There was definitely something wrong Monday night at the last Red Rocks show of the season. Elvis Costello and the Attractions played to a sizeable crowd at Red Rocks on September 10 yet only rarely could their "aura" seem to evoke much energy.
The show left the audience with more questions than answers and because of this, the music writers, through the use of these bi-weekly columns, want to find some definition on what exactly the idea of "rock" is — and is not. As far as this review goes, it will be easier to prove what it is by proving what it is not.
The show opened with a slowed down version of "Possession" from the Get Happy album which was followed by "Lipstick Vogue" and "Watching the Detectives" and herein started a pattern which seemed
to run throughout the length of the show. One or two songs which were punchy and upbeat followed by a slower tune, like "The Only Flame in Town," which, because of its different pace, broke any mood which might have been forming in the crowd. The better shows try and build to one climax. However, Costello's technique did work well once he performed a couple of spirited numbers, "I Feel Good" and "Mystery Dance," then used the slow opening of "China Doll" to continue the momentum through that song and on into "New Lace Sleeves." Then, the momentum stopped cold as he changed guitars, and goaded the audience with a razor sharp comment about stagnant people who mouth the words to "Were Not Gonna Take It" by Los Insignificados. Unfortunately his politics brought up more questions.
Throughout the entire show Costello was the only one who was ever spotlighted. In fact he waited until the middle of his last song before he even introduced the band. Where would Costello be without the rest of his band? Why isn't the rest of the band treated with relative equality? The band was definitely in top form, as always, —very tight and professional, yet one definitely got the impression that they were second class citizens.
Costello and the Attractions played two dozen songs, and should be commended for their effort, but the show definitely lacked real driving energy, as was the case in his Boulder show in '82. Hopefully, it was just another bad night because his albums definitely have promise; it would be great to hear his music come off well.