Snot Rag, March 3, 1979

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Elvis: 50 minute performance

Colin Griffiths

For those of you who cared to invest your $$ in Armed Forces — import copy — (Mr. Costello's latest attraction, complete with fold out exgraphiganza and little postcards/records for your friends/ collections/coffee tables) I pose a question: was it all worth it?

And for those who cared enough to make the border run to catch the big E in Seattle (and as a result were subjected to the antics of the Rubinoos, a band somewhat akin to a coffee table of cheap, sentimental, and extremely questionable taste) you too should answer the above.

Those who do care tell me the November show in Vancouver boasted the same flamboyant light show, as well as the murky sound. (actually, I was there, but in a celebratory capacity only, consequently possessing only partial recall of witnessing magnificent drumming and insulting Chinese at the Ovaltine cafe — so they tell me.)

It was because of that dim memory that I ended up in the Paramount, that cavernous rococo barn that makes you hallucinate angels. Unfortunately all we got was the opening act of pinheads previously described. (2nd paragraph — ed.)

Finally, after all little warmup bands have gone back to play in the surf or slit their throats, the fun began.

The Attractions are probably the tightest 3-piece band this side of the universe without old Elvis in there scratching out some skiffle guitar riffs and generally confusing the issue. These guys play as if magnetized to each other, bass and drums clinging together as a unit, then breaking off to throw a shot here, a line there. Keyboards weave within the pulse, spiking the arrangements and making things start to shimmer. The focus has got to be the drums... too solid to be believed.

Elvis had very little to convey with a pack of songs that contain little of the awesome perspective the first batch possessed. Whereas he once embodied an aura of mystery and tension in performance, his contrived robot moves never deviated from the script, trapping any spark of spontaneity lest things get too real. Too much TV.

You'd have to label this the "Wake up Elvis" tour. He's banking on flash lights and no contact to do his job for him, consequently the performance clouds any substance his music offers. Cold, deliberate crossover tunes; redundant, tired melodic lines that should either have been put on the first two albums or left at home to live happily ever after with Nick Lowe; keyboards that became thin and reedy, losing the subtle textural incisiveness they possessed at first; Costello standing about 30 feet back from the closest member of the audience — Elvis in concert.

He's going for the long crossover throw folks, the ball is up...

Very little at stake for the man except to consolidate whatever foothold he has made with two North American tours under his belt. Which, all considered, should be fine, considering the track record the guy has made for himself — except, well... everything's so damned transparent. It's clear that Elvis Costello does not matter, because he has chosen to turn his talents to the making of music of little consequence.

Elvis Costello? Who cares?

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Snot Rag, No. 15, March 3, 1979

Colin Griffiths reviews Elvis Costello & The Attractions and opening act The Rubinoos, Tuesday, February 6, 1979, Paramount Theatre, Seattle.

Rob Whittom reviews Live At Hollywood High (EP).


1979-03-03 Snot Rag page 06.jpg
Page scan.

Live At Hollywood High

Costello & Attractions

Rob Whittom

1979-03-03 Snot Rag page 17.jpg

This is the Armed Forces freebie and I wouldn't kill myself to get ahold of it. "Accidents Will Happen" and "Alison" will sound nice on commercial radio and the extended version of "Detectives" is nice (what — no "Miracle Man" live?!) but somewhat uneventful. Last year's model? Wait and see.

1979-03-03 Snot Rag cover.jpg


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