I shifted to let the attention-hungry youth with the chalk-powdered, safety-pinned cheek down the row. Nervously he ran his fingers through his short, pinkish greased-down hair, readjusted his black, wrap-around girl watcher sunglasses and made sure that his tattered tee-shirt still blatantly exposed his left breast.
This brief glimpse of punk mania was a mere misnomer in the shadows of last Friday evening's Seattle debut performance for Elvis Costello, the hottest piece of merchandise in what is being called "New Wave Music."
Costello's music is a highly sophisticated discharge from the New Wave movement, matching early sixties-influenced rock 'n' roll with the most intriguing, sarcastic and bitter lyrics to emerge from popular music in quite some time.
As comparisons go, Costello's vocals reek of Graham Parker and Bruce Springsteen, yet his music and personal magnetism are enough to void any claims Costello is hitching a ride on popular coattails.
In fact, Costello is quite bummed over the hype which hurts artists such as Springsteen (once sold as the next Dylan). Following a recent interview with Time Magazine in which he and his album were panned, Costello turned off the access valve to the media. He's denying interviewers, photographers and anyone else too zealous to boost his career into hyperbole at this tender stage of development.
Onstage, Costello visually comes on as an anemic Buddy Holly, clutching his Fender Jazz Master with venomous intensity. Staggering about the stage in wind-up toy fashion, he attacks his mesmerized audience with dramatic renditions of his songs.
After leaping into his set with two tunes off his highly successful first album My Aim is True, Costello worked his way through a healthy barrage of new tunes at a mechanically intense pace. Thanks to a makeshift sound system, the majority of these tunes fell short of their potential. The crowd's cardiac energy certified that they were well thought of, however.
Costello's primarily punkish-looking entourage, "The Attractions," which consisted of a bassist, drummer and Farfisa organist, were generally tight, solid and energetically productive to keep the musical end of Costello's stage show running smoothly.
Even with the bogus sound hassles and a misplaced back-up band Rubicon, (who fared about as well on the bill as The Mormon Tabernacle Choir would have at a Hell's Angels' Annual Picnic), Costello's performance rates highly as one of the most impressive and unusual musical events to peg Seattle's applause meter in a long, long time.