After years of being continually passed over, suddenly there's a great danger that events just might be happening a shade too quickly for Elvis Costello.
What gets 400 devotees off in the confines of the Nashville doesn't necessarily transfer to 12,000 people with a vast lily pond acting as a no-go area for all but a few skinny-dippers. It's all very well being prophetic after the event, but (despite a handsome fee) Costello would have been far better served nixing Crystal Palace until next year and first playing either the Hammersmith Odeon or the Rainbow.
Furthermore, his position in the running order — being sandwiched between two experienced outfits like the Asbury Jukes and Santana didn't help none.
Costello himself seemed prepared for any eventuality — which you certainly couldn't say about his band, The Attractions, or the guy who mixed the sound were. For most of the set, both Costello's guitar and Bruce Thomas' bass were practically inaudible, with the result that the over-abundance of Steve Manson's pipe organ and Pete Thomas' drums evoked an impression of surreal nostalgia reminiscent of The Mysterians.
From the moment Costello (garbed in tight black suit, dark blue shirt and brown shoes) lurched into "Welcome To The Workday Week," he gave the distinct impression that he was performing with repressed anger.
This was the first time that Costello had come face-to-face with a large audience, but there was to be absolutely no compromise on his behalf. His obvious ploy would have been to re-play his album and ensure a positive response. No way. Of the 14 songs he performed in quick-fire succession, only "Less Than Zero," "Red Shoes," "Miracle Man" and the closing "Mystery Dance" are available on record.
It was almost as if Costello was putting both the audience and himself to test. I'm not sure what his motives were — maybe he's masochistic — but he sure as hell went about it the hard way.
The PA certainly didn't help. As the lyrical content of Costello's material is very wordy, the impact of such newer songs as "There's No Action," "Lipstick Vogue," "I Don't Want To Go To Chelsea," "Lipservice," "Radio, Radio" and the incredible "Watching The Detectives" was lost on the breeze.
Had Costello had more experience of working such a large audience he'd have pulled the gig off without too much difficulty. As it was, there seemed to be a certain degree of resistance emanating from both sides of the pond, with the result that he scooted-off to a polite trickle of applause and no encore.
On page three of the official programme, it gave a Santana line-up of Carlos Santana (guitar), Tom Coster (keyboards), Raoul Ricklow (congas / bongoes), Graham Lear (drums), Gregory Walker (vocals), David Margen (bass) and Peter Escovedo (timbales).
Turn to page nine of the very same programme and there's a missive that states: "Rather than going into detailed biographical or historical accounts of the group, SANTANA prefer to be judged on their music alone."
Who's kiddin' who? 'Cause the note then goes on to claim that Pablo Tellez is playing bass, Luther Rabb sings and Jose "Chepito" Areas handles timbales!
I dunno 'bout the rest of the guys, but Chepito wasn't within 3,000 miles of that gig.
It really doesn't matter who plays what anyway, because outfits like Santana (Lynyrd Skynyrd are another) are custom-built for large outdoor events like Crystal Palace. Designed like a B-52 bomber, they take off at full throttle, quickly gain altitude, cruise at maximum speed and then go for the flash finish, delivering their payload bang on target.
That's one analogy. At another extreme they can be likened to a premature ejaculation. Having reached an orgasmic peak so early in their performance, they then spend the next two hours going through the same motions, until the batteries need replacing.
Building their programme around the more familiar highlights from their first three albums, Carlos & Co also sprinkle their set with more recent tracks like "Let The Children Play" and a thoroughly bizarre latinised rework of The Zombies' "She's Not There".
However, long before the set reached its logical conclusion the incessant rattling of pots and pans became somewhat overpowering. Aside from "Black Magic Woman" and an instrumental ballad (the title of which eludes me), the only respite was C. Santana's stylish ability to overlay the recurring rhythm patterns with regular forceful guitar breaks and sustained sub-sonic one-note aerobatics.
Though I face a charge of nepotism, I must confess that the best music I heard all day came much later at Ras Spencer's house-leaving knees-up.