Stanford Daily, February 15, 1979

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Costello pulls a number

Ron Lillejord

Well it was good while it lasted. The weird looking guy with glasses — Elvis Costello — shook some eardrums and played hard during his less-than-prolonged assault on a Berkeley Community Theater audience last Friday night. And though anyone who makes people start tearing up chairs and trashing various loose objects must not be all bad, Costello, at the end, left them limp — and it wasn't from exhaustion.

After a funny set from the opening act, the Rubinoos (anyone who plays "Sugar, Sugar" had better be funny), Costello and his band, the Attractions, rushed through a frantic set of 16 songs, mostly from Armed Forces, their latest album.

It was very much an anti-show. Costello refused to play any of his more familiar material, like "Alison" or "Watching the Detectives," and what he did play he did faster than the studio versions — which is pretty astonishing. Most of the songs were separated only by a couple of drum beats.

There was no pacing or showmanship to speak of here; Costello ran his diverse songs together in a constant attack. And undeniably, he and his band played well — for about 45 minutes, which is how long the show lasted.

When Elvis and his band ran off the stage after a strong version of "Radio, Radio," the audience just said to itself, "Costello is a very weird guy... hut then we knew that." And we yelled and clapped and stomped, and we booed the disco filler being played over the speakers to try to get him to come back out. Finally, after half an hour or so of this, someone had enough grace to tell the audience that the show was over.

Then the "rioting" started, but it was rather sad and half-hearted; Costello, in the end, couldn't even piss people off properly.

So maybe Costello does hate America, as he has insinuated in the past; he's been pulling this same number everywhere on this latest tour.

On his records, Costello, along with Nick Lowe and a few others, is bringing back (and with the proper vengeance) pop that's worth a damn, and he's getting better all the time. Yet the road's where you really have got to prove yourself.

So what are you supposed to do with this guy?

This concert made a lot of people care a lot less about the answer to that question.

"Long live disco!" I guess.

Photos by Alan Matsumoto.
1979-02-15 Stanford Daily photo 02 am.jpg

1979-02-15 Stanford Daily photo 03 am.jpg


The Stanford Daily, February 15, 1979

Ron Lillejord reviews Elvis Costello & The Attractions and opening act The Rubinoos, Friday, February 9, 1979, Berkeley Community Theatre.

Reader Michael Sternberg responds to the review in the March 2 issue.


1979-02-15 Stanford Daily page 09.jpg 1979-02-15 Stanford Daily page 09 clipping 01.jpg
Page scan and clipping.

The Stanford Daily, March 2, 1979

Review criticized

Michael Sternberg

1979-03-02 Stanford Daily page 04 clipping 01.jpg

What can we learn about Elvis Costello from Ron Lillejord's (Daily, Feb. 15) review? We are told that Costello played 16 songs in 45 minutes, that the audience applauded for half an hour and that the audience "said to itself" that Costello is "a very weird guy."

We learn that the concert was an "anti-show." We do not learn what an "anti-show" is. We do not learn what Costello looked like. We do not learn what he sings about. There is no critical thought here — the reviewer has dispensed with this by omitting any information concerning the music.

The opinions that are given are vague and clouded by conditional phrases. The article begins by stating that the concert was "good while it lasted." Later, it states that Costello gave an "anti-show" (which sounds pejorative, though I'm just guessing at the meaning of this phrase) with "no pacing or showmanship to speak of." The article ends with a dismissal of Costello: "Long live disco! I guess." The reviewer does not like him, I guess.

A music review should contain opinions backed up by critical analysis. A rock concert consists of songs, the performer's motions, the staging and the audience reaction. I suggest that Lillejord study Jessica Chereskin's review on The Clash. She gives us opinions supported by analysis, and places The Clash, in a social context.

Costello's talent is that he shows our social conditions reflected in the sphere of personal relationships (the subtitle of Armed Forces is "Emotional Fascism").

Disco may live a long life, but Costello will be outside the party door: "I'll be at the video and I will be watching; here we are living in paradise...

Photos by Alan Matsumoto.
1979-02-15 Stanford Daily photo 01 am.jpg


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