I would have thought, had I not previously heard his new album, that he was going to be a '50s revision or a comedy act. Perhaps he's both. He looks a lot like Buddy Holly. He's not; however, he's Elvis Costello (and yes, it's his real name). But he's not '50s — he's a little funny — but he's good. His style has been termed by some as punk rock. In actuality, it's pseudo-punk since there's no signs of degenerate hype like safety-pinned blue jeans and green "teased" hair or vomiting on stage. Costello is not that kind of punk.
Columbia records sponsored a party at Faces Saturday night to promote Costello — their newest recording find.
Prior to Costello's appearance, an extremely new group, Shug Meridan, served to prolong the wait for Costello. Until a rather perceptive person sitting next to me pointed it out, I thought Shug was male. She's not. After overhearing a conversation in the restroom, I'm sure I was not the only one confused.
"I can't believe she's a girl," said one unmoved Costello fan.
"Oh, I didn't know she was. I'm sitting upstairs," came another's reply.
The problem with Shug Meridan and her group was they had only met each other the day before. But all things considered, the keyboards player turned out to be the only redeeming quality. Shug, between playing some CSNY tunes, some original material and a Roy Orbison tune, "Runaway," chugged Lone Star beer while trying to find "the ugliest son of a bitch in the crowd, by God." This was the essence of Shug — there's not much more worth saying about her.
Finally, at 10:30, Elvis Costello made his appearance. His black horned-rimmed glasses, short slicked back hair and early '60s style suit served as an identifying element for the group. They all resembled each other. In fact, I saw some members of the audience with the Buddy Holly look — male and female.
Costello's music, a rough mix of rock 'n' roll and pseudo-punk, comes complete with lyrics of social commentary nature.
Since the advent of the Sex Pistol's American tour, the media has built British rock up to be nothing but hardcore punk. And now, anything that even looks or sounds British is automatically branded punk. Such is the way with British-born Costello. His rock 'n' roll only mildly hints at punk and there's where the difference between Costello and the Sex Pistols lie.
Playing his new album almost in its entirety, songs like "The Angels Wanna Wear My Red Shoes," "Mystery Dance" and "Alison" were delivered with a serious charm that sent Costello soaring high on the charts in San Francisco. This along with the belief that Costello has in himself, as conveyed in his music and stage personality, should send more than just the West coast following in line with his belief.