Back stage — liggers bar, roadies a-plenty and caravans for dressing rooms. Who's this dude in the black-rimmed specs? Why, it's young Elvis Costello — the one they've all been raving about. Elvis: "No point in keeping 'em waiting, let's get on with it."
Front stage, a tall, barbed wire fence separates the kids from the vast Press enclosure which runs up to the stage. Such remoteness between genuine (paying) audience and performers could mean trouble. Read on.
So it's... Elvis Costello and his band, The Attractions. They kick off with "Don't Blame It On Me" and rapidly move into "I'm Angry," both well-built songs. But young Elvis is angry, he's not happy with the lighting — there isn't any — and he's not happy with the fence. "What is this? A F------ prison camp? What are all these journalists doing here? Let the people in."
With dead-pan face he gears into "No Action" and "American Man." He's getting a reasonable response but "all you people sitting at the back, this is not F------ 1969, it's 1977, wake up:" They do, slightly and encouraged by the artistes start to work on the fence — sorta pushin' it. Into his two best numbers "Less Than Zero" and "Red Shoes," both excellent songs and arrangements built around the musicianship of this soon-to-be star. Not suggesting anything, or attempting to detract from Elvis' performance, they played Springsteen's "Born To Run" after his set and it had the same ring of urgency. Good set. The multi-national punters were starting to get into the mood.
Festival organiser: "This first night is an experiment. Punk is not big in Belgium. The state-controlled radio is not at all adventurous. Festivals are the only real chance the bands have of getting to the people."
Elvis to The Damned: "You really gotta go out and upset them." Them referring to the heavy meathead bouncers safely ensconced behind the barbed wire.