UNC Greensboro Carolinian, January 29, 1981

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Costello and claustrophobia

Herbert Gambill

The Carolina Union was kind enough to give me two complimentary tickets to their Elvis Costello concert last Sunday night and so I went to the second rock concert in my life and hopefully my last. I probably admire Costello more than any musician around today, yet the terrible acoustics, droning amplifiers, crazed mobs of icon-seeking fans, Cincinnati-like dash into Carmichael Auditorium, the leaden performance of Squeeze (the lead-in group) and the nauseating feeling I am afflicted with whenever I feel enclosed by a crowd could not help but make me wonder why I had come in the first place. I love Elvis, but not that much.

Costello performed several selections from his new album, Trust, including "Luxemburg" and "Pretty Talk." He drilled through his repertoire insistently stopping only to take a drink and churn into the next song. He gave two encores and his performance of the old standard "Slippin' and Slidin'" was followed by his phenomenal "Watching the Detectives."

A great performance, I guess, but then I have never been a performance freak; never cared to measure how high Pete Townsend jumps. I was deaf and tired by the time Costello came out and still don't know whether I actually saw him or just a video projection of the master of urban angst.

Many people dressed in the height of new wave fashion — I wore the only clothes I own. Costello's thyroid stage mannerisms reminded me of Bobby Darin in a strange way. He would stop playing to deliver the final lyrical punch, snap his fingers and polemicize with his left leg.

Everyone seemed to get happy, though, making me an anomaly among the 4,000-plus crowd. Call me a whimpering Marlowe shouting, "the horror, the horror," if you like, but live rock and roll and the mass psychology that surrounds it frightens me. When Elvis sang "What's so funny about peace, love and understanding?" I couldn't help but cringe at the irony of it all — the messianic qualities that people attribute to rock performers and the difficulties of individualism in an era of communal isolation.


The Carolinian, January 29, 1981

Herbert Gambill reviews Elvis Costello & The Attractions and opening act Squeeze, Sunday, January 25, 1981, Carmichael Auditorium, Chapel Hill, NC.

Reader Doug Baker responds in a subsequent issue.


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Photos by John Jones.

Costello enjoyed

Doug Baker

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To the Editor:

Sending someone who had only previously seen one rock concert to review the performance of someone as important as Elvis Costello is not exactly my idea of responsible journalism. Had poor Herbert been able to pull himself out of his misery and self-pity long enough, he might have been able to enjoy an incredible performer.

Of course Carmichael Auditorium has horrible acoustics. It was designed to intimidate visiting basketball teams, not to accommodate rock concerts, and the "crazed mobs" are a problem only if you place yourself in the middle of them.

One has to make the best of any given situation. By arriving shortly before the doors opened. I was able to avoid the worst of the rush and find a seat a few rows above the sound board, maximizing both my visual and aural enjoyment of the concert. It was a fine show from Squeeze's first note to Elvis and the Attractions' last.

Next time you have complementary tickets, give them to someone who can write about the performance instead of their own lack of wardrobe.

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Page scan.


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