Elvis Costello and the Attractions will put on their no-frills, rock-steady beat at Theatre St. Denis tonight, and it promises to be an occasion not to miss.
Recently described by Rolling Stone magazine as the most brilliantly spiteful lyricist and singer since early Dylan, his arrival en the rock scene has been lauded from every corner of the continent and yet, through it all, the British-born former computer operator has remained dogmatically silent, an enigmatic anti-star.
Born Declan MacManus, the son of a bandleader of the 40s and 50s, he worked as a computer operator for Elizabeth Arden's vanity factory up until two years back, then quit to come out of the closet and pursue a rock 'n' roll life.
His big break in North America came with his appearance on TV's Saturday Night Live as a replacement for the Sex Pistols, who had pulled out of their guest spot in a characteristic disregard for orthodoxy. From there it was line-up crowds at the Bottom Line in New York and the El Mocambo in Toronto, a gold record and now a "Wake Up Canada" tour.
Looking like an earlier-day Buddy Holly with thick horn rim glasses, brushed-back hair and mid-50s clothes, Costello has reconstituted the basic rock 'n' roll form.
The brand of rock that he and the Attractions put out is as taut as a piano wire and the lyrics are characterized by stark black and white images.
"Radio, Radio," on the second album (This Year's Model), is a less than complimentary critique of that particular medium and "Less Than Zero," on the first (My Aim Is True), is a scathing indictment of British television which allows Oswald Mosley, spokesman for the British Nazi party, a forum for his inflammatory remarks.
In the past few months Costello has been working on the third album, set for release sometime in the new year, has toured Britain again and settled himself into a new apartment in the plush Mayfair district of London.
Apart from this, Costello recently played guitar on a Nashville album session for George Jones, a country singer-songwriter that he has long looked up to.
Costello dubs this tour: "Disco droning is corrupting the youth of the 70s, this is the rock of the 80s. Wake up Canada." For those in attendance at tonight's show there will likely be no choice. One show only at 8 30 pm. Tickets are $8.50.