"Here's one for you, what does Elvis Presley and disco dancing have in common? That's right... dead.... they're both dead."
So said John Gibb, guitarist for Toronto's notorious Punk group, Battered Wives, support group for the Costello tour.
The crowd that packed the Jubilee Auditorium last Sunday night would seem to indicate that Gibb was correct. Hundreds of punked out new wavers filled the seats, drooling enthusiastically in anticipation of this unprecedented show.
I must point out to the inevitable tight ass reader that, no: it was not a violent crowd, no: they were not throwing things and to my knowledge not one person threw up publicly — not even the bands.
The concert, billed as the Wake Up Canada tour, succeeded in pushing New Wave out of the closet and maybe eventually onto the waterass airwaves of, say, CHED (That is if "The Chucker" can get it up after getting down for the last ten years).
Anyway, Elvis Costello was completely unavailable for comment. In fact, this reporter was not allowed backstage until Costello was onstage. He simply would not talk to anyone. This may he resultant of an on-air tirade at CHUM in Toronto last week which "didn't do Costello or the record company any good" according to the local CBS representative.
But the response here was overwhelmingly positive. Costello came On like gangbusters opening with "Mystery Dance" which was bridged into "Angels (Want to wear my Red Shoes)," which also bridged to "Waiting for the End of the World." It was only then that he greeled the audience. The whole show was presented in a non-stop high energy highly professional fashion and included a couple of brand new tunes.
Onstage, Costello was electrifying. He looked as if it was he and not his guitar that was plugged in; even standing still, he gives the illusion of energy: hair standing on end, skinny, jaw set under those ridiculous glasses.
His back-up, The Attractions, consists of keyboards, bass and drums: a minimal line-up which adequately conveys chopped-back orchestration appropriate to this music. He cues the band occasionally, with the index finger of his right hand, striking a pose reminiscent of an excitable clerk making a point.
At one point he leapt into the orchestra pit, and this was the fuse that lit the crowd as they rushed the stage with all the exuberant glee of a first year Arts student on poppers.
An interesting turn was the reggae-like "Watching the Detectives," reflecting that influence on the English pop scene.
Meanwhile, backstage, Battered Wives were relaxing after their set. Toby, one of the guitarists, remarked that the audience response was "a real surprise" and consequently felt the tour might "break things open across Canada."
Battered Wives, above all, is a fun hand. Onstage it was a party. Toby (Swann) mugged continuously and leaped about. At the conclusion of their set, the drummer crawled to the front of the stage and refreshed himself with a cool beer — in his mouth, on his pants, on his head etc. But lets get it straight, these "Theatrics" are not delivered without an element of tongue-in-cheek. The songs attest to this and titles include: "The Uganda Stomp," "Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll" (not their own composition), and the classic "Lover's Balls."
Battered Wives were a little nervous about talking to the press in the light of adverse attention they've received regarding their name. Such protests are not soundly founded and make about as much sense as would an Alcoholics Anonymous group protesting an April Wine concert. The last thing John Gibb (guitarist) said to me was "Thanks for only talking a bout the music."
But lets face it, the hero was the bookish-looking 23 year old Costello. The thunderous roar of approval preceding and following the encore "Miracle Man" would indicate that brains too long numbed with lobotomizing monotony of disco are indeed reawakening to what's really important: Rock and Roll.
Live rock and roll, that is.