Record Mirror, May 10, 1980

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Record Mirror


Elvis Costello

Metropol, Berlin

Mike Nicholls

Flourescent flashes in a slow neon dazzle distract sufficiently for Boy Wonder to sneak onstage at leisure. By the end of the last date of his German tour he stands accused of sure-footed scrappiness.

Never cutting it like he does on record, a second guitarist has been essential for some time now. Only typically it's by accident rather than design. Steve Naive's, actually. The organist's involvement in a LA car crash caused him to climb down, his replacement at a day's notice being The Rumour's Martin Belmont.

Which means there's two axemen hitting bum note after bum chord and it's all quite amusing. For having missed the preliminary primal assault of the new wave, Costello appears to be re-writing his roots. Elvis is a punk rocker now-ow-ow!

Obviously we should predict the unpredictable. In the same way as each album has turned a sudden new corner, stage experiments are on the menu, too. He rattled the keys for Sonny Boy Williamson's "Help Me" early on, showing a penchant for unearthing some of the more obscure R&B items.

Other key minutes included the dual guitar isometrics halfway through "Watching The Detectives," which at last realised some of the song's more melodramatic potential.

Until then most of the numbers chased each other in an almost unpalatably raw one-dimensional thrash. "The Beat," "Lip Service" and "Lipstick Vogue" were indistinguishable to the point of interchangeability whilst "Oliver's Army" was churned out with all the finesse of a teleprinted pools check.

Nevertheless, he almost redeemed himself with a stunning version of Peter Tosh's "Walk And Don't Look Back" which finally managed to introduce a little light and shade into the proceedings.

Amidst the usual encores was a spirited "Pump It Up," Costello bopping around for the first time though still not getting to grips with the poor sound and instrumental clumsiness that continued making the songs sound identical.

Then again he may have been deliberately perverse, stripping dawn arrangements and opting for immediacy as opposed to the Armed Forces subtleties which failed in its shallow attempt to earmark the American market. Whatever, he's still compulsive watching with half-baked punk pretensions being preferable to numerous other fads, however coy they appear.

Tags: MetropolBerlinGermanyThe AttractionsMartin BelmontThe Attractions without Steve Nieve1980 European TourSteve NaiveThe RumourSonny Boy WilliamsonHelp MeWatching The DetectivesThe BeatLip ServiceLipstick VogueOliver's ArmyDon't Look BackPump It UpArmed ForcesThe InmatesThe PoliceSly StoneThe Knack

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Record Mirror, May 10, 1980

Mike Nicholls reviews Elvis Costello & The Attractions with Martin Belmont (without Steve Nieve), Wednesday, April 30, 1980, Metropol, Berlin, West Germany.

Mike Nicholls talks to EC after the show.


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Clipping and photo.

Elvis Costello

Mike Nicholls

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Getting into Elvis Costello's dressing room was the hardest thing I have ever done. One of The Inmates was going to help but then suddenly decided that Elvis wouldn't write them the hit single he'd promised.

About to independently cross the hallowed threshold, a weighty security guard tried to throw me down a steel stair-case. Effecting a deft side-step, it was the boiler-suited one who came a cropper, thereby appropriating the expression "The pen is mightier than the paunch."

Eventually the dressing room became so full of assorted syncophants that the Big E left, little realising he was about to confront a journalist from a music paper his manager for no apparent reason particularly dislikes.

"Well," he declared, "that's the end of the German tour, maybe we should go to Finland for five weeks, that'll give us something to wings about."

I asked him what was wrong with Iran.

"That's just it," he cordially agreed, "nothing. Right, I wanna play Kabul." (Geographical note: Kabul is the capital of Afghanistan; maybe his manager should buy him an atlas.) "Yeah, if the fucking Police can play Bombay, I can do a gig for the hostages."

By this point sundry promoters, record company people and would-be groupies looked ready to pass out. In for a Deutsch Mark, in for a pound, thought I and carried on regardless. Presumably, I suggested, you'll perform a cover of the Sly Stone classic "I Wanna Take You Higher (Tollah)."

Costello threatened to smile. No, he actually did smile; then he laughed.

"You know," he concluded, "already in America there's a version of that Knack song, 'My Atollah'."

Next week: What happened when Elvis Costello invited yours truly back to his hotel for a drink.

Cover and page scan.
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