Review of Elvis Costello and the Attractions,
Perth Entertainment Centre, May 21 1982
by Dave Pannell

It was a different Elvis Costello and the Attractions at the Perth Entertainment Centre last night than the combo which left the Perth Concert Hall looking and feeling like a battle zone three and a half years ago. That time around, the audience was apprehensive about reports of 50 minute concerts and violence at earlier concerts in eastern states of Australia, but Elvis et al. overpowered them with the most explosively powerful concert Perth had ever seen. He surprised everyone by playing three encores, one seven songs long.

This time around there was apprehension again. Much of the audience was worried that the night would be a showcase of the country and western cover versions on "Almost Blue", but again they were surprised. "Almost Blue" was conspicuous only by its total absence. Not one song. Not even "Roses". The band walked on stage and without introduction burst into "Accidents Will Happen". Two things impressed themselves immediately: the volume (loud) and the richness of the sound.

Bruce Thomas, sporting new bass and haircut, and Pete Thomas on drums were once again as good as any back line in rock. Steve Nieve, looking spiky, was stunning (as opposed to fairly redundant in 1978) in his use of piano, synthesiser and organ. One of the reasons for his brilliance showing through was the increased use of dynamics within and between songs.

They played a fairly even distribution of songs from the first five albums: "Detectives" and "Alison", "The Beat" and "You Belong to Me", "Oliver’s Army" and "Green Shirt", "High Fidelity" and "Temptation", and five from "Trust". There were also seven songs unfamiliar to most of the audience: Nick Lowe’s "Peace, Love and Understanding" (which was included on the US but not the Oz version of "Armed Forces"), Smokey Robinson’s "From Head to Toe" (his new single in England), and five songs from the forthcoming album "The Imperial Bedroom".

To my mind, the later songs (from "Get Happy!!" onwards) were the most impressive, being best suited to the Attractions new-found sophistication. "Big Sister’s Clothes" from "Trust" with a vastly changed arrangement was breathtaking. The new material showed that Elvis has lost none of his song-writing brilliance during his brief excursion into C&W. "Shabby Doll" is long and complex but very good. "You Little Fool", "Long Honeymoon" and "And in Every Home" were also good but, as with all of Elvis’s songs, difficult to take in with only one listen. The other new song, a beautiful ballad called "Almost Blue, was the closest thing to a song off the "Almost Blue" album. It didn’t actually appear on that album but will, Elvis says, be on "The Imperial Bedroom".

What about Elvis himself? Last time he seemed ready to explode with emotional energy. This time, with the increased emphasis on light and shade, he was able to express something more than revenge and guilt. At times he was positively affable, smiling and joking with the audience (which was on its feet and at his feet from the first song) and making an effort to announce the titles of new songs. At times he showed that the energy is still there, but now it’s more controlled. His voice just seems to get better. He handled the highest and lowest of notes with ease and he enunciated even his most tongue-twisting cryptic couplets perfectly. As an introduction to "King Horse" he sang over the Attractions’ backing

I’m a born again
There’s been a change in me

The change seems to have been more the result of a conscious effort than a revelation, but it certainly makes for a more human and entertaining Elvis.

The encore consisted of "I Can’t Stand Up ...", which in a slow waltz time sounded like it could have become a crowd sing-a-long, and "Mystery Dance". After 80 minutes the crowd left satisfied and very impressed by the man who forces us to expect the unexpected.

Dave Pannell's Elvis Costello Page
Copyright David J. Pannell, 2009
Last revised: March 30, 2009.