If you weren't at the Jubilee Auditorium Monday night, you missed the best rock concert ever to hit Calgary.
Elvis Costello and the Attractions gave a show that blew the roof off the auditorium. Never have I seen such an exciting performance, and never have I witnessed such enthusiastic fans.
Now to get down to facts. The show was opened (on time) by The Wives. This Toronto band sounds like British punk rock — possibly because one of the members is British. The Wives — wearing long white underwear — were a perfect warm up band to Costello; they complimented him, yet they didn't overpower him.
They sang an impressive list of new wave songs. Most of their material was original, and their cover versions of songs by The Kinks and Ian Dury were done quite well. However their sound had flaws: the vocals were often drowned out, and they weren't always in sync. Yet this band leaped about on stage with such energy that it literally hurt to sit still. The Wives are good (not outstanding) punk band. They warmed up the audience.
Elvis Costello, the main attraction, stepped on stage wearing a wrinkled black suit, and he immediately launched into the fast-paced "Mystery Dance."
Unlike The Wives, Costello stood perfectly still at the microphone; yet he has a power that had fans dancing in the aisles.
Costello's set included most of his standards like "The Beat," "Chelsea," and "Radio, Radio." He also included some unreleased material such as "Accidents Will Happen."
When I heard that Costello would appear at the Jubilee, I anticipated problems. I wasn't wrong.
The auditorium is so classy most of the audience felt inhibited about jumping around. Near the end of his set however, Costello got people moving by comparing us to Edmonton: he said that in Edmonton people actually danced. This comment sparked an avalanche of fans to the stage area.
People danced about wildly to "Pump It Up," and this is when the trouble started. Fans started leaping into the orchestra pit, only to be kicked out. Several of the audience got beaten quite badly by the security.
Costello, to put it mildly, wasn't pleased. He even went so far as to throw his microphone stand at a particularly aggressive security guard.
Apparently Edmonton had none of these problems. The orchestra pit at the northern auditorium was level with the audience, so over-eager fans were stopped before they could climb into it. (In Calgary, however, the pit was lowered quite deeply. The Attractions wanted fans in the pit; the security didn't; there was quite a communication breakdown.)
Fans leaped or were pushed into the orchestra pit where security waited. Once in the pit it was no easy chore to leave it, so some of the bouncers had a field day.
I've heard some punk rock haters say this is typical, that punk breeds violence, yet I'd say the fans were generally well-behaved. They simply wanted to dance. I have a strong suspicion that the Jubilee will not be hosting another rock band for some time.
Throughout all the trouble, Costello was the perfect showman. His voice was powerful and his band showed incredibly talented. Their musical brilliance served to downplay The Wives who were exciting, but not exactly great musicians. Costello received a long standing ovation, and came back for one encore.
People were basically satisfied with the show. I heard no negative responses from the audience, and I seriously doubt anyone left the show disappointed.
Costello is definitely becoming the king of new wave. If you saw Costello last year on Saturday Night Live, you didn't see a true performance. He was awful on that show (yet even the Stones looked awful on Saturday Night Live).
After the show, I got into the stage entrance when Costello, his band, and The Wives were leaving. Elvis casually asked what day it was. I told him, they paused, and took off into the night, back to yet another hotel room in their cross-Canada tour.
Amazingly enough, Costello is not touring the U.S. (apparently he has no love for the country). After they leave Canada, The Attractions will tour Asia.
According to Perryscope promoter Norm Perry, Costello loved Calgary. His fans in this city were certainly appreciative of his music. The Jubilee was packed, so it is apparent that Calgary has a rather large population of closet punks.
Elvis Costello put on a show that many people in this town will always remember.. He was, I believe, the first taste Calgary has had of real rock and roll.
Unfortunately, we may not see such rock and roll in this city again, for some time. Performers like Elvis Costello don't come this way very often.