Everybody secretly loves Elvis Costello, and at the same time fears his every word, recoiling at his anger.
And he don't care.
He's young and a rebel and sells records, so he'll be heard. Above all the cliches about what he's trying to say and who his influences are, comes one simple fact; he doesn't care how he has to wrap his anger, he wants to be heard. His genius lies in his ability to bend the rules enough to let himself into the winners' circle.
That's about the only way left to make great music these days; the business is a players' game.
Elvis re-opened the rule book.
When I first saw Elvis in L.A. last year I was interested in this twitchy 28-year-old looking 22-year-old. His band was an energy wired group of faces almost under a trance from the power of the music they were fortunate enough to unleash. Elvis was semi-tough, all spaz attack gestures and twangy electro-sonic guitars.
His stuff was great and even the rather naive, excuse the pun, "new wave" audience pogoed and screamed very nicely.
Now he's even more for real; at the time I thought there would be no more, Elvis would return to England and reel off into another barnstorming project—oh no, the heat was just steam.
So your roving reporter fronted up to the Santa Monica Civic, the heat making the crowd look anything but an Elvis C. crowd, and awaited the second coming of my favourite comedian.
Pow... here's Elvis!
That's the guy, tearing it up, pumping it up, spitting it out, really wild and already he hates this hall and the sound system, but who cares? The crowd absorbs his anger and dances. The people at the Civic in L.A. were smart enough to take the seating out for this one. The writhing mass looks like a huge sock hop. Neat.
His band The Attractions load up and machine their way through what seems like 100 songs. Elvis just doesn't let up. There's "Watching the Detectives" a love-hate classic; "No Action" and from the new model, excuse me, album, "This Year's Girl" and "Radio, Radio." (Costello albums list different tracks in different countries. Oz didn't get "Radio" — ed), it's an amazing song that's become really big, and ironically the lyrics totally slander everything to do with the mechanics of a hit. Get a listen, it's mean.
Meanwhile back at the show Twitching Jack Jive is powering to an appreciative rabble, still real angry at the sound. As he finished his last song he did something I wasn't ready for ... midsong he removed his guitar and, with a psychotic pas de deux, trashed his amplifier and stormed off.
The performance was nevertheless energy-filled, strange, ugly ... all those words. Anyone with any sense had fun.