San Francisco Foghorn, February 16, 1979

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Like it or not: New wave is here

Steve Spinali

Down with Elvis Costello! He scorns the love of fans — they cheer at his burning

Only a fool wouldn't admit that Elvis Costello is an inspired performer, lyricist, and composer — which is probably why his two local performances sold out so quickly. But if his performance at the Berkeley Community Theatre last Friday is any indication, he apparently disdains American audiences immensely; I don't think, in fact, that such an incongruous mixture or musical skill and utter tactlessness has been achieved by a major rock performer locally in a long, long time.

The Rubinoos, an exciting local band whose latest album will be released on Valentine's Day (watch out for it), opened the evening with a swift set of 1950's- and 1960's-tinged rock, played in a totally winning fashion. Smooth, Beatlesque harmonies are the Rubinoos trademark, and they most certainly use it to their advantage, as in their sterling rendition of the Lennon-McCartney classic, "Please. Please Me." Combine that with a totally commanding stage presence and fine musicianship all around, and there's not much more you can ask for. (One might also call attention to a splendid and captivating new composition, "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend," which will appear on their upcoming album.)

After a short intermission. Elvis Costello and his backup band, the Attractions, began their set and completely won over the audience with a selection of songs primarily from his latest album, Armed Forces. Truly remarkable lighting design prevailed throughout the performance, and one could only admire his exceptional and spirited versions of songs like "Peace. Love. and Understanding" and "Accidents Hill Happen"; also first-rate were the tight and well-orchestrated arrangements which accompanied the songs.

But after no more than 35 minutes, Elvis Costello and the Attractions left the stage. Most of the audience was sure that he was going to perform his encores, especially since the stage-lights were still on. Perhaps he would even perform another set, since material from his first album ("Alison," "Watching the Detectives." etc.) hadn't been played yet in the concert. But twenty minutes later, the curtains were closed, and an extremely angry and dissatisfied audience left the theatre.

Now, I'll admit that punk new wave music is minimalist, but there's absolutely no excuse for Elvis Costello's travesty. Even the Ramones (the ultimate punk minimalists), who performed in Winterland late last year, gave their fans well over twenty songs and two encores. But Elvis evidently didn't think too much of his audience, so he left while his fans were cheering — until they finally jeered and booed him.

At the end of last Friday's concert, a fan went outside and burned one of the Elvis Costello posters which were on sale, apparently in effigy. The crowd who had gathered around cheered enthusiastically at the gesture. It just goes to prove that a performer who abuses his audience as flagrantly as Costello did last Friday will and very much deserves to lose his following: I know I speak for quite a few when I say that he's not going to get a penny more from me.

Tags:  The RubinoosThe BeatlesJohn LennonPaul McCartneyThe AttractionsArmed Forces(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding?Accidents Will HappenAlisonWatching The DetectivesThe Beach BoysChuck Berry


San Francisco Foghorn, February 16, 1979

Steve Spinali reviews Elvis Costello & The Attractions and opening act The Rubinoos, Friday, Feb. 9, 1979, Community Theatre, Berkeley, CA.

Laurel Jo Rogalla profiles The Rubinoos.


1979-02-16 San Francisco Foghorn pages 08-09.jpg
Page scans.

Rubinoos are local rock idols

Laurel Jo Rogalla

The Rubinoos, currently on tour as the second act with Elvis Costello, are a local hard-semi-new-wave-rock group whose name is known in England and is gathering high popularity in the bay area.

Backstage for an interview at The Old Waldorf last week the Rubinoos act like four crazy twenty year olds.

On stage they are sophisticated-zany. Jon Rubin, 22 and lead singer, could be the boy next door until he gets on stage with the cool of an all-american teen idol. Tommy Dunbar, 22 and lead guitar, is quick to say his older brother is also a guitarist for another rock group, Earthquake. Dunbar with his reddish hair and freckles looks like the typical little brother. On stage he moves like Chuck Berry, Elvis and Jimmy Hendrix, plus a patented style all his own.

“The music we play is just straight ahead pop music in the Beach Boys and Beatles vein,” Rubin explains backstage after the concert. “About 80 percent is music we have written, with one or two cover songs.”

The Rubinoos foursome of Rubin, Dunbar, Royse Ader and Donn Spindt have flip, funny personalities reminiscent of the early Beatles and Beach Boys. They joke around and talk between each other in a close circle of chairs. The other bands backstage keep a distance.

Rubin explains. “Tom Dunbar and I have been close friends since we were thirteen,” then, “when you are in a group and working all the time, it is very hard to have any solid relationships… besides your girlfriend. The guys in the band are like family,” he concludes.

The Rubinoos do not have stage parents though Rubin and Dunbar still live at home. They also do not have any God-like managers watching their every move. What they do have claims Rubin, is a great deal of say on what they do, wear, and present on stage.

And as usual, the Rubinoos rise to notoriety and authority even as twenty year olds, was not sudden. It took years.

“It started when we wanted to have a dance at school and we didn’t have a band, so Tom and I decided to start one.” Rubin says, “A lot of people liked what they heard so we stayed together and formed what we now are.”

“We were terrible,” adds Dunbar. “We started playing in clubs when we were fourteen. The owners wouldn’t let us in the clubs between sets. We played with Earthquake a lot, but they wouldn’t let us watch because we were too young.”

In order to work seriously on their music and performance, all the Rubinoos dropped out of school. Music and practice time is spent in the Bekeley recording studios that Rubin and Dunbar describe as “corrigated metal and very uncomfortable.”

Beserkley also provides there roadies and for the Elvis Costello tour, the Rubinoos will be riding in a Winnebago. “With The Partridge Family written on the side to throw people off,” Dunbar jokes.

With the Elvis tour the band has a chance to show their music to the rest of the country. This tour along with the concerts in England could easily make the Rubinoos major stars.

“Right now we are just second strata,” states Dunbar, “but soon…. I’ll leave that to the imagination.”


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