Jo Jo Zep and the Falcons literally kicked-off the evening and anything else, like microphone stands that got in the way of lead singer Joe Camelleri.
Anger that was to set the tone of the evening gave them an edge they need and they were excellent,
The main event, Elvis Costello and the Attractions, got right down to business — a mixture of music and sustained aggression combined with a modish blank look and the odd sneer or mocking smile.
A four-piece group, drums, bass, keyboards and Elvis on limited but effective guitar and vocals, they drove the relatively small sound system beyond its capacity and at times the distortion, not the volume, approached the threshold of pain.
Like it or hate it, the program was breathtaking if only for its calculation. Moving like a runaway roller coaster, with only passing interest in tone and dynamics, ever faster, ever louder.
There were sonic interesting and unexpected tempo changes in some of the better-known songs and Steve Naive provided some weird Farfisa-like organ counter-melodies.
The last half of the set was a continuous tension-building segue. The atmosphere in the Regent Theatre was electric. Elvis Costello had transformed the hall into a small, sweaty, writhing club.
I gather that Costello never does encores. Someone should
have explained that to the crowd beforehand. The concert ended as abruptly as it had begun.
Elvis Costello and the Attractions vacated the stage and obviously weren't coming back. The unprepared audience reacted badly. The shouts of acclamation quickly became boos as the audience in the balconies actually ripped up the seats and flung them at the stage, demolishing drum kit and technical equipment.
The house lights were turned off in an attempt to clear the theatre while outside the ugliness continued as part of the front of the house sign was pulled down and display cases broken. The police were called in.
Elvis Costello, one of the more interesting survivors of British New Wave music, would have sold at least four concerts in Sydney to his one in Melbourne, that is if the Regent is game enough to have him back.