Ukiah Daily Journal, July 25, 1982

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Jake Riviera put out my lights:

Or how rock critics vacation in many parts

Ron Gluckman

Some people jet away to an exotic spot and spend all their time rifling off postcards to their hopefully envious friends back home.

Others just hide away in some romantic scene and play out their honeymoon scripts, culled from a lifetime of editing.

Me, I got married and waited a month for a few days away from this desk before I could drag my new bride along on a rock and roll honeymoon.

But hey — I warned her about what she was getting into.

Wednesday: Santa Cruz is just a buncha freeway exits south of Ukiah. We get there late and find a decent oceanside hotel.

Our room faces the Pacific. We can hear the surf pounding against the shore from the balcony, but we cannot view it through the thick, stewy fog. It is long-shirt weather, a welcome change from Ukiah's sweat-soaked nights.

Before heading to the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium for Elvis Costello and the Attractions, we manage to find our way to what should be (if there is any justice left in this bastion of beach-bleached blondes) the absolute worst dinner hole in Santa Cruz — perhaps all of North America.

Fortunately for us and our palates, we stumble through the "meal," too excited to eat.

There is a lot of room at the Civic. Apparently most Bay Area fans have skipped Costello's North American tour opener in favor of a later show at the Greek Theater in Berkeley.

All to the crowd's benefit. The uncrowded hall offers plenty of room to wonder among the nubile new wavers, dressed in brand new Salvation Army-style threads, the imprint of new plastic wrappers almost visible. Stage front is an easy amble through the thin crowd. A photographer's dream.

Opening for Costello, The Plimsouls are offering their psychedelic-rock wares — with few takers. Once with a major label this Los Angeles quartet features Flaming Groovy-ish vocals and instrumental attack. They are competent, cool and mostly melodic.

As they finish their set, we head backstage for an early glimpse of Costello, unseen in these parts for a year and a half. It has been a productive period for him.

Since his last Northern California appearances, he released his pop masterpiece, Trust, dashed to Nashville for a country album, Almost Blue, did some production, and this month issued Imperial Bedroom, a brilliant, yet unexpected musical blast that shows Costello crooning over a tidal wash of synthesizers and insidious effects.

Costello and crew are getting ready backstage. Nobody is allowed even close. Among a new generation of rock stars, Costello is most like Bob Dylan in his careful cultivation of mystique and distance from both the public and press.

After Costello makes a few passes through the hallway, I set my camera's sight on a likely spot and await his return. He comes back through, dressed in suit and tie, followed by bassist Bruce Thomas, dressed in glittery green trousers and vest over fluorescent white shirt.

I snap off a few shots. Noticing me, Costello spins, hugging his guitar under one arm, raising the other in a classic photographer-invasion-of-privacy salute. His arm goes up in frames four through six. His fingers spread wide to screen his face.

Behind him, Thomas is giggling at the comical, familiar rock scene.

History is about to be made.

Almost as legendary as Costello in modern annals, manager Jake Riviera stands foremost as a pillar of something I had better not fully describe.

But he is it, without a doubt. And there he stands alone.

He originally parlayed his involvement in a small record company, Stiff, into representation (some say control) of a major chunk of talent. Besides Costello, he manages the fortunes of Nick Lowe, among others.

Riviera guards Costello's career like a paranoid mother hen. Interviews are almost never granted. Lawsuits are often threatened. Of course, there is infinite wisdom in the manner in which Riviera operates — among manager sorts, he is top form, all-controlling and all-seeing.

Confrontations with this behemoth of business sense and musical guidance are well documented in contemporary musical periodicals — often in place of any real contact with the star that shines behind this man — since Costello generally maintains his distance from the press.

Riviera comes barrelling down the hallway like a freight train speeding through a tunnel, determined to explode through the approaching mountain whether or not that tunnel materializes.

He is a much bigger man than any of his descriptions lead on.

On the other hand, I am quite a little fellow, much more stout than I am of stature — or courage for that matter.

"Give me that film," Riviera demands, with much less tact or taste than this history-making occasion demands.

I pause for about two seconds, while journalistic oaths flash through my mind at end-of-life, true breakneck speed.

Stammering something about photo clearance, which I had been assured, is useless; my words sputter against his chest. He has me ripping the film from my camera.

"And you are our guest here," he spits at me, little realizing that in five years of trying, I have never advanced closer to the graces of Costello than a short, long distance phone call to his record company. If a guest at all backstage, lain certainly no guest of Costello or his circle.

And yet I pass him the film anyway, and Riviera's fingers close in a snarl about the roll. Then he stomps off, unaware of the significance of the moment.

The Ukiah Daily Journal has climbed another notch in the long rope of music-related rejections.

After this excitement, the actual concert might seem anti-climatic, but it is among the best shows I have attended. Costello is a bit slow coming around, a fact he acknowledges often in a friendly manner. "You have to understand, this is our first night in America, so we are a bit stiff."

It hardly shows, especially in the Attractions' expert backing. In a few short years, Costello's accompanying trio has become among the best bands in rock. They supply crisp, full instrumentation, always the perfect fill, the right flourish to brighten every moment.

From the start the show is decidedly different from any he has cast upon American shores in the past. Though Costello begins with "Accidents Will Happen" and "Strict Time" (common early numbers), he next sails into a fully orchestrated "Green Shirt."

The first selection from his new album, "Pidgon English," is followed by. a brilliant version of "Hand In Hand." Costello pounds the cords out on guitar while singing in a deep, commanding voice.

A few tunes from Trust are interspersed with other songs from the new album.

"Shabby Doll" emerges as a much more emotionally honest, pleading ballad than the album track. Later, Steve Nieve somehow manages to recreate all the startling orchestrations of the vinyl version of "...And In Every Home."

Though both Bruce and Pete Thomas (no relationship) are sensational on bass and drum respectively, it is Nieve who provides the magical transformations throughout the evening with an myriad of keyboard effects.

Costello performs the majority of the new album, reaching back to his first two albums for such favorites as "Allison," "You Belong To Me" and "Mystery Dance."

But it is the introduction to "King Horse" that really excites the crowd. With a spate of rhythm guitar and gruff voice, Costello leads the band through and abbreviated, but highly spirited version of the old O'Jays' hit, "Backstabbers."

Before closing, the prolific genius rips off a couple of new tunes, among them a song titled, "Imperial Bedroom," which was not included on the album of the same name.


Ukiah Daily Journal, July 25, 1982

Ron Gluckman reviews Elvis Costello & The Attractions, Wednesday, July 14, 1982, Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, Santa Cruz, CA.


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Page scan.

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