Sounds, April 22, 1978

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Just in the Nick of time

Elvis Costello / Portsmouth

Barbara Charone

The theatre manager of the Portsmouth Guildhall stood in the foyer panicking. "This Costello chap hasn't turned up yet," he mumbled nervously to one of the stewards.

Everyone was waiting for the man and the capacity crowd waited for over an hour. Little did they know that they were waiting for the Jesus Of Cool. Filling in for the ailing Bruce Thomas on bass, Nick Lowe was late. It was his second gig with the band, and he had gone to London earlier in the day. One assumed it wasn't Chelsea.

Eventually Elvis was forced to take to the stage alone, accompanied only by his electric guitar. It was a genuine treat, his guitar breaks neatly complemented his amazing vocal phrasing. During the second number he announced, "Maybe Nick will turn up. I'll bring out the others in a minute." Sure enough, a couple numbers later, drummer Pete Thomas and keyboard man Steve Mason walked onstage, making it a three-piece. Still no bassist, but the band played on.

Down front the kids acted like they were watching Status Quo, or at least a football match, heaving tiers of chairs in the direction of the security guards while cheering their hero on. Costello just looked at the chairs and proceeded to play.

Elvis Costello is a professional. He acted like unorthodox gigs like this one happened nightly. He did five tunes alone, five tunes with the three-piece band. They were all a treat, too.

Then Nick Lowe finally arrived, dressed in black, sporting the cleanest hair I've seen since Jackson Browne graced British stages. Nick ran his hand through his clean hair and the band kicked off a superb rendition of "No Action," sporting ace back-up vocals. Suddenly a bit of aggro developed down front and Mr. Costello broke with his icy cool demeanour to speak. Directly. "You wanna f***in' fight, then you go home and f***in' fight," he told his followers. The aggro ended.

"This Year's Girl" began, and again the lead vocal was exquisite. Nick cut through the rocky foundation (good old Nick) with a bass line that throbbed into the tune. He did the same on "Lip Service" while Costello tucked in some neat guitar.

Towards the end of the set Elvis arrogantly kicked off "I Don't Want To Go To Chelsea," turning his back to the crowd and exhibiting real star quality. When he grabbed the mike to sing and stopped playing the guitar the effect was painfully intense.

"Pump It Up" wasn't far behind, the definitive "Subterranean Homesick Blues" rip-off, especially in those great verses. The tune was soiled by early feedback, but it didn't matter because one of Costello's most endearing traits is his total regard for spontaneous atmosphere and energy.

For the grand finale it was down to "Watching The Detectives" with another incredible vocal, and finally a grand rock bash with "You Belong To Me."

And at the back of the hall, you could spot the theatre manager smiling.

<< >>

Sounds, April 22, 1978

Barbara Charone reviews Elvis Costello & The Attractions with Nick Lowe, Wednesday, April 12, 1978, Guildhall, Portsmouth, England.

David Brown reviews opening act Mickey Jupp, Tuesday, April 11, 1978, The Garden, Penzance, England.


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Photo by Gus Stewart.
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Mickey Jupp band


David Brown

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'Twas Tuesday night in Penzance as the fishermen put on their dayglo oilskins and head west towards the famous West Country scampi fishing grounds.

Little did Captain Birdseye and his chums know what they were missing back on shore — and I'm not talking about the RAF Association's Gremlin Club either.

World superstar Power Pop balladeer Elvis Costello (God bless 'im), was back in town. May seem an odd spot for such a megastar to play these days, but this is a gig the young Elv played in the days when work was less forthcoming than now, so this was a kinda 'thanks, date and the people looked grateful for this generous gesture.

Anyone who has caught the EC tour may have and certainly should have checked out the opening act with Mickey Jupp, living legend from Southend doing his first proper tour in a lengthy spell in the buzz biz.

If he's been practising for the past decade or so, then the wait was certainly worthwhile for this is a pretty nifty combo and no doubt.

If the line up of Mick Grabham guitar and headturner from Cochise and Procul Harum days, John 'Guinness' Gordon bass, former Highway, Ron Telemacque drummer with Equals, Foundations, Zappata and several others, and Jupp on guitar and vocals, looks work-manlike on paper then the live reality is a certified stunner.

Hard and tight rock with an emphasis on rhythm. Jupp's lyrics offer pure honest and simple stuff, nothing fancy but in keeping with the straight ahead framework the band work from.

Jupp has never achieved more than cult fame and then usually through more recent Essex coasters such as the Feelgoods and late, lamented Kursaal Flyers, so it is perhaps not surprising he started off with "Cheque Book" which should be familiar to a select few through the Feelgoods. Wreckless Eric does it too. Feelgoods fans may care to get to know his slow winding blues "Down At The Doctors," because that's on the short list for their next album.

In a country vein there was the confessional "I'm A Guitar Player, My Name Is Slim...," with more true confessions in the closing "I'm An Old Rock 'N' Roller." Well, he admits to 34, but generates sweat through this outfit enough to send Grabham's strings out of tune and the heat made The Garden as sweaty as The Marquee on a good rocking night.

Special mention to his next single (record company willing), the fab "Switchboard Susan," which contains the trific lyric something like "When I see you I get an extension ... and I don't mean on my Alexander Graham Bell invention," for which he deserves some special rhyming prize.

It's never too late to rock 'n' roll and Jupp and band have hit a winning streak at last.

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