New Zealand Herald, January 26, 1999

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Another letter from Sweetwaters

Russell Baillie


Dear folks,

Firstly thanks for sending the soap, sunblock and fresh socks. The cheque's in the mail. Promise. Well, once I clear up my tab at the vegeburger stand and get to the bank. You know how it is ...

The second half of my stay in Sweetwaters country certainly has had its moments.

There has been drama, there has been economic crises, there has been sunburn.

Weather-wise what was mud on Friday is now dust, undoubtedly disappointing many a late-coming participant for the traditional last day rockfest bog-dancing.

On the karma-readjustment side there was a minute of silence for Planet Earth Peace Day early on Sunday evening which was a very handy way of finding out who was playing on the other stages — just like the trans-generational line-up, the clocks don't exactly sync up around here. Too bad. All part of the appealing lack of urgency of the place.

Well, yes, there was some panic as you might have heard. Though Cyclone Costello just sort of blew on by, unless you were among the fraught types backstage.

More on him later.


Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis is in the building. Striding on postmidnight he announced: "We're gonna do a Beatles song called You Never Give Me Your Money."

But instead he ploughed into his own "Accidents Will Happen."

From there it was a case of songbook wanderlust with a guitarplaying Costello and onetime Attraction, fleet-fingered pianist Steve Nieve, mixing the old and the old-sounding new pieces from Painted from Memory, his Burt Bacharach collaboration.

Yes, he did have a go at local accounting practices, though he probably overstepped the mark by saying nobody at the festival had been paid.

However, his rancour added a certain zing to his set.

That's whether it was swinging from the early likes of "Radio Sweetheart" (adding a bit of Dexy's Midnight Runners' "Jackie Wilson Said" for good measure) and "Chelsea" to the Burt-boosted balladry.

In this stripped-back context, together they made for an exquisite mix.

And to help make his point he was here for the punters, he just kept on coming back for encores. There were three in total finishing on "What's So Funny About Peace and Love and Understanding?" — still a fine sentiment, especially here.

Yes, he was worth every delayed cent.


The New Zealand Herald, January 26, 1999

Russell Baillie reports on the Sweetwaters Music Festival, including Elvis Costello with Steve Nieve, Sunday, January 24, 1999, Auckland, New Zealand.


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