Ann Arbor News, June 14, 2006

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Elvis goes to New Orleans, and
Hill Auditorium loves it

Will Stewart

Costello, Toussaint team up for terrific, diverse Summer Festival show

It took exactly two songs Tuesday for the strains of New Orleans music to seep into Elvis Costello's appearance at Hill Auditorium.

By the end of Costello's nearly three-hour show with the Big Easy musical legend, Allen Toussaint, and his Crescent City Horns, Costello and his own band, the Imposters, appeared happy just to be sharing the stage — and the music — with their soulful counterparts.

"Allen has written about 450,000 songs," the ever-prolific Costello said early on during Tuesday's perfectly paced and splendidly diverse concert, a warm-up to the 23rd season of the Ann Arbor Summer Festival, which formally gets under way on Friday.

"But I'm catching up to him.

The pair proceeded to trade songs — mostly Costello's, several of Toussaint's and a handful that the pair wrote together for their just-released CD, The River in Reverse, which was the first album recorded in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.

Of these, the pair's "Ascension Day" inverted Professor Longhair's New Orleans anthem "Tipitina" into a somber, minor-key indictment of what Costello called federal and state governments' "incompetent" reaction to the destruction Katrina left in its wake.

Toussaint took the spotlight for tender readings of his own "On Your Way Down" and "Brickyard Blues," as well as a playful romp through "Freedom for the Stallion," before leaving the stage for the Imposters and the Crescent City Horns to swing through Costello's back catalog.

The four-piece Crescent City Horns — Joe Fox on trumpet, Brian Cayolle on baritone saxophone, Big Sam Williams on trombone and tenor saxophonist Amadee Castenell — breathed swinging, new life into Costello staples like "Pump it Up" and "High Fidelity" as well as surprise album cuts, including "Clubland" and "Tears Before Bedtime." Meanwhile, the two groups worked together to transform the classics "Watching the Detectives" and "Alison" into almost free-jazz frenzies.

"Watching the Detectives," in particular, benefited from such reinvention, enjoying the trombone-fueled ska drive it's always hinted at, while Imposters keyboardist Steve Nieve's Hammond organ swirled over the top of the horns' dissonant harmonies, every note of which, Costello pointed out, was charted by Toussaint.

Nieve and drummer Pete Thomas — both of whose tenures with Costello date back to his benchmark backing band, the Attractions — seemed a little out of their power-pop element at first, but settled into a comfortable groove as the evening wore on. Nieve in particular, rarely one for understated accompaniment, seemed to enjoy his role adding musical counterpoint while the horn section carried the day.

By the time Toussaint returned for two extended encores, Costello was mostly taking a back seat as the band rolled through a laundry list of Toussaint-penned standards, highlighted by a sing-along "Working in a Coal Mine" and a fierce, driving "Fortune Teller." There isn't anyone who has a greater appreciation of the American songbook than Costello, and the Rock And Roll Hall of Famer was clearly in his glory acting as sideman and vocalist, happily ceding the spotlight to the understated Toussaint (also a Hall of Fame inductee) without completely giving over the concert to his guests.


The Ann Arbor News, June 14, 2006

Will Stewart reports on Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint with The Imposters and The Crescent City Horns, Tuesday, June 13, 2006, Hill Auditorium, Ann Arbor, MI.


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