In spite of himself and all the rules of rock 'n' roll logic, Elvis Costello is making it big these days. The evidence was clear-cut during his weekend brace of concerts at the Tower Theater in Upper Darby, which ended Sunday night.
While remaining at complete odds with the traditional heroic macho image of the rock superstar, he ignited a wildly enthusiastic audience response at his first sighting on stage at the opening performance and the ritual of appreciation continued through his two encore numbers.
From a purely artistic point of view, it was hardly among the more memorable concerts. The roaring sound system muddied most of the songs, frequently leaving the lyrics of Costello's material lost in the sonic rumble. And his support musicians, a band called the Attractions, are merely adequate at their task.
And Costello himself is anything but a gracefully flashy performer. Sporting an appearance that comes closer to resembling a bespectacled accountant than rock heavyweight, his moves — while wielding his guitar as though it were a machine gun are those of a stiff-legged robot who who had consumed one martini too many.
At one point, to dramatize his musical message, Costello dropped to his knees and concluded his song from a prone position. It appeared more self-consciously affected than spontaneous, but Costello's fans loved it.
The one element in his appeal that cannot be denied is that Costello ranks as the best of the British "new wave" rockers who surfaced in England two years ago. At a time when the lyrics of pop music in general lean toward bland sentimentality, Costello's music oozes anguish and bitterness over a wide assortment of topics, ranging from matters of the heart to political and social foolishness.