Costello, Harris pump it up in Hub
By Bill Brotherton
Sunday, July 24, 2005 - Updated: 12:41 AM EST
Folks arriving at the Bank of America Pavilion last night expecting an opening set by Emmylou Harris were shocked to see Elvis Costello & the Imposters boldly stride onto the stage promptly at 8 p.m., before the sun had set over the harbor.
More than 2 1/2 hours and some 35 songs later, they were still in shock, having witnessed one of the more schizophrenic, but terrific, concerts the town has seen in many a moon.
Things started off splendidly, with Costello and his band, one of the best in the business, setting off indoor fireworks with seven brutal rock 'n' roll songs, one after another in breathless rat-a-tat-tat fashion, including "(I Don't Want to Go to) Chelsea,'' "Everyday I Write the Book'' and "Uncomplicated.'' The apocalyptic "Waiting For the End of the World'' was an early triumph, with Costello saying he wrote it nearly three decades ago on the London Underground.
The near-capacity crowd was frenzied. Then, Harris, the finest harmony singer in popular music, appeared like an angel from the wings. An absolute stunner in zebra cowgirl boots and long silver hair, Harris' "vocal stylings'' made every song better, whether it was a Costello original, her own "Red Dirt Girl'' or knockout covers of country classics.
But folks sat down, showing respect more than a love for the music.
Multi-instrumentalist Larry Campbell joined the fun to add oomph to the already muscle-bound Imposters, and Costello's expressive nasal bleat blended remarkably well with Harris' crystal-clear vocals. Recklessly fast versions of "Luxury Liner,'' Merle Haggard's "Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down'' and Hank Williams' "Why Don't You Love Me (Like You Used to Do)'' drew ovations. But it was the quieter stuff that made the biggest impression: the Louvin brothers' "My Baby's Gone'' and "Sleepless Nights,'' which Harris first sang with her late partner Gram Parsons.
After 11 songs, Harris and Campbell were gone. Costello and company performed a batch of songs from the new "The Delivery Man,'' with mixed results. The crowd stayed seated until "Pump It Up'' and "Alison,'' which drew a sing-along so loud it rocked the Pavilion tent - and included snippets of "Suspicious Minds'' by that other Elvis.
Deadline forced an early exit, but the musicians were going strong at 10:45 p.m. Encore highlights included a terrific "Pancho and Lefty'' by Harris and an inspirational version of the Stones' "Wild Horses'' with great Costello/Harris vocals. Elvis and Emmylou are together only for a quickie two-week tour. It is a midsummer night's dream pairing.