Elvis Costello rocked Chapel Hill with a fervor Sunday night, and when his performance was over the exhausted crowd in Carmichael Auditorium didn't seem to mind that he had only played for an hour and a half.
Costello's intensity easily made up for the fact that his show was relatively short by rock-and-roll standards. The drained faces filing out of the auditorium just before midnight displayed everything but disappointment.
Costello isn't one to bounce around in Pete Townshend fashion, but the emphasis he placed on vocal perfection made up for his lack of hyperactivity. He blazed through such favorites as "Accidents Will Happen," "Hand in Hand" and "This Year's Girl" with a vocal clarity that was highlighted by a surprisingly good sound system.
The enthusiasm that Costello has for his music was epitomized by the fact that he never once unstrapped his guitar in the presence of the audience. When he first hit the stage, his guitar came with him, just like an essential part of his body. An amplifier plug was waiting for him, draped over his microphone. The same pattern was followed for both encores.
For approximately the first one-third of the performance, Costello played solely with the Attractions, his three-man backing group. Attractions consists of a rhythm section and keyboards. However, the quartet was soon joined by Martin Bellmont, a superb guitarist from Graham Parker's backing band, the Rumour. This enabled Costello to concentrate more on his vocals and also provided a more heavily guitar-oriented sound.
Energetic rockers played the dominant role, but Costello did take time out for a few ballad like songs. The one that received the most audience response was, of course, "Alison." one of the more popular tunes from Costello's first album. He also played a variety of material from his upcoming album, tentatively entitled Trust.
Elvis Costello is a unique performer in every aspect, from his appearance to his vocal style, and his particular brand of music can be obtained from no other source. As the last chords of "Pump It Up" faded out, and Costello and his band bounded off the stage, a realization swept over the audience; they would not have another experience like this again unless they made a return trip to see Costello himself.