Wednesday, March 1, 8:40 pm., the Union Program Council finally opened the doors to the Willie Alexander / Elvis Costello concert, and concert goers quickly packed themselves into the slightly overheated UMass Student Union Ballroom. Twenty minutes later, Willie Alexander walked on with his Boom Boom Band.
Willie was clad in an army fatigue jacket, adorned with motel keys pinned outside the breast pocket, a small scale replica of a shark attached to one of the belt loops, and patches proclaiming "I'm a bimbo" sewed on at both shoulders. (He later revealed several more, similarly enlightened messages that were scrawled on his arms in magic marker.) In the course of the concert, Willie managed to jounce around the stage a lot, displaying all the agility of a loosely connected bag of bones. He constantly flung his head to the driving beat of the music and took an occasional swig from a battle that he kept in bis portable, on-stage liquor cabinet (located somewhere under his electric piano).
In his more musical moments, Willie banged out a few chords on his electric piano and otherwise entertained himself (and presumably the audience) by fiddling around with the microphone stand and/or swinging the microphone over his head or just generally acting like a bimbo. Musically, the Boom Boom Band played the basic heavy metal, "wall of sound" affair, recently made popular by the punk rockers. But unfortunately, a lot of Willie Alexander's vocals were lost, or effectively buried in the wall of sound. During "Radio Heart," the only lyrics that came across well were a few "I got one, you got one" and several shrill "ooohh's."
The plusses of the performance were the guitar solos by Bill Loosigian (the rhythm/lead guitarist of the Boom Boom Band) and the paper airplanes with messages and requests thrown onstage by members of the audience. The total effect of Willie Alexander and the Boom Boom Band was forty-five minutes of amusing, inane, and questionable antics by Willie to a background of hard rock and roll that ended in a semi-enthusiastic attempt to bring an encore that never came.
After a twenty minute break for equipment change, and then an unfortunate problem with cameras, Elvis Costello ran on with his band, The Attractions, and immediately broke into one of his better known songs, "Mystery Dance." Elvis was dressed in a gray silk suit which appeared to have several permanent suitcase wrinkles creased on the pantlegs.
On stage, the person of Elvis Costello is difficult to characterize. He stations himself in front of the microphone and furiously and expressively spits out his lyrics. Either his motions are all appropriately jerky in a sort of practised uncoordination that seems tailor-made for him, or he falls into a trance-like state of total inaction, eyes fixed in space and arms hanging loosely at his sides; either way, the mood is intense and the crowd is mad for him. After seeing him in concert (for any amount of time), one recognizes in him both a genius and a certain charisma — Elvis Costello has all the talent and all the force of the next big thing.