With only a few dates left on the itinerary before everyone heads home, there aren’t many tours that take a completely left turn from the style, content and tone they started with. This is coastal time. Still, that’s exactly what happened in the last six shows of Elvis Costello & the Imposters’ “We’re Going on a Summer Holiday Tour”; no one who saw any of the first 17 concerts on the trip could hardly understand how things worked. sweated in the last half dozen. This was due to the transformative presence of a three-man horn section, which the ad correctly promised would only appear for the tour coda. What was unexpected was how extensively Costello re-equipped the entire show to build around these new brass arrangements, ditching certain basic staples and adding new ones, showing exactly what different flavors can be accomplished with horns.
As a result of this serious tinkering, Costello’s sold-out show (the first of two nights there) at New York City’s Beacon Theater on Wednesday was one of the most complex and exciting shows we’ve seen him do with the Imposters since he formed that band. After Attractions a few decades ago, with a tentatively expanded lineup that could be described as Imposters+. It was a dream show in so many ways, with the singer announcing from the very beginning that everyone should settle in quickly because they shouldn’t be distracted by settling for a one-of-a-kind concert. (Six? Close enough.) If the constant use of the tenor saxophone, trumpet, and trombone didn’t make you horny, you might feel different. But it was worth sacrificing a little—not all, a little—of the rock ‘n’ roll fever of the previous parts of the tour in favor of a less predictable roller coaster ride that best embodies deep soul and jazz elements. crazy hairpin turns.
Of the 23 songs performed in the two hours and 15 minutes of the show, only one made no use of the horn part. That song, played almost at the end of the night, looked like it had been called out loud by Costello. It was “Blood and Hot Sauce”, a song from the stage musical based on “A Face in the Crowd”, and previewed it almost every night on her tour in 2023 as a politically satirical gospel-rocker. Exciting enough to be the sequel to “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding”. (The posting was not repeated on night 2.) All 22 remaining found a spot for the three intruders lined up to the left of keyboardist Steve Nieve – trumpeter and arranger Michael Leonhart, saxophonist Donny McCaslin, and trombonist Ray Mason.
Sometimes they added to songs that made them feel like they should have horns, or little additions that they really had at some point in the distant past. (Costello recorded a horn segment and toured around “Punch the Clock” in 1983, then brought back the idea of very brief collaborations with Allen Toussaint and Roots in the late 2000s and early 2010s.) -R&B-inspired “Be happy!” – The confusion of “Having” and “Can’t Stand Up for Falling Down”, which turned into a full-blown “High Fidelity” – gave an indication of what some of the songs in this 1980 classic sounded almost like. involved rice. But then it was also used in a few old songs that a fan would probably never guess, such as the set’s opening number “Pills and Soap”. This song was always a little on the cold and clinical side on Costello’s debut recording over 40 years ago, but it definitely warmed up in Leonhart’s show opening arrangement without completely losing its sinister side; If you could replace this version with the original in your collection, now that you’ve heard of it, you probably would.
Some of the episode’s contributions to Costello staples were a little closer to the subconscious side, especially when things sound like “I Don’t Want to Go to Chelsea” and “Watch Detectives” or the cast get five and then “Accidents Will Happen”‘s Hollywood High, Costello-and- Reappear for a repeating riff at the very end of a number, as they did at the close of the Nieve duo version. (no way, no waysaid the horns there in unison, if the reeds can nag.) The featured trio brought a deeper, darker, and more realistic mirror to what might be considered mid-periods like “The Comedians” and “The Poison Rose.” it turned into a totally country-jazz song and always threatened to be on “King of America”.
And in two particular cases, the added players allowed the songs to be heard on recording, almost like never before. While “Shipbuilding” provided Leonhart’s best reincarnated impression of the original trumpeter Chet Baker, it was Burt Bacharach who seemed truly resurrected when Costello’s band started from “Painted From Memory” to “Toledo.” Costello promised “You’ll hear his voice” when the song started, and the trio managed to deliver on that promise by adding a Bacharachian flugelhorn and flute to the Burt’s riff.
