Elvis Costello has always had a gift for finding the perfect collaborators, from Nick Lowe to George Jones to Burt Bacharach. But he had to come to Louisville to find a flaming redhead prodigious on both the accordion and musical saw.
That would be Brigid Kaelin, who managed to steal at least a little of Costello's show Wednesday at the Louisville Palace — if not a little of his heart. Diana Krall might want to watch her back. Kaelin left a mash note for Costello at WFPK's studios Wednesday afternoon, where he was doing an interview, and that typically sassy move led to an invitation to play accordion on the Velvet Underground's "Femme Fatale." And that led to a saw solo — that's right, a saw solo — on "Mr. Feathers" and an accordion-keyboard duel with Steve Nieve on "Pump It Up." Costello even included her in the band introductions, always a nice addition to a musician's resume.
It was all a charming exclamation point to an already stellar show that saw an energized Costello lead his band, The Imposters, on a tour through his storied catalog. No one there needed a reminder that Costello is one of his generation's finest songwriters, but it never hurts to hear 2½ hours of solid proof. This was a rock 'n' roll show, and Costello's powerful voice and guitar were the focus while The Imposters were his ideal complement. The rhythm section of Pete Thomas and Davey Faragher never wavered, while Nieve whipped up all kinds of strange magic.
The main set had a couple of lulls, but "Radio Radio," Costello's famous diatribe against the music industry's infrastructure, wasn't one of them. Costello delivered it with nearly the same gusto as he did 30 years ago and, sadly, for good reason; he still can't get played on anything other than public radio.
All three encores were superb, highlighted by a gorgeous solo acoustic version of "Alison," an elegantly subtle "Man Out of Time," a blazing "Pump It Up" and a celebratory "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding?" that ended the night on an adrenaline rush.