Assorted scribblings of a dog-eared music journalist

Sounds | Live | 25 June 1983

ELVIS COSTELLO AND THE ATTRACTIONS /
THE TIME / SCREEN 3 / UNITY SERIES
University Of East Anglia, Norwich


Elvis the Imposter. Or should that be Elvis the Rescuer?

It's called a Summer Hoofer – an end-of-term, four-band festival supplemented with videos and a dose of peaches and cream. Yummy. First up are local boys Screen 3 and Unity Series. Given a strong wind, they would have blown over. Both are capable of much more than these performances offer and there was a gale threatening.

For some, perhaps the major attraction is former Jam drummer Rick Buckler's new outfit. So what's The Time? You want it in a nutshell? A pub rock shang-a-lang-a-chugga band. Let's boogie, baby. Few drummers maketh the group (which is not to undermine their importance – the drum machine is not the be-all) and The Time sound like the million faceless bands continually featured on the BBC's "In Concert" series. More punters try to stand to the side of the stage than at the front. It must have been very off-putting.

El had to give it the big one to stop people demanding money back on their tickets and "Accidents Will Happen" is the beginning of the upturn. "Oliver's Army", "From Head To Toe", "Watching The Detectives" and "A Man Out Of Time" follow, a great selection of singles interspersed with renditions of others from old and favourite albums and previews of some new tracks.

The highlight of the evening is, without doubt, a thumping version of the Costello/Langer composition "Shipbuilding" popularised by Robert Wyatt, although to not half the extent it should have been. The Attractions hit hard and are backed by a platoon of brass-waving souls. Eyes front and Costello sweats and croons, his voice almost falling to a croak once or twice. Strong like David, he leads his band by the hand, his audience by the nose. And the ears, of course. And the throat.

The night winds down with five numbers split into two encores. It ends with "I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down". Now for a public admission. I’m by no means a Costello fan, but it's all quite, quite admirable.

Pop music can be so lightweight. Perhaps the three supporting bands never really stood a chance. Luckily for the audience, there is still a hero to come through in the last two hours of the Summer Hoofer. The victor? The man with spectacles and red socks. On a technical knockout, I give you Elvis the Conqueror.

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