New Musical Express, April 22, 1978

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Why don't you tell me about the mystery bass?

Elvis Costello And The Attractions / Roundhouse

Neil Peters

You can always tell when an act has made it in big way because you find some shady-looking types milling around outside a gig by the act in question, asking if you "Wanna buy a ticket, guy?" or if you've "Got any spare tickets?"

On this occasion however, it appeared that few punters wanted to knows shout the touts' exorbitant prices or, for that matter about the management's generous refund offer (the reasons for which you probably know already, so I won't bother repeating them) — a smart move, as it turned out because Costello and various Attractions, despite obvious difficulties, made this, the first of their two London dates, a triumphant climax to their first motor headlining tour.

But, first, brief mentions for the two support acts.

The Mickey Jupp Band, led by yet another of the sons of Canvey Island with Mick Grabham (ex-Procol Harum, for all you useless fax 'n' info freaks) on lead guitar, were on first and played a predictable, and sometimes sluggish rocka-boogie set. I yawned twice near the end.

Can't say I was swept off my feet by Whirlwind, either (geddit?).

I know next to nothing when it comes to rockabilly, but these boys sounded authentic enough to me, although their material is too samey. Still, they were called back for an encore and I only yawned once.

After that, the roadies set up the Attractions' complete stage gear, so it was clear that a replacement for Bruce Thomas had been found, but no one was letting on as to the identity of the mystery bassist — it seemed that Elvis wanted to keep the punters guessing.

Then suddenly, completely unannounced (oh, the drama of it all!), Elvis runs on alone, bows (!), stares at the crowd, and starts to play a song called, I think, "She'll Be The One," on his guitar.

The song over, he pauses to say "Good evening. How are you?" to smile even, before playing "Chemistry Class."

Still no mention of the replacement bassist, until he introduces Pete Thomas and Steve Naive and then... is it? ... no, but it can't be... yes it is — Nick Lowe, who proceeds to play perfectly sound bass throughout the set.

The last time I saw Elvis was in August of last year when he was still playing weekly gigs at the Nashville.

He was good, sure, but I felt that he was performing at rather than for, the audience.

No such qualms this time, however, he immediately seemed more confident and relaxed, no doubt the effect of assorted Stiff and American tours, but was still just as charismatic a performer.

The sound was better too, so I could hear the keyboards properly and Steve Naive, his gaunt features offset by a pair of round shades so that he looked like nothing so much as some giant insect, proved, with only an electric piano and a Vox Continental, how utterly unnecessary synthesisers are (for all their supposed versatility).

There were times when the Attractions could have been accused of over-speeding so it was the slower numbers that tended to stand out — "Waiting For The End Of The World," "Less Than Zero," and even "Chelsea" all made their studio counterparts sound, well, a little tame.

An agreeable surprise also to bear the Attractions version of "Alison" not as poignant as the one which graces the grooves of My Aim Is True but I suppose that's asking too much, and in an extended "Watching The Detectives" Elvis' uneasy listening became uneasier still.

They were called back for "Mystery Dance" with Phil Lynott on bass, who obliged with one clenched-fist salute as he left the stage, but there was no way the crowd was going to let them off a second encore so Elvis returned, looking somewhat chuffed at his reception, and explained that they didn't know any more songs ("I'm Not Angry," "Lipstick Vogue," and "Night Rally" were all conspicuous by their absence from the set, but credit where it's due — Basher had performed admirably) so Nick was going to sing "Heart Of The City," and so he did.

And that was it.

Probably not the best gig Elvis and The Attractions have ever played but, considering the circumstances, still worthy of the highest praise and good enough to make monkeys of most other bands.

I didn't yawn once.

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New Musical Express, April 22, 1978

Neil Peters reviews Elvis Costello & The Attractions with guests Nick Lowe and Phil Lynott and opening acts Whirlwind and Mickey Jupp, Saturday, April 15, 1978, Roundhouse, London, England.

News Round-up previews the single for "Radio, Radio" and the start of the 3rd US tour with Johnny Ciambotti subbing for Bruce Thomas.

This Year's Model is No. 10 on the album chart and "(I Don't Want To Go To) Chelsea" is No. 19 on the singles chart (page 2).


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Photos by Chalkie Davies.
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Elvis Costello

News round-up

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Elvis Costello has a new single out on Radar on April 28, titled "Pump It Up." The B-side "Big Tears" features Clash guitarist Mick Jones. Elvis flew to to America this week and, for the first week of his tour, he'll be using guest bassist John Ciambotti from Clover. It's expected that regular bassist Bruce Thomas, currently nursing a hand injury, will then be fit to join him...

Nick Lowe's new single, "Little Hitler" / "Cruel To Re kind" is a May 5 release, also on Radar.

Photo by Gary Merrin.
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Cover and page scan.


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