Vancouver Sun, January 5, 1981

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Elvis turns nice

Fiona McQuarrie

It was a whole new Elvis Costello who started off a whole new year of concerts at the UBC War Memorial Gym Sunday night. The man with a reputation for playing short sets and being surly towards audiences must have gotten a large dose of niceness over the holidays. He spoke to the audience, played an hour-long set and came back, not at all reluctantly, for two encores.

On the first date of his North American tour, Costello chose to play mostly songs from his soon-to-be-released album Trust, rather than cranking out his greatest hits. It was a courageous and commendable move — but it would have worked a lot better if the audience could have heard the songs.

The terrible acoustics of the War Memorial Gym, coupled with a less-than-perfect sound system, left Costello and his backing band, the Attractions, sounding as if they were playing at a high school hop. The only thing missing was the principal coming out on stage and threatening the smokers at the back.

What did come through clearly was how well-rehearsed Costello and the Attractions were, and how captivating they are to watch.

Whether the song is a rocker or a weeper, Costello can put it across. His hiccupy voice and his Buddy Holly-on-a-bender appearance are his alone, and he knows how to use both for greatest effect. The opening number, a slow ballad sung only to the accompaniment of Steve Nieve's piano, was marked by Costello's plaintive tones and expressive hand motions.

The Attractions had a good evening as well. Nieve filled out Costello's guitar chords with his roller-rink organ and sharp piano. Bassist Bruce Thomas, who with his blonde hair and round glasses looks like Britain's answer to Moon Martin, provided a steady beat along with drummer Pete Thomas.

Opening act Squeeze was considerably less interesting than in last year's appearance at the Commodore — and it couldn't all be blamed on the acoustics. The loss of keyboard player Jools Holland, who was a major focal point both musically and visually, seems to have left the band wondering what to do next.

The best performed song in the set was a hit for another band — "How Long," a hit for Ace, the former band of Holland's replacement, Paul Carrack. The songs from Squeeze's new album sounded none too original, and vocalists Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford appeared to be having a hard time with the more familiar tunes — "Another Nail in My Heart," "Goodbye Girl," "Pulling Mussels from the Shell." This time around, Squeeze was definitely not cool for cats.

Tags: War Memorial GymUniversity Of British ColumbiaVancouverCanadaThe AttractionsSteve NieveBruce ThomasPete ThomasTrustSqueezePaul CarrackGlenn TilbrookChris DiffordJools HollandBuddy Holly

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The Vancouver Sun, January 5, 1981

Fiona McQuarrie reviews Elvis Costello & The Attractions and opening act Squeeze, Sunday, January 4, 1981, War Memorial Gym, University Of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.


1981-01-05 Vancouver Sun page B8 clipping 01.jpg

Photo by Rob Draper.
1981-01-05 Vancouver Sun photo 01 rd.jpg

Page scan.
1981-01-05 Vancouver Sun page B8.jpg


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