One of the great bootlegs of all time finally saw the commercial light of day when Rykodisc released Live at the El Mocambo, as part of an Elvis Costello box set in 1993.
The disc has been in and out of print through the years but it’s back now thanks to Costello’s latest label deal, and it sounds every bit as raw and wild as it did the night he recorded it in Toronto on March 6, 1978.
Dominated by tracks from Costello’s debut My Aim Is True, and the follow-up, This Year’s Model, which wasn’t even released at the time, this live disc is unvarnished and intense, bolstered by a positively explosive set list. Together with his band The Attractions, Costello roared through what one reviewer on the scene called "45 breathless minutes." That was about what Costello was averaging in those days, balanced off by the nights when he’d kick over amps and get all ticked off and storm off stage after a half hour or less. So the Canadians were lucky this night.
And so is anyone who gets to listen to the young New Wave star ripping through these tracks like "(I Don’t Want To Go To) Chelsea," "Radio, Radio," "Lipstick Vogue," or an extended version of "Watching the Detectives" that is positively frightening.
Costello remains an extraordinary artist, who’s released so many sophisticated albums that it sometimes seems unimaginable now that he was once this ferociously angry young man. Maybe it was all calculated, part of the big plan. Maybe. But it still sounds ragged and raging and right, all these years later.