Two of the most urgent voices in current rock music crossed paths in Santa Cruz over the weekend, carrying the message of change, but literally marching to the beats of different drummers.
Peter Tosh, whose reggae sound and lyrics are bringing identity to the Third World as part of the musical movement from Jamaica, pumped his way through a tropical set at the Catalyst Saturday night.
Then, under a pulsating light show and from behind a torrid wall of sound, England's Elvis Costello brought his strident message of social unrest to the Civic Auditorium Sunday night in a show that left the audience breathless at its conclusion.
Both shows were sold out, Costello's before he left Britain on his current swing.
Costello and Tosh each trotted out material from their current album releases to start, but fleshed out their programs with past standards when they wanted the crowd's attention.
Missing from Tosh's stage show was the sweet punctuation of the alto sax that appears on his Bush Doctor album, but the moog was on stage as was a craftsman backup band.
There were no leaks whatsoever in the Attractions' backing of Costello. In a show that raged for little over an hour, Costello barely drew a breath between numbers, assaulting his fans with an enraged version of "Pump It Up" as an encore after closing his first set with "You Belong to Me" and "This Year's Girl."
If Tosh's show represented a Saturday night musically, then Costello surely was Monday morning. The Catalyst show had em swaying to and fro well after midnight, while Costello left you with the feeling that a strong drink might be in order before bedtime. He is vicious.
Chain-toking herb, Tosh covered the his most recent chart buster "You Got to Walk and Don't Look Back," an old Motown tune, as well as his "Bush Doctor" title track and "Legalize It" from his second release.
"Green Buttons," a track that gets the majority of air play locally from Costello's newest, Armed Forces, was represented in the show, but he displayed just what he can do with his guitar on "I Don't Want to Go to Chelsea," by far the hottest thing he did at the Civic.
The productions were images of the shows themselves. Tosh was late to start and slow to get to the point, but made the ride easy.
Costello was done in the Bill Graham precision method, hitting the stage on time, rocking it full bore, and getting everyone on their way home by 10. In all an exhausting, but enlightening weekend for music in our little town.