The indefatigable Elvis Costello apparently still had energy to burn after leaving the Fair Grounds on Thursday. Five hours after wrapping up his set on the New Orleans Jazz Fest's Gentilly Stage with his band the Sugarcanes, he appeared on stage at The Parish of the House of Blues during Lil Band o' Gold's tribute to late Louisiana songwriter Bobby Charles.
Lil Band o' Gold is already a southwest Louisiana all-star ensemble fronted by guitarist C.C. Adcock and accordionist Steve Riley and powered by veteran swamp pop drummer/vocalist Warren Storm. Charles, who died this spring in Abbeville, wrote a slew of songs recorded by the likes of Fats Domino ("Walking to New Orleans") and Bill Haley & the Comets ("See You Later Alligator"). He counted many well-known musicians among his fans and admirers.
Rumors that some of those admirers, including Robert Plant — who sat in with Lil Band o' Gold at Tipitina's three years ago, while in town to record songs for a Fats Domino tribute album — might turn up at The Parish on Thursday sparked a last-minute run on tickets. The 300-capacity room was full as the band, augmented by bonus tenor sax player Derek Huston, swung into gear.
Among the first guests was Shannon McNally. She opened with Charles' "I Spent All My Money Loving You" and "Small Town Talk." She and Storm traded verses on an achingly beautiful "Tennessee Blues," with David Egan and Dr. John on keyboards.
It was difficult to see Dr. John, given that the crowd was pressed close to the low stage. He was among Charles' close friends, and produced Charles' new CD, "Timeless," released just weeks after his death.
Warren sang lead on a sweet "(I Don't Know Why I Love You) But I Do," a Charles composition that became a massive hit for Frogman Henry.
Costello arrived on stage around midnight, invigorated by the setting, the band and the music. He started off with "Big Boys Cry," a song Charles recorded in the 1960s on his Hub-City Records label, but did not write. During a subsequent "Before I Grow Too Old," Costello gripped the microphone and roused the band and crowd, preaching the song as much as singing it alongside swamp pop survivor Tommy McLain. "Elvis Costello!" said McLain. "Tommy McLain!" said Costello.
Costello stuck around to strum guitar on "See You Later, Alligator," more than happy to be just another guy in the band paying tribute to a Louisiana master.