Liverpool Echo, July 6, 2007

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Liverpool Echo

UK & Irish newspapers

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Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint

The New Picket, Liverpool

Raphael Callaghan

Time was when you could see Declan McManus for a few shillings every week at the Temple Bar off Dale Street.

Last night Elvis Costello repaid his Liverpool dues with a storming fund-raising gig at and for the new Picket venue in Jordan Street.

But it was no ordinary show. Only Steve Nieve remains from the Attractions, and the bulk of the band have been transplanted from New Orleans, including the four-man Crescent City Horns who Elvis took great delight in conducting throughout the show, plus the gig's secret weapon, a dignified man who pumped out great swirls of rippling N.O. piano for two and a half hours.

This was R&B legend Allen Toussaint, with a string of hits behind him as writer and producer ("Working In A Coalmine" and "Get Out Of My Life Woman" to name but two).

Mr Toussaint follows in the footsteps of Burt Bacharach and Paul McCartney as Elvis's latest songwriting collaborator, and this combination is the most rewarding yet.

Much of the set was from the pair's album of last year, The River In Reverse, which was born out of the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

Elvis attacked Toussaint nuggets like "On Your Way Down" and "Tears Tears And More Tears," but their new songs have a resonance that only another waterfront city can appreciate — "Broken Promise Land," "Ascension Day" (dedicated to George Melly), "International Echo" and the powerful "The River In Reverse" itself.

Allen Toussaint is part of a long line of New Orleans R & B piano players that began with Professor Longhair and Fats Domino. He lost many personal and musical possessions in the aftermath of Katrina. In the week that parts of West Derby were under water, and only 100 miles from Merseyside many homes were still feeling the affects of the UK's our own floods, Allen must have thought a New Orleans voodoo spell had been cast upon him.

He sang and played beautifully on his own "Who's Gonna Help Brother Get Further" and "Yes We Can," while Elvis roared through Crescent City favourites "A Certain Girl," "Fortune Teller" and "Slippin' And Slidin'."

Costello's own back catalogue was not neglected, but the horn section gave a new flavour to "(I Don't Want To Go To) Chelsea," "Alison," "Clubland" and "Pump It Up." "Watching The Detectives" became even more like a low-budget B-movie feature, the menacing horns creating their own moody soundtrack.

Elvis brought the memorable night to a close with another Toussaint-Costello effort, The Sharpest Thorn, Elvis punctuating the words by brandishing a bouquet of red roses presented to him by Phil Hayes of the Picket (there was one for Toussaint too).

The Picket is a fabulously intimate venue — I haven't been this close to Elvis since his first appearance at Eric's in 1977 or, indeed, since the Temple Bar in 1975.

If Phil Hayes wants a Picket line of punters supporting his venue in the future, all he has to do is host more shows like this one.

RATING: 10/10 Pump it up!

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Liverpool Echo, July 6, 2007


Raphael Callaghan reviews Elvis Costello and The Allen Toussaint Band & Horns, Thursday, July 5, 2007, The New Picket, Liverpool, England.


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