Costello entertained a packed house at Milwaukee's Uptown Theatre Friday night.
Costello was both boring and exciting, posed and spontaneous when compared with his past area performances. He was less demonstrative, and, therefore, that endearing stiff leg stance of compassion and anger was largely missing.
But he did build momentum throughout his set.
The audience was left with a variety of moods and images which either added to or detracted from his songs, according to conviction.
Consequently, "Accidents Will Happen," off of his new Armed Forces album, was flat, as if it was being done in rehearsal. But, "Green Shirt," for its leering strength, and "I Don't Want to Go to Chelsea," for its long jam, were killers.
"Watching the Detectives," however, was an example of Costello's strengths and weaknesses. It is a catchy, marvelous song with a dangerous attitude, and Costello stretched it to new conceptual heights at the Uptown, but the instrumentation seemed unable to fully carry out the idea.
Part of Costello's charm is in that other enigmatic combination. He writes dangerous, compelling songs that require the listener's attention. But he still wants to dance and have a good time.
The Rubinoos opened for Costello and did a good job of shaking down rock's pretensions with fundamental pop rock.
But they made a mistake when they included Milwaukee favorite Ted Nugent among their insults and then tried to outrock the wild man of heavy metal. Most of the audience was unimpressed.