Montreal Gazette, July 31, 2011

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Elvis Costello and the Imposters

Osheaga Festival, Montreal

Mark LePage

In the end, it's the surfeit of song.

At the outset, it was the paucity of fan. Elvis Costello headlines the central night of Osheaga 2011, and there is moonlight on the ground between the stagefront fans and those sitting in the bleachers. It shouldn't matter, but it did.

Has anyone understood – does anyone understand rock 'n' roll like Elvoid does? Sweating under his hat through "Watching the Detectives," with Steve Nieve and Pete Thomas of the Attractions folded into the Imposters, a gorgeous gal dancing in a semi-inexplicable go-go-curtain and the "Hammer of Song" replacing the Songwheel of yore, one wondered. Here was the great Brit rock 'n' roll archivist, Hall of Famer and still-vital performer, and here was a great illustration of a divide between the Eminem generation and the lifers.

It came down to cultural visibility. There were a half dozen bands on the first two days of Osheaga who would namecheck Costello on their knees, and who are indie and work at Kinkos between tours, but who have more access and relevance to the average 22 year old than he does. So you watched a great version of "Everyday I Write the Book" and his only real hit, Alison, nuggets like "Heart of the City" and a tremendous "Blood and Chocolate," throwaway references to Smokey Robinson and Aretha, a version of "I Want You" for the ages, and you didn't wonder where the crowd was.

And in the end, it didn't matter – not when you got to roll right up to the stage to watch that encore, with Sweatin' Elvis and his Les Paul goldtop running the Imposters through "Pump It Up," "What's So Funny ‘Bout Peace Love and Understanding," "Substitute," "The Angels Wanna Wear My Red Shoes" and an emphatic mini-"Purple Rain." It was a surfeit of song, a racing series of brilliancies for too few. But I've watched too many bands on the opposite end of the youth/age curve play for too few and proceed from there to brilliance and stardom (or anonymity) to ever care about that. Nobody's here? Well, I am. If you caught "Radio, Radio," "Beyond Belief," and "(I Don't Want to Go to) Chelsea," you knew that on a good night, the mob doesn't rule.

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Montreal Gazette, July 31, 2011


Mark LePage reviews Elvis Costello & The Imposters, Saturday, July 30, 2011, Osheaga Festival, Parc Jean-Drapeau, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.


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