Elvis Costello delivers the Delivery Man live and in person, with the legendary Emmylou Harris
by Christopher Arnott - July 21, 2005
His last few records include an album of songs co-written with Burt Bacharach ( Painted from Memory ), a return to his angry- young-man roots (When I Was Cruel), the Sinatra-esque torch song torpor North and his first full-length orchestral composition, Il Sogno. But Elvis Costello isn't hemmed in by either styles or formats.
"The process is always in the process of changing," says the 50-year-old legend of New Wave, in an interview with the Advocate. "I'm not thinking in terms of 'Will I write an album?' I'm thinking about that song I'm doing at the moment. When I was a little kid, we still had 78-r.p.m. records. Now there are DVDs. The frame keeps changing, and the same goes for the live show."
His latest project is The Delivery Man , a Memphis soul/Southern Gospel stew recorded in Oxford, Miss., featuring duets with Emmylou Harris (who's joining him on the tour that will stop July 22 at the Chevrolet Theatre in Wallingford) and Lucinda Williams. The live show will feature the bulk of The Delivery Man , plus old songs by both Costello and Harris.
"Emmylou and I share a repertoire," Costello explains. "And The Delivery Man has a story going through it, with a beginning, a middle and an end. So we're trying build a [new] story that incorporates all of that."
Finding the right musicians for the project was easy: Costello used the Imposters, his back-up band since 2001, two of whose members, Pete Thomas and Steve Nieve, have been with him on and off since 1978's This Year's Model . "I don't know if you've seen them in a while, but the Imposters are as good a group as exists in the world today. It'd be ludicrous not to have them along."
Costello emphasizes the unusual format for this short tour. For starters, there's no opening act. Costello and the Imposters will do about 25 minutes on their own, then bring in Harris for a mix of her hits, some duets, songs from The Delivery Man , and even tunes that have yet to be recorded.
The touring life still seems to agree with Elvis Costello.
"Touring is what I do. If I were to lose sleep over whether my albums did well financially, I'd never sleep."
Next up for Costello is a three- character chamber opera about Hans Christian Andersen.
So he's done with country music?
Elvis Costello, constantly in motion, has already moved on. "You shouldn't assume all the songs in the repertoire [on this tour] are country. There are great harmony songs. There's a real rolling feel to it."