Rolling Stone, February 18, 1982

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Rolling Stone

US rock magazines


Costello cheery, generous at three U.S. shows.

Christopher Connelly

New York City — with his forty-minute, pissed-as-hell concerts of yore now only a distant memory, an energetic and downright genial Elvis Costello played three dates on a hit-and-run tour of the U.S. around the turn of the new year. Those who flocked to see Costello's sets in Los Angeles (an 18,000-seat sellout) and Nashville (only 3000 at the 4000-capacity Opryland) saw the bespectacled singer/songwriter/guitarist dish out generous two-and-a-half-hour performances that were his finest to date, with the Attractions — occasionally augmented by Doobie Brother John McFee on guitar — providing their typically ferocious instrumental backing.

Most outstanding — and expensive — of Costello's three stateside gigs, however, was his New Year's Eve show at the Palladium, a 3000-seat hall in New York City. Patrons who coughed up about thirty dollars a ticket ($19.82 for the cheap seats) saw Elvis and the band hit the stage at 10:30 and rip through spirited, if rushed, renditions of "Accidents Will Happen," "Radio Radio," "Watching the Detectives" and a few of their other better-known songs. After about thirty minutes, Costello brought on McFee (a former member of Clover, the band that backed Elvis on My Aim Is True) and began the part of the program that seemed closest to his heart: the country standards from his latest LP, Almost Blue.

The sparer arrangements suited the live setting, and Costello's sensitive phrasings compensated almost totally for his lack of a traditionally "beautiful" voice. But songs principally located toward the lower end of his vocal register, such as "A Good Year for the Roses," were swallowed up in the sound system, and his voice emerged only as an indistinct, if pleasant, rumble. Still, "How Much I Lied" and "Sweet Dreams" were indeed gorgeous, and the audience response was enthusiastic. The band left the stage to a standing ovation, and a cheery Costello promised to return.

It was keyboardist Steve Nieve, introduced by manager Jake Riviera as "the man who lets his fingers do the talking," who re-emerged first. With fifteen minutes left until '82, Nieve came out alone and launched into a seamless pastiche composed of everything from "Rhapsody in Blue" through "Imagine" to "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring." A tuxedo-clad Elvis, and the other Attractions then joined him for "What's So Funny ('Bout Peace, Love and Under-standing)" and followed with more than 100 minutes of high-powered rock & roll comprising the entire spectrum of his work. Among the twenty-plus tunes were some cuts from his upcoming LP, which Elvis announced would be called A Revolution of the Mind, including "Human Hand" ("All I ever wanted was to fall into your human hand") and "Pidgin English."

The rapport that the former Declan McManus established with the packed house came into full bloom on his final encore, when McFee returned to play two cuts from My Aim Is True: "Mystery Dance" and "The Angels (Wanna Wear My Red Shoes)?' The building fairly shook after the latter number, as the crowd begged El for more. "One more?" a grinning Elvis suggested, holding up an index finger—and delivered a lovely "Alison," with McFee's soaring lead beautifully complementing Costello's on-target vocal. "A happy new year to all of you!" he cried before departing for good.

Later in the month, Costello performed at the Royal Albert Hall in London, supported by the entire Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The exact date of A Revolution of the Mind's release has not yet been set; the LP may also contain a song cowritten by Elvis and Squeeze lyricist Chris Difford.

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Rolling Stone, No. 363, February 18, 1982

Christopher Connelly reviews Elvis Costello & The Attractions with John McFee, Thursday, December 31, 1981, Palladium, New York, NY.


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Page scan.

Photo by Renfield.
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Cover and page scans.


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