Elvis Costello is a wimp. He dresses like a reject from the 1959 homecoming dance and sings about his frustrating experiences with women; he seems angry or rebellious about something.
In six words: Costello is your typical punk rocker.
That's his image, anyway.
But it was obvious after his concert at the Uptown theater Friday night that his image is misleading.
True, Costello seemed distant during the opening numbers of his show before a full house of 1,780. He showed some interest in his music, but almost none in the audience, outside of an occasional cynical stare.
But after a couple of numbers he started showing more interest in his music and the audience. He started playing his guitar like he cared and he started to spit his lyrics out the way he does on record.
He did solo trade-offs with his organist, jumped into the audience (seems like everybody's copying Bruce Springsteen) and played guitar on his knees.
Once Costello gets going, he has a real stage presence. He seems a little reluctant or uncontrollable in the role of rock and roll star, but when he overcomes his apprehension, he puts on one of the best and most intense shows around.
Costello mainly did songs off his two most recent albums. This Year's Model and Armed Forces, covering only a couple from his wimp masterpiece debut, My Aim Is True. He also did a few unrecorded songs, all of which proved to be as good as any on his albums.
The wimp love songs came across best, as Costello sang those with the most intensity.
Costello's excellent three-piece band, The Attractions, worked perfectly with him, sometimes slowing the pace right before the peak parts of certain songs to tease the audience, then bursting into the peak.
The only problem with the concert was the organ; it didn't come through loud enough. That killed the killer song off Armed Forces, "Oliver's Army."
The concert closed with three dynamic songs in a row: "Watching the Detectives," "Pump It Up" and "You Belong to Me," perhaps Costello's best rock tune. For his first encore he did "Radio, Radio." and for his second, "(What's So Funny About) Peace, Love and Understanding" and "Mystery Dance."
That last number was the definitive Costello wimp number, talking about the Mystery Dance which is about Elvis' problems with intimate acts.
But besides being THE wimp song, "Mystery Dance" is a heck of a rock and roll song.
At Costello's concert, the song fell more into the latter category.
Because deep down inside, Elvis Costello's got a rock and roll heart.