Well now, who would have thought even six months ago that New Wave music would be the next big thing in Atlanta, Ga?
Not, I, that's for sure. And if you would have felt the same way, you would have found Saturday's Elvis Costello and Talking Heads concert at the Capri Theater to be a very surprising little affair.
Admittedly, both artists have been heavily promoted. Columbia and Sire record labels have been plastering their advertisements in every magazine they could get their hands on. But, if all it took to be successful was promotion, then the New York Dolls would have made it to the top of the charts.
Something must have worked, though, because prominently displayed in front of the Capri was a large "Sold Out" sign.
In the lobby, the concert-goer got another pleasant surprise: Sire was handing out a neat eight song LP commemorating the four New Wave albums it released last month (including the Talking Heads debut). It was a nice touch — and it showed that the record companies, at least, are taking New Wave music seriously.
The audience proved to be something of a change of pace, too. It was not the usual Atlanta crowd. For one thing, it was older (mid-20s), and for another, it was rather gaudily, garbed in places. Quite a few people looked like they'd been waiting for something to do since the last time Lou Reed passed through town.
As for the actual performances...
After about 40 minutes of jazz-rock piped through the Capri's sound system (few things in life are more compatible with punk chic than George Benson), Elvis Costello emerged.
Imagine, if you can, a short, skinny fellow with close cropped hair, big glasses, a greyish-tan suit that looked about 15 years out of date, a green shirt and plaid tie. Costello looked completely lost, he looked like a computer technician (which was his previous profession before becoming a rocker).
It didn't matter. Costello banged into the first chord of "Welcome to the Working Week" and proceeded to deliver a solid hour of potent rock and roll, coupled with one of the eeriest displays of stage presence ever witnessed.
Costello is a frustrated human being. He prowls about the stage, he pounds his guitar, he grabs the microphone and croons (!) to the audience, he stares at photographers, or he stands in place, spitting out lyrics and guitar chords, all the while his right leg twitching as if it had a life of its own.
But at no time does it seem like he's comfortable up there. And all the tension that his act suggests is poured into his music. He's an amazing sight.
Costello's band played like they meant it, too. Costello (who is the guitarist) is backed simply by bass, drums and organ. The band sounded as full and tight as anyone could ask.
Best of all, Costello doesn't let up. The show he puts on is relentless, you can't bear to turn away, and anyway, he's not about to let you.
It isn't really necessary to name any particular songs. The whole performance was as inspired a workout as anyone is going to hear for quite a while. Maybe the coup de grace was the encore. Costello strolled out, carrying a green Gretsch monster that looked almost as big as he was, and slammed into "Mystery Dance." It was as close to magic as a performance gets, and Costello left the stage a hero with a standing ovation.
Costello was a tough act to follow, and although the Capri tried to help out by playing more George Benson between sets, it proved too much for Talking Heads.
It wasn't that the group doesn't have potential. Heads' first album shows David Byrne, the lead singer-songwriter of the quartet, to have a quirky but interesting writing style, influenced to some extent by late 60s pop and soul (they even covered an Al Green tune in concert, proving they aren't all bad).
On stage, though, it didn't come off very well. Instrumentally, the band, particularly Byrne on guitar and Martina Weymouth, who, besides being kind of cute, plays a nicely fluid bass, is more than adequate. But, there are a couple of factors that negate what charm the Heads have.
Number one is Byrne's vocals. On record, his falsetto is unusual but not unnerving. In concert his voice began to grate worse than fingernails scraping a chalkboard.
The main problem with the Heads in concert is that they're too cute for their own good. Byrne has a tendency to write dumb lyrics that show how clever he can be. On stage, the vocalists enjoyed screaming at the top of their lungs (and stupid me, thinking that kind of stuff had gone out with John Lennon's second album) to show how clever they were there.
In short, the Heads provided a sort of arty intellectual game, daring the audience to decide whether the band was being serious or not. I gave up trying to stay interested, but their fans ate it up (to be fair, they did get pretty good response from the crowd). As the old saw goes, there's no accounting for some people's taste.
Before it started, the Capri evening was something of a gamble. It ended up a resounding success. It's hard to say for sure right now, but maybe Costello and Talking Heads are just what the doctor ordered for these days of Peter Frampton. Hey, I can dream, can't I?