Review of concert from 2003-07-24: Calgary, Calgary Folk Music
Festival - with Steve Nieve
Calgary Herald, 2003-07-25
- Heath McCoy and Nick Lewis
|CREDIT: Ted Jacob, Calgary Herald
Fans line up alongside a giant video screen for Elvis Costello's
performance Thursday at the folk festival.
Stars shine on opening night
Elvis Costello sings himself into frenzy
Heath McCoy and Nick Lewis
Friday, July 25, 2003
Thursday at the Calgary Folk Music Festival. Performers included Elvis
Costello, Ricky Skaggs, Sondre Lerche, Petrona Martinez and Kris Demeanor.
Attendance: About 9,300.
It's quite a sight. Hundreds of people running with folded chairs,
padded seats, water bottles and backpacks, trying to overcome their
sandals-on-gravel footing, trying not to lose anything on the way. They
rush to get prime real estate in front of the main stage at the Calgary
Folk Music Festival.
With a spectacular opening day lineup that featured Elvis Costello
and Ricky Skaggs, it was understandable when the crowd bottlenecked
through the park entrance as soon as the gates opened.
"I was among them, running with the tarps and chairs," said
Joanne Bachynski, who was parked up front. "It's amazing, the gates
opened 15 minutes ago and look at it now. It's filled with all us fogeys
Now in it's 24th year, the folk festival has emerged as one the highlights
of the Calgary summer. Opening day of the four-day event drew 9,300
fans to Prince's Island Park, just 700 short of a sellout. And like
that other summer highlight, the Calgary Stampede, it's not just about
Two friends from Chicago were camped at the front of the stage Thursday,
waiting to see their hero, Costello. Rozy Stevens, 50, and Mary Gear,
40, met and bonded over their mutual love of Costello in 1996, but the
two have been following the singer individually for the past couple
of decades, travelling as far as London and Hamburg to see him. Thursday
night's folk festival gig marked the ninth time they've seen Costello
"His current show is more for hard core fans than casual fans,"
said Stevens, referring to Costello's penchant for focusing on obscure
and unreleased tunes on this tour. "That's what we like about it."
Local favourite Kris Demeanor kicked off the event appropriately with
an upbeat set of folk-pop originals. Demeanor's Crack Band, featuring
fellow Calgarians Chantal Vitalis and Diane Kooch, were in fine form
during the set.
Colombia's Petrona Martinez followed with her six-piece band, giving
the festival its first taste of the rich world music for which it has
become famous. The 66-year-old Martinez played an infectious, rhythmically
dynamic set that had a crowd of folkies up on their feet and dancing.
Eight-time Grammy Award winner Skaggs was up next, he and his bluegrass
band Kentucky Thunder playing a strikingly honest set that alternated
between fiery 'n' boot-stompin' and tear-in-your-beer tender.
In the lead-up to the much anticipated Elvis, Norway's Sondre Lerche
(who was hand-picked by Costello for the gig) performed a short opening
set. The 20-year-old Lerche played solo with only his acoustic guitar,
his set matching the prettiness of his debut album Faces Down, even
if he lost that CD's rich Bacharach-ish pop layering.
By far, however, the evening belonged to Costello, fiance of Canadian
jazz singer Diana Krall. That was clear from the moment the 49-year-old
songwriting pioneer hit the stage. Strumming an acoustic guitar, backed
up on piano by his longtime collaborator, Steve Nieve, Costello performed
epic, emotionally charged versions of such tunes as Accidents Will Happen,
King of America, In The Darkest Place, All This Useless Beauty, and
the ever-popular Alison.
Highlights of the set came during Forty-Five, with Costello singing
himself into a frenzy. Of course, when he indulged his Beatles muse
and his soul muse, on You've Got To Hide Your Love Away and You've Really
Got A Hold of Me, respectively, the crowd was ecstatic.
Costello left the stage briefly and returned with a white hat on his
head, presented backstage by Mayor Dave Bronconnier. He took the hat
off, looking almost puzzled by the gesture, and launched into an encore
that satisfied everybody. Watching The Detectives and (What's So Funny
'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding, no less.
Powerful stuff. One of the year's best. And a mighty start to this
© Copyright 2003 Calgary Herald