St. Paul Pioneer Press, June 29, 2006

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Elvis Costello finds kindred spirit in
bluesman Allen Toussaint

Rob Hubbard

Elvis Costello has met his match. Although long regarded as one of the world's great songwriters, the Brit has been spending much of the past 15 years channeling his muse through partnerships. From string quartets to opera singers to jazz big bands to '60s-era soft popster Burt Bacharach, Costello has seemingly been seeking someone who will help him find fresh inspiration and has found mixed success.

But then Hurricane Katrina brought about a reunion with a songsmith who has written even more music than the prolific Costello: New Orleans R&B master Allen Toussaint. They connected for a number of benefits for the victims of Katrina, and then set about recording an album of new collaborations mixed with older Toussaint songs that spoke to the survivors' situation.

Now the duo has hit the road with a blended band of Costello's Imposters — which includes most of his original group, the Attractions — and Toussaint's Crescent City Horns and guitarist Anthony Brown. And Wednesday night's performance at St. Paul's O'Shaughnessy showed it to be the best thing to happen to Costello in years. Filled with imaginative arrangements and funky energy, the well-paced 2½-hour concert liberated Costello's inner soul man and lent new life to songs from throughout his almost three-decade-long career.

Although he emerged amid the punks of late '70s London, Costello was always more a sculptor of song whose rage gained him entrée to the club. And the U.S. government's response to New Orleans' plight seems to have sharpened the focus of that rage more than anything he's yet confronted in his work.

It came through loud and clear Wednesday in his impassioned shouts near the end of the title track from his Toussaint collaboration, The River in Reverse, on his piercing guitar solos on "Broken Promise Land," and through his lyrics for a slice of the returning evacuees' lives, "Ascension Day," on which Toussaint's piano played a minor-key variation on a theme by Professor Longhair.

But Toussaint, a master of love songs, also has clearly touched the tender side of Costello's heart as well, as evidenced by the latter's outstanding vocal performances on such ballads as "Poisoned Rose" and "The Greatest Love." That said, the final encore will linger longest in memory, as the horns brought funky flair to "I Can't Stand Up (for Falling Down)" and "High Fidelity" and set the crowd to dancing.


St. Paul Pioneer Press, June 29, 2006

Rob Hubbard reviews Elvis Costello & The Imposters with Allen Toussaint and The Crescent City Horns, Wednesday, June 28, 2006, The O'Shaughnessy, Saint Paul, MN.


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