It took 29 years for Elvis Costello to make a tour stop in Green Bay.
The wait was definitely worth it.
From the moment one of rock's most beloved elder statesmen greeted a revved-up Oneida Casino Pavilion Nights crowd Saturday with "What's So Funny 'Bout (Peace, Love and Understanding)," the tent was all but ready to host a greatest-hits-fueled trip down memory lane.
But even with more than 25 albums to his credit, Costello doesn't do nostalgia — not when he's relevant as ever thanks to latest collaboration The River in Reverse with New Orleans R&B legend Allen Toussaint.
With the soft-spoken piano maestro joining late into second song "Monkey to Man," the black-clad Costello officially had his partner in crime for the evening. Together, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame duo proved a match made in music heaven.
But even with the weight of their credentials poised to crush the stage, there was plenty of space to share with backing bands The Imposters and Crescent City Horns — particularly the effervescent "Big" Sam Williams on trombone — who helped bring the show's energy level to ridiculously fun heights on songs as diverse as "Pump It Up" and Toussaint standard "Tears, Tears and More Tears."
And what about that set list?
The bulk of River was sprinkled throughout the two-and-a-half hour performance, with "Broken Promise Land," "Freedom For The Stallion" and a memorable sing-a-long to "Who's Gonna Help Brother Get Further?" among the early gems. With its stinging chorus of "Wake me up / Wake me up with a slap or kiss / There must be something better than this," the brilliant title track reminded the audience why Costello and Toussaint came together in the first place.
Having declared their musical reunion "one of the few good things" about the "dreadful woman" called Hurricane Katrina, Costello paid appropriate respect to Toussaint and the New Orleans sound he helped establish as a hitmaker in the '60s and '70s.
In fact, Costello's enthusiasm to be playing alongside one of his heroes was so apparent, that at times he looked like a little kid finally asked to sit at the big boy's table – which of course, is foolish to anyone who's ever picked up This Year's Model, Get Happy and Imperial Bedroom.
Still, Costello's face had "pinch me" written all over it, particularly on rarities like "Clown Strike, "Poisoned Rose" and "Tears Before Bedtime," which were given brand new arrangements thanks to Toussaint.
The night turned especially gritty as Costello covered the breadth of his entire catalog with a murderers row of "Bedlam," "Dust," "Watching the Detectives," "I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down" and "High Fidelity." A first encore brought Toussaint back into the fold with improvised New Orleans-style piano giving way to masterful renditions of "Wonder Woman," "International Echo," "Working in a Coal Mine" and "Alison." Stunningly, two more encores followed, with Costello joking he could "play until 2 o'clock" before wrapping up with pensive closer "The Sharpest Thorn."
One stage, two heavyweights — both with an unparalleled appreciation for music.
Again, the wait was definitely worth it.