With upwards of 30 studio albums to his name and compilation records for days, Elvis Costello (a.k.a. Declan Patrick MacManus) is prolific in the literal sense of the word. Since the arrival of his breakout album My Aim Is True in 1977, he’s barely stopped to catch his breath, releasing several albums each decade. Costello even released an album in 2018, Look Now, his first since a 2013 collaboration with The Roots, Wise Up Ghost!. More than 40 years after My Aim Is True, Costello still hasn’t lost a bit of his energy or pizazz: Look Now was one of Paste’s best albums of 2018, and the fabulously frantic “Under Lime” was one of our favorite songs of the year.
The British musician embarked on his first U.S. tour after the success of My Aim Is True in 1978. He’d of course return to the states many more times early on in and throughout his career, including for a string of shows in early 1981. On this day (Jan. 30) in that year, he was in Philadelphia for an explosion-of-a-show at the Tower Theatre.
During this set, Elvis Costello and his band manage a whopping 25 songs in under 90 minutes, probably because they hardly take any pauses. They treated the energetic crowd to some of his hits with The Attractions like ”(What’s So Funny Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding,” “Oliver’s Army” and “Accidents Will Happen,” all from their 1979 album Armed Forces. They also played Costello classics from My Aim Is True like “Watching The Detectives.”
You can listen to Elvis Costello’s 1981 Philly show below thanks to the Paste archives. While you’re at it, revisit some of his best songs. Keep scrolling to watch Elvis Costello & the Attractions perform at the Capitol Theatre circa 1978, also via the Paste vault.