Review : Elvis Costello - Live at Hollywood High
PopmattersIf you start with Elvis Costello’s superb Spectacle interview-and-performance series, sadly in its last run, and trace his career backwards, it’s a dizzying review. The last decade alone, which saw Costello’s induction into the Rock Hall of Fame, offered a breakneck pace with four solo records (from rock to bluegrass), two collaborative albums, a ballet, and dozens of one-off contributions. The ‘90s were equally fruitful, full of Bacharachs, Brodskys, and beards. The ‘80s, a decade in which Costello felt musically out of place among the New Romantics, nevertheless were among his most dramatic years as he began to solidify his stance as a rock and roll lifer, swinging from soul to rock to country, up to the esoteric brilliance of Imperial Bedroom down to the career crisis nadir of Goodbye Cruel World (although that record’s a lot more fun that it’s been given credit for). And if you keep going back, you finally get to that mercurial opening streak, Costello’s late ‘70s hat trick. Costello was a revelation from the beginning, and for all his snarling cynicism and a singular combination of nerdiness and sexiness, no one could mistake how great the songs were. It was an urgent run of angry young pub rock, golden-age hooks, and tongue-tripping wordplay, adding up to one of the hottest starts in rock history. And now available is a brawling live show from the middle of this three-year explosion, Live at Hollywood High.
Recorded in the gymnasium of the famed Hollywood High School in L.A. on June 4, 1978, this is Elvis Costello and the Attractions on fire amid a feverish creative stride. The band was touring behind This Year’s Model, which had come out two months earlier, but American audiences were also just getting to know the debut, My Aim is True, the U.S. release of which was nearly a year behind the ‘77 release in England. Just two months after this show, the band would be back in the studio to record Armed Forces. It’s a blistering 20-song set by a 23-year-old Costello leading the band through revved-up versions of their studio recordings and experimenting with some dynamic new song structures....full text
Personnel: Elvis Costello (vocals, guitar); Steve Nieve (keyboards); Pete Thomas (drums).
Recording information: Hollywood High, Hollywood, CA (06/04/1978).
Originally released as a four-song bonus EP with the U.K. edition of Armed Forces, then excerpted with an additional six songs on Rhino`s double-disc expansion of said album in 2002, Live at Hollywood High received a full-blown reissue in 2010, almost 32 years after the June 4, 1978 concert from Elvis Costello & the Attractions. As the second installment of the Costello Show archival series, Live at Hollywood High isn`t as legendary as Live at the El Mocambo, which had the benefit of once being one of Elvis Costello`s rarest records, but it`s a better show, or at least a better indication of the Attractions at their absolute peak. Apart from the dramatic opening reading of "Accidents Will Happen," featuring only Elvis and pianist Steve Nieve, every performance here is significantly revved up from the album versions, a change evident on all the My Aim Is True material -- including a reworked arrangement of "Stranger in the House" stripped of its country influence -- and the entire set has the momentum of a locomotive, twitchily pausing at "Alison" before crashing to a conclusion with a tremendous sequence of "You Belong to Me," "Radio, Radio," "Pump It Up," "Waiting for the End of the World," and "Miracle Man." Moreso than This Year`s Model, this is the purest rock & roll record in Costello`s catalog: there`s passion and abandon in the Attractions` noisy revelry, not to mention some seriously heated fun. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine...full text
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