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 his latest collaboration The River in Reverse with New Orleans R&B legend Allen Toussaint.
With the soft-spoken piano maestro joining late into the 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.
Despite 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 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 setlist?
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 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 1960s. 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 heard This Year's Model, Get Happy!! or Imperial Bedroom.
Still, Costello's face had "pinch me" written all over it, particularly while jamming 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, before giving way to masterful renditions of "Wonder Woman," "International Echo," "Working in the Coal Mine" and 'Alison." Two more encores followed, with Costello joking he could "play until 2 o'clock" before wrapping up with pensive closer "The Sharpest Thorn."