Elvis Costello & The Attractions

 

TIME was when the juxtaposition of the "Elvis" and "Attractions" would cause serious rock fans to down tools and head straight for the box office; these days, however, the magical combination no longer casts the same spell, although it's still capable of working a little magic every now and then.

At Dublin's Stadium last night, Elvis and his keyboard cohort, Steve Nieve, took the stage just as England and Germany were going into extra time, and by the time the rest of the Attractions arrived on stage all thoughts of football were kicked into touch.

Opening with just voice and piano accompaniment, Elvis exuded warmth - or perhaps it was just the heat from his bright red shirt. Temptation gave way to Poor Fractured Atlas, a track from the band's current album, All This Useless Beauty, and an acoustic version of Oliver's Army brought up the rear. Drummer Pete Thomas and bassist Bruce Thomas joined in for a rousing if somewhat muddled end to the song, but found their direction for You Belong To Me and Are You Straight Or Are You Blind?

The band stumbled a bit on 13 Steps Lead Down, from 1994's excellent Brutal Youth album, but the defiant ballad of Why Can't A Man Stand Alone? and the sweeping vistas of The Other End Of The Telescope proved that the band's current album hides some gems within its bytes. The title track, while still sharply lyrical, loses focus a bit, and Distorted Angel deteriorates into a slow R&B soul workout of (I Don't Want To Go To) Chelsea.

More clever clever stuff follows, with an accordion accompaniment for Pump It Up, but it's still solid enough to get the punters off their seats. Miracle Man brings us right back to Elvis's first album, and it jangles nicely into the more recent You Bowed Down. The high point comes with Sulky Girl, a tune that already sounds like a Costello classic despite being only a couple of years old.

The raucous Riot Act is followed by a superbly controlled Accidents Will Happen and the show ends with Elvis's own classic murder ballad, Alison, signalling the end of a varied set which teetered between the sublime and the precipitous.