The Horace Barlow Band — a late third act on a sold-out bill headlined by Rockpile (with Dave Edmunds and Nick Lowe) and supported by US bluesband The Fabulous Thunderbirds — turned out to be, as rumoured, Elvis Costello & The Attractions.
This was a try-out of the set they'd lined up for their forthcoming tour and it featured most of the numbers from their new album Get Happy!!.
They took the stage amid loud cheers and immediately launched into their first number. A good clean sound with the band really tight and sharp. Costello, not always the most cheerful of guys, was obviously in fine mood: "Hello, how are you?" (cheers) "This is Horace Barlow..." (nods towards guitarist) "...and this is a number called 'The Beat.'"
He gives brief thanks to Rockpile for this guest spot, plugs the album and they go into "Possession" which earns loud approval. They go straight on into another typical E.C. number with a powerful drums/keyboards intro and a slow build-up into a pounding rocker. Again, no announcement — it's "Less Than Zero" — a good punchy version, but I always feel it's just a bit slow.
"Thank you. Like to do a new song for you now. It's called '5ive Gears In Reverse.'" This could make a fine single. It's got some good guitar/keyboards work that's reminiscent of their earlier hit "Pump It Up." Good rhythm changes too.
"This is a great town!" And he jokes about Top of The Pops which he's just been watching, "...dancing away to The Nolan Sisters in my hotel room... and The Buggles... and Gary Numan... c'mon, let's hear it for Lena Martell!" (Loud cheers) "Anyway, this is for my great(!) friends The Jags — it's called 'The Imposter!'"
Next up is his own version of a song he wrote for Edmunds, "Girls Talk." It's followed by the final number — their recent hit "Oliver's Army." This has been a great set with the excellent Attractions providing subtle back-up vocals as well as the immaculate instrumentation. The audience goes crazy for an encore and they're back for one number — their new single — "I Can't Stand Up For Fallin' Down." "Thank you. That's it. Good night!"
A great rock-song writer, Elvis Costello's rapidly becoming a star-quality singer and performer — if he can hold the pace, he'll be up there for a good few years. If you missed this one, make sure you catch him next time around.