University of British Columbia Ubyssey, November 21, 1978

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Costello caught in new wave neurosis

Bill Tieleman

"Everything they say and do is getting on my nerves!"

It shows. Elvis Costello's performance Friday night was positively psychotic, as he lurched his way through an intense set before about 5,500 mesmerized fans at the Coliseum.

Costello's music has been aptly compared to Woody Allen's movies and one can easily see the neurotic, not to mention physical, similarities between the two.

Costello started the show with cold, removed versions of "Mystery Dance" and "Red Shoes" before warming to the audience.

After fulfilling an apparent obligation to play a few songs off the My Aim Is True album, Costello and his band, The Attractions, went into overdrive, smashing out "Pump It Up," "Lipstick Vogue," "This Year's Girl," "Radio Radio" and "The Beat," all from This Year's Model.

The Attractions tend to be overshadowed by the crazed antics of Elvis but have to be one of the tightest bands around. While most rock drummers surround themselves with a percussion version of the Great Wall of China, Pete Thomas is content with the sparsest of kits.

And it's all he needs. The incessant beat, with some excellent snare drum work propelled the songs throughout the concert, especially at times when Costello left his Fender Jazzmaster hanging around his neck like a dead albatross.

Organist Steve Young is also an integral part of the Costello "neurocktic" sound. Where Costello's guitar dominated My Aim is True, the organ fills in the spaces between Bruce Thomas' bass lines, the heavy beat and Costello's voice and guitar.

Young's wild bouncing and dancing (he never sat down to play) was a complete contrast to Costello's automaton motions. Resplendent in red shoes (what else?) and a red suit, Elvis stalked the stage like a marionette in need of lithium treatments, his legs glued at the knees and his head tilted to one side while slashing wireless guitar through the air like a butcher knife.

While the lyrics and music were impeccably performed, it was Costello's actions that made the concert extraordinary. As he wound up the show with an incredible version of "I'm Not Angry" the psychotic glint in his eyes and tremor in his voice both terrified and excited the crowd.

Rather than angrily shout out the lyrics as he does on the record, Costello bent his head to one side, fondled the mike stand as if it were a slender white neck and whispered, "I'm not angry. No I'm not. I'm not. I'm not angry," before launching into a psychotic musical rage at his imaginary victim.

But the other highpoint of the short, hour-long show, was his rendition of "Allison," a tearjerker from the first album. Simply introducing it as a "true story," Costello had the outlandishly punk/new wave dressed audience silent and spellbound as he sang, "1 hear you let that little friend of mine take off your party dress." As always, Costello is the victim of his lovers.

Another victim of the concert was the crowd, who were assaulted with the amazingly bad Battered Wives. Even by punk standards the band was poor. The genuine punk supporters showered the Wives with garbage and drinks as they flailed their way through songs like "Lover's Balls." The "Uganda Stomp (Bomp Idi Bomp)" was a rare exception to their droning repertoire.

The Wives, who have been busier making hype for themselves than music, were attacked in a pamphlet distributed by the Vancouver Status of Women. While the issue of wife-battering is a serious one the pamphlet, headlined "Would a band called the Jew-Killers be a gas?", failed to put forward a logical argument, opting for sensationalism.


The Ubyssey, November 21, 1978

Bill Tieleman reviews Elvis Costello & The Attractions and opening act Battered Wives, Friday, November 17, 1978, Pacific Coliseum Concert Bowl, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Reader Stan Jones responds to the review in the Nov. 28 issue.


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Short Elvis lives

Stan Jones

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After reading your review of the Elvis Costello show I felt compelled to return a few notes, to the scene of the crime, so to speak. It was the most dismal account of the evening that I encountered anywhere. It totally missed the point, dwelling on Elvis "Declan McManus" Costello's psychological makeup rather than the statement that he makes through his music.

Sure, it's swell to know that Elvis plays a Fender Jazzmaster, is short and wears glasses like Woody Allen, doesn't smile a hell of a lot, but who cares?

It would appear to me that by simply categorizing Elvis a "new wave act," you're giving him the write-off simply for the period of his emergence into the music scene. Yes, he is new, different and vital, but still totally removed from people such as Devo or the Clash, although they're excellent bands in their own right.

Getting back to the music, you only need look as far as the Cheryl Tiegs, Suzanne Sommers and Farrah Fawcett lookalikes on this campus to know that a song like "This Year's Girl" is important and relevant. The voluntary censorship of local stations such as CFMI, CKLG and CFUN will keep "Radio Radio" from getting any air play; count on it.

And then there's "I Don't Want to Go to Chelsea," a classic tune about the artist as product, that you couldn't even be bothered to mention, even though it's an integral part of Costello's show.

Sure this guy's intense, he's got something to say. Your review however, showed that he's obviously not getting through. The 5,500 that were there on Friday night I'll take over any of you "crazed" Fleetwood Mac, Chicago and Steve Miller fans. Have fun at the Queen concert. Aw, you all make me ill.

What's the use?

Stan Jones
science 3

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Photos by Peter Menyasz.

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Photo by Bob Fuhr.
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Page scans.


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