Elvis Costello has made it. He is no longer a quirky member of the New Wave, he is Big Time, a Star. In one and a half years he has gone from being a dorky-looking nobody pounding a guitar back and forth in front of CBS headquarters in London to commanding sell-out audiences at the Berkeley Community Theatre for two nights straight and charging $7.50 admission. Obviously, this gives Elvis the right to do anything he wants.
New Wave is the movement in music dedicated to wiping out the snide, boorish, "Superstar" attitude of the MegaStud groups. How many times has a loyal fan been snubbed with nary a "Thanks" by a group like Led Zeppelin? His forty-five minute to an hour set on February 10 was mud in the eyes of his sell-out audience. Welcome to the ranks of the "Big Boys," Elvis. But we were the lucky ones; the folks who saw him the day before at Berkeley and the day after in Santa Cruz were burned by a mere forty minutes of The King.
Enough. I'll get off Elvis's case. To his credit, he was in top form, turning out a sizzling performance that certainly assures his place in rock and roll's Hall of Fame. The repertoire consisted of every song from the new album, Armed Forces, except "Senior Service" and my personal favorite "What's So Funny 'Bout Peace, Love and Understanding."
After he had played Armed Forces all first-rate stuff, he did "Watching the Detectives," the only song he was to play from his first album. With the aid of green and red lights hitting from angles underneath and behind him, Elvis spat out the lyrics with power and venom. The audience loved it. his light show was used with eerie and stunning effect in "I Don't Want To Go To Chelsea" and "Lipstick Vogue" as well.
Elvis debuted a song written by his keyboard player, Steve Naive of the Attractions. Due to Elvis' curt introduction, I couldn't catch the name of it, but it seems that Steve has been researching his boss' old material: a good song, sounding like something from This Year's Model. Elvis also did the great "Big Tears" which can be found on the import B-side single of "Pump It Up "
Which brings as to the end of the concert. Elvis actually came back for an encore! Appropriately, it was "Pump It Up." The band really rocked out and Elvis, who had played the entire concert in a silver lame blazer reminiscent of the other Elvis, was smiling! Elvis does this so rarely that the entire crowd went crazy, and those with cameras started snapping wildly.
The audience was fired up and in a hopeful mood after seeing the Man of Stone crack a grin. His second encore applause, earned despite the fact that he had only played about an hour, was tumultuous and lasted a good ten to fifteen minutes before the stage was struck and the curtain pulled.
The crowd's dismay and anger was demonstrated outside when a few irate fans bought Elvis posters and set fire to them.
At least the opening act, Beserkley recording artists The Rubinoos, made friends. They put on a quickly paced, red hot show which featured their yet-to-be-released album, Back To the Drawing Board. They are a band to watch for in the future.
As for Elvis, I can't be sure whether he's purposely snubbing his audience because he's become a stuck-up "Superstar" or whether he's purposely trying to alienate his audience to avoid the "Superstar" stamp. The fact remains that he is a great performer and an even greater songwriter, but it's up to his fans to determine what he means by these ominous lyrics from "Big Boys":
"I shall walk out of this place
I shall walk out on you...
Trying so hard to be like the Big Boys."