If Elvis Costello is making any concessions to the mass market, they certainly weren't evident at his Landmark Theatre performance Friday night, Costello and his backup band, The Attractions, put together a furious set of rock 'n' roll that left fans gasping for
Concentrating on material from Armed Forces, his latest LP, Costello packed almost 20 songs into a relatively short 75-minute set. Responding to the energy level exhibited onstage, the audience stayed on its feet for the duration of the performance.
The show was opened by the Rubinoos, a harmless but pleasing California pop band. Unlike many opening acts, the Rubinoos recognized their role as a warm-up band, and entertained with a nice blend of originals and oldies.
Costello and The Attractions stormed onto the stage and reeled off a few tunes from Armed Forces. Several new songs were introduced, including an impressive number called "B Movie."
Along with bassist Bruce Thomas, drummer Pete Thomas and keyboard player Steve Naive, Costello covered the theater with a dense sound.
His show was much more a nod in the direction of the New Wave than the '60s-influenced style of his album cuts, which are restrained in comparison.
Steve Naive's keyboard skill was most evident in an eerie version of "Green Shirt," which made the Armed Forces version pale in comparison. The organ sound swirled around the restrained vocal, and Pete Thomas' drumbeat attacked like a machine gun.
Costello's first "oldie" of the evening, "The Beat" off This Year's Model, again surpassed the album version. The live rendering is much faster than the original, providing the adrenalin kick the song intended.
"Accidents Will Happen," Costello's latest single, was sloppily performed. It would have gone over much better with a simple keyboard accompaniment than with the hard treatment it received.
Costello displayed some of his best guitar work in a haunting version of a song never released in America, "(I Don't Want to Go to) Chelsea." His guitar also dominated the roaring rocker, "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding."
The tempo slowed only once during the evening when Costello performed a crowd favorite, "Alison," from his debut album. Elvis' passionate vocal would have embarrassed Linda Ronstadt, who attempted a cover version of the song on her latest album.
"Are you people in Syracuse satisfied with the radio?" Costello challenged the crowd. When the response was a resounding "NO," Elvis delivered "Radio Radio," his blistering attack on the industry, and stormed off the stage.
The crowd almost left in the same angry mood as the star when faced with the prospect of no encore. The lights went on but when nobody left, Elvis returned with "Mystery Dance," his classic rocker from My Aim is True.
Costello answered pleas for a second encore with the frenzied "Pump it Up," careening around the stage while inflicting cruel and unusual punishment on his guitar. After a rapid-fire "You Belong to Me," the band disappeared into the wings for the final time.