Sounds, December 30, 1978

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Elvis Costello & The Attractions

Richard Hell / John Cooper Clarke / Dominion Theatre

David Hepworth

The night of the six stone weakling's revenge. You smash my glasses once more and I'll write a song about you, son. Verbal vengeance from all three acts with variable accuracy.

To buck the prevailing wind for a minute, John Cooper Clarke, as poets go, makes one hell of a stand up comic. His humour, as the joke about Hitler in heaven demonstrated, is sharp, intuitive and his own but that doesn't make the poems anything but rhythmically near-inane, hurried towards the same tried and trusted colloquialism, deflating the tension and drawing the blockhead laugh. And people still cheer, actually cheer, four letter words. Liberation.

Still, Richard Hell would have been glad to get the equal of Cooper Clarke's reception, stumbling on in time honoured wasted manner with his new Voidoids, grappling with the business of open nerve surgery, as urbane and cultured as a gang of visigoths on wood alcohol.

They were loud and they were raucous and they occasionally duplicated the noise of shuddering hysteria itself, rendering James Brown's "The Crossroads" in a manner less fitting for good foot getting, down on than maybe some deranged peg leg disco fever.

On occasions, you could put your finger on what is undoubtedly a considerable writing talent so nobody should underestimate what Hell and Nick Lowe may be capable of producing from their sleeves when they get in a studio, but this was like swallowing broken teeth and the audience was well perplexed.

The headliners ran on like champions, Pete Thomas setting up the opening of "What's So Funny 'Bout Peace, Love And Understanding" for the rest to just lock into before the eye had registered the fact that all four were present.

As it started in uncontrived but rousing fashion, so it went on; a conducted tour of the landscape of perfectly realised rock 'n' roll, an astonishing object lesson in 1,001 things, a step by step guide to the virtues of economy, tension, complete cohesion and pure everlasting style.

They were that good. With the help of the best live mix heard in a while, just about everything they did exuded world class, 'Course, the Elvis Costello backlash is as inevitable as 1979. Anybody who's experienced such meteoric and world wide success through writing a bunch of songs sprinkled with "I don't wannas," the lyrical thrust of which is generally "you all suck the big one whereas I'm a pretty neat sorta guy" and who still finds time to fit in his old hobby of giving journalists plastic surgery without the option is bound to find a few detractors.

But those detractors would do well to see what they're dealing with. He's as established as Led Zeppelin or Liverpool and he knows it well and can live up to it. He just took whatever expectations you had, flung them out the stage door and presented you with a fresh set. Then he smashed through those.

For an hour they played like pickpockets, sliding from one number straight to the next, most of the songs being drawn from the second album, and they only lost balance momentarily by pitching the first verse of "Pump It Up" too fast and having to grab at each other. The remainder was plain masterful.

Three new songs, the most impressive being "Oliver's Army," more evidence of Costello's near-uncanny sense of shape, a tiny thought to grow in your head, nearly familiar yet depthcharged with surprise and gunsight accurate.

"G'night, thanks" and off. Stagelights off, houselights on and music on the PA. This audience is not going home. Australia? For about three minutes, it's on the cards. Then they return for a "Radio, Radio" so seething with power, so perfectly turned and utterly vituperative that on the way home, I glanced at the Capital Radio building to see if the foundations had suffered. Off. The audience remains. He has to come back. He doesn't.

Elvis Costello and the Attractions; resourceful, tenacious, powerful, fearful, and, like Oliver's Army, here to stay. Class, is all.

Tags: Dominion TheatreLondonThe AttractionsRichard HellJohn Cooper ClarkeJames BrownNick LowePete Thomas(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding?Led ZeppelinLiverpoolPump It UpOliver's ArmyRadio, Radio

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Sounds, December 30, 1978

David Hepworth reviews Elvis Costello & The Attractions with opening acts John Cooper Clarke and Richard Hell & The Voidoids, Monday, December 18, 1978, Dominion Theatre, London.

The Singles Of The Year include "Radio, Radio" (29) and "Chelsea" (70).

The Albums Of The Year include This Year's Model (8).


1978-12-30 Sounds page 30 clipping 02.jpg1978-12-30 Sounds pages 16 & 25.jpg
Concert review and Singles Of The Year.

Albums Of The Year.
1978-12-30 Sounds pages 12-13.jpg

Cover and clipping.
1978-12-30 Sounds cover.jpg 1978-12-30 Sounds page 30.jpg 1978-12-30 Sounds page 30 clipping 01.jpg


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