So, how does one follow something like that? You don't, really, and I didn't envy anyone who had to. And while Elvis Costello and the Attractions didn't perhaps make quite as intense an impact as the Heads, it's ultimately a rather pointless comparison because not only was Costello doing something very different, he also did it exceptionally well.
I wrote about my disappointment with his November 1978 show in London, Ontario, and of my becoming somewhat disillusioned with EC for a time afterwards. It was with this second time around that I got the impassioned, definitive performance I had wanted that first time.
Perhaps it was because this was his one and only live North American performance of 1980 and he could therefore give it a singular focus. Or maybe it was because he was sharing the day's stage with so many of his close peers. And probably also because the Talking Heads gave him one hell of a benchmark to try and attain. Whatever the reason, he came out swinging, putting on an unquestionably A1 show.
Two months after the 1978 gig, he released Armed Forces, a disc that I was initially somewhat indifferent to. But, as with Fear of Music, it became a grower. I recall putting it on the turntable one day in and around the cusp of 79/80 and it hit me in a whole new way. It suddenly worked for me and, one year later, I became enamoured with it. Around this same time, he issued his fourth disc, Get Happy!!, which I was just getting familiar with, having only picked up the 45 cover of Sam & Dave's "I Can't Stand Up for Falling Down."
This final set that I would see at Heatwave minted my renewed Costello fandom.
It started off strangely, with just Elvis and Attractions keyboardist Steve Nieve onstage, performing a somewhat lengthy, dark piano number that seemed to be called "Shot With His Own Gun" (it turned up on next year's Trust, along with others songs performed later in the set including "You'll Never Be A Man" and "Clubland") before the band as a whole kicked things off proper with "Accidents Will Happen."
"Hello, we're The Clash," joked a completely on-form Costello, in reference to the no-show of the day's intended headliners. The foursome then ripped through an incendiary set of highlights from the previous four LPs and the aforementioned nods to the next release. They were passionate and totally on their game.
Full of good humour, I remember there being lots of stage patter in marked contrast to the reticent 1978 gig. Songs that jump out in my mind are "Oliver's Army," "Lipstick Vogue," and Nick Lowe's "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding," that I recall him dedicating to the hippies in the audience.
I also found a link to a bootleg of this set but, alas, haven't had a chance to download and review it yet. Perhaps I'll post an addendum in the Comments once I have.
Costello continued his breakneck, breathtaking run of albums through 1983, peaking artistically with what is my personal favourite EC release, 1982's Imperial Bedroom. Afterwards, his output has been inconsistent but also fascinating in that he's taken all sorts of chances exploring a variety of genres — not to mention being a terrific host and interviewer for the Spectacle TV series.
This set was also Instalment #2 for what has unintentionally become a tradition wherein I see Elvis Costello precisely once per decade. This fulfilled my '80s quota.
Following Costello were The Kings, an emerging, poppy Canadian new wave band with their anodyne hit, "Switching to Glide." They somehow managed to finagle their way on as late night headliners — I've even heard rumours that they paid for the slot — but it backfired badly on them as everyone now just wanted to head back, not to mention that the last several hours of music would have been damn tough to follow. I was already well on my return journey to the parking lot when I heard them start their set, faintly off in the distance.
I was beat yet over the moon with joy following my very first festival experience. I was similarly beatific that I had managed to spend the day sans Doofus and did have a feeling of dread about now making my way back the parking lot to resume up-close 'n' personal quality time with Idioticum Rexus.
Unfortunately, things were not quite so simple, as I found myself in quite a predicament — with all sorts of unexpected results.