Record Mirror, January 31, 1981

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Record Mirror

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A mug's game

Elvis Costello, Squeeze / Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo

Mark Cooper

One of the first dates of the "Mugs and their Old Chinas" tour as this venture has been named. Elvis' first visit to California in two years, following the big stink that his last tour created, specialising as he did in playing half hour sets. San Luis Obispo is right off rock America's beaten track, a small surf town with a college, 200 miles from LA. Elvis is confronted with a naive, enthusiastic audience who ask each other such questions as "Is this punk?"

Squeeze open up and get the kind of response that is usually reserved for well known acts. At this rate the lads will finally crack America. They concentrated on material from Argy Bargy and featured Paul Carrack, he of Ace, on keyboards and perfunctory reading of their old chestnut, "How Long." All in all, a bright breezy set that showed the quality of Squeeze's songs and a distinct attempt to direct their set in a manner appealing to an American rock audience.

As for Elvis, he remains as daring as ever but he's a lot more in control of himself, his audience and his material. His whole set exuded a sense of rock and roll tradition, featuring cover versions of songs from all over the place, soul to country. Elvis the King's "Little Sister," Patsy Cline the old country star's "I've Got Your Picture," blues with choppy, jazzy organ in the shape of "Help Me," — even a strutting version of "Walk (And Don't Look Back)." What emerges is a sense of Elvis as an interpreter and deliverer of songs second to none, drenching the torch ballads in as much melodrama as they can take, rejoicing in his gift of timing.

The devil seems to have left Elvis and perhaps a little's lost as a consequence — he's less abrupt, less on a knife-edge, less dangerous.

Now he's friendly and polite to his audience, seemingly finding no need to spurn the crowd to find himself as he used to do. Instead he concentrates on the wealth of songs at his disposal, his own and others and gets down to the serious business of singing the hell out of them. The Attractions are superb all evening, with Steve Naive particularly imaginative.

The old Elvis remains, spurned as ever in the lyrics and the ballads, the one who wanted to join the party but was not invited but now he's throwing the party and doing it with good grace. He's become enough of a showman to allow "Watching The Detectives" to segue into a quick section of "Masterblaster" and he's even prepared to perform the song that made him with the masses, "Alison." That ballad seems to sum it up, delivered with dignity, timing and a sense of history. Elvis has joined the tradition, but he's a million miles from selling out.

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Record Mirror, January 31, 1981


Mark Cooper reviews Elvis Costello & The Attractions and opening act Squeeze, Sunday, January 11, 1981, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, CA.

Images

1981-01-31 Record Mirror clipping 01.jpg
Clipping.

1981-01-31 Record Mirror cover.jpg 1981-01-31 Record Mirror clipping 02.jpg
Cover and clipping.

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