The idea of nerd as rock star is nothing new. Rock 'n' roll's first superstar, Bill Haley, looked like one. So did Buddy Holly. Yet Elvis Costello has taken heat from Day One on his bespectacled-wimpoid appearance, culminating in one of rock's most infamous quotes from Van Halen's David Lee Roth: "The only reason rock critics like Elvis Costello is because they look just as dorky as he does."
Wrong, El Lion Mane. The reason rock critics like (love) Elvis Costello is because he stood on stage last night at the Sunrise Musical Theater to kick off his latest U.S. tour and prove he's one of rock's most eclectic, electric and genius singer-songwriters. Still looking like The Numero Uno Nerd (Who else would wear a brocade pink Nehru jacket in 1984?), Costello and his superb three-piece band The Attractions (sometimes augmented by saxophone) roared through a 125-minute masterwork set that touched down on everything from the still-fresh tracks of his first LP, My Aim Is True, to his latest-greatest disc, Goodbye Cruel World.
Costello not only offered a host of marvelous new songs ("Inch By Inch," "Worthless Thing," "Peace In Our Time") but magnificent re-workings of such classics as "Lipstick Vogue" and "Mystery Dance." A la Dylan, Costello has beautifully re-molded these older songs with different rhythms and vocal inflections until they take on totally new, hypnotic meanings.
The concert was a blueprint in precision (Fine opening act Nick Lowe/Paul Carrack started on time) and pacing (Costello soared from frantic rocker to torch singer to lounge lizard with the greatest of ease). The only sour note: The Sunrise was only half-filled. Costello did a few last-minute radio interviews to bolster ticket sales, but it didn't help. Tonight he takes to the Sunrise stage again. If you've never seen a genius or a nerd get his revenge, be there.