Live at the El Mocambo was recorded on March 6, 1978, during a club show in Toronto, Canada, as Elvis Costello and the Attractions were storming North America in support of My Aim Is True; the set was broadcast live by a local FM radio outlet, and this album is a clean but compressed, slightly flat recording drawn from the station's feed. Released as a promotional album by the Canadian branch of Columbia Records, the album soon became a eagerly sought-after collector's item, and before long it became perhaps the most widespread Costello bootleg on the gray market before Rykodisc gave the album a belated commercial release as a bonus disc in 1993's 2 1/2 Years box set. (The Ryko version, however, does clip out some of the between-song patter, including Costello's announcement that he's come to Toronto on behalf of Great Britain to ask for Canada back!) Replete with adequate but hardly spectacular audio and occasional flubs from the band, Live at the El Mocambo is a warts-and-all portrait of this band in their earlier days, but the seething energy of the performances is unmistakable, the stripped-down interpretations of the My Aim Is True material rock harder than their studio incarnations, and the version of "Less Than Zero" features the "American" lyrics Costello penned to make the song more relevant to stateside listeners. And it does sound a good bit better than any of the bootlegs available of Costello onstage during his formative period; if you want to hear what Elvis Costello sounded like on stage when he was still pop music's angriest man, this is the best place to go.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming