New Zealand Herald, January 25, 1999

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Cash woes sour Costello spot

Russell Baillie

It was touch and go whether British star Elvis Costello would take the stage at Sweetwaters last night after organisers' failed to pay him - but at the final hour he did not disappoint his fans.

The singer-songwriter told organisers earlier in the day that he would not perform his headlining slot because his full fee was still outstanding.

He then went public on what he said was appalling treatment, telling the New Zealand Herald his experience could deter other big names from touring New Zealand. Other acts had also not been paid, he claimed.

Daniel Keighley, organiser of the laid-back weekend festival, admitted last night that the stand-off had come about because of money problems, partly due to the crowd of around 25,000 being below expectations.

He promised Costello would get paid whether he performed or not and to the relief of the crowd he star took the stage shortly before midnight announcing his first song would be the Beatles' You Never Give Me Your Monday. Instead he launched into his own hit Accidents Will Happen.

Mr Keighley put the dispute down to a mix of cashflow problems, partly caused by his having to pay for last-minute work at the Manukau site, including laying gravel on muddy roads, and communication difficulties between himself, Costello - who has been holidaying in New Zealand for several weeks - and his booking agent.

He said he would probably lose "a big block of money" he had poured into the festival, which he ran mostly at a profit in the early 1980s. "I know I will be hurt to the tune of everything that I have."

Only two or three artist payments remained outstanding as of last night, he said. "I don't think there will be a problem with the money tomorrow."

"I don't mind if Elvis Costello thinks I'm an [expletive] and we spend the next few weeks sorting out the finances. I'm completely happy for that to be the case."

Organisers signed Costello last May and used his name to pull other big acts for the three-day festival.

Another headlining act that cancelled at the last minute, Run DMC, is believed to have dropped out because of illness.

Costello, who made his name in the late 1970s and early 1980s with hits like Watching the Detective, said his treatment by the festival organisers had been the worst of his 21-year career.

"It's just become increasingly obvious that they don't have any money," Costello said.


The New Zealand Herald, January 25, 1999

Russell Baillie reviews EC and Steve Nieve on Sunday, January 24, 1999 at the Sweetwaters Festival, Auckland, New Zealand.


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