But one of the show’s real joys, at least for die-hard fans, was in the more “dark” material from the 21st century, which Costello chose to include in his show because he had a firm idea of what the horns could do with it. This included some material from the overlooked pandemic-era album, which featured Leonhart in a significant debut, and 2021’s “Hey Clockface,” which contributed to the set with the extremely moody “We Are All Cowards Now” and “Newspaper Pane.” The period of Short Roots (as in Questlove) was celebrated with “Cinco Minutos Con Vos”. And “Mr. and Miss Hush”, perhaps one of the less notable songs from the Grammy-winning “Look Now” album, has a brand new arrangement that turns him into a true goalie. This song is now basically “Get Happy!!” The style is a crush, but tuned to the rhythm of “Pump It Up” so much that it felt like it would provoke a stir at any moment.
The highlight of the show? When former EC producer and now touring opener Nick Lowe takes the mic to share the “Peace, Love and Understanding” duet, as he has occasionally done on his last two tours, and did it again on Wednesday, you’d be challenged. He pressured her to say, for the sake of feelings, that it wasn’t.
But in this first Beacon show, there was no competition for the winner of this particular derby. From 2003’s “North” album, “Someone Takek the Words Away” was Costello’s least underrated album and – oddly enough – his most hopeless and romantic album at the same time. Much of this somewhat awkward, memorable ballad has been worded, as the vocals have been replaced by a very long instrumental section with Leonhart and Mason slowly continuing the core riff and McCaslin going completely insane. with an astonishing solo that continues to descend in spirals that the listening human brain has difficulty understanding. McCaslin is known for his work on David Bowie’s “Blackstar” album, so this is a guy who knows how to do Dark Sax. What he did on “Someone Takek the Words Away” on this hot July night on the Upper West Side was the most mind-blowing tenor saxophone solo I’ve ever heard someone do on a “rock” song since Chris Potter was released. Steely Dan’s “West of Hollywood” – but it was as heartbreaking as it was dizzying.
Focusing on horn contributions admittedly doesn’t leave much room for admiring the never-to-be-understood perfection of The Imposters or Costello, who seems to have had one or two temporary vocal moments in the opening issues, and then quickly warmed up to the top-notch hum/belt the audience knew and loved. Alongside the horns was another guest who would be Charlie Sexton, who has been such a credible part of Costello’s shows in 2022-23 that if he doesn’t harbor a particular wanderlust, it seems inevitable that he will be permanently instilled. There’s a pretty good balance of lead guitar at this point, with Elvis doing more psychedelic – or psychotic – solos and doing bluesier stuff that takes the show a road home like the Sexton, Texas slinger does in a new ish. , the unreleased number that has recently become a trusted part of Costello’s “Licorice on Your Tongue” shows. Something that hasn’t been on this show for the last year and a half (including when we caught this tour less than a month ago at LA’s Greek) that’s been the nightly highlight of Costello shows, “What if I Can’t” Usually by both Elvis and Charlie You Everything But Love”, which includes the twin break-up flurry. It was missed, but it would have been a little too loud and messy for this more finely tuned part of the tour.
The “Summer Vacation” tour concluded Friday night at the Met in Philadelphia, and horn cases were locked in place as Costello and Nieve considered reuniting as a duo for an overseas tour—like drum boxes. autumn extended to America, possibly at a later date. But as the singer and pianist moves to Paris, fans lucky enough to catch these last six reunions can tell themselves: Bridgeport, Boston, Syracuse, Philly, Baltimore and Beacon will always be on hand.
Setlist for Beacon Theatre, July 12, 2023:
- pills and soap
- newspaper bread
- Like a Licorice Root on Your Tongue
- Alison/ I’ll Make You Love Me
- almost blue
- Now We’re All Cowards
- turn it off
- I Do (Zula’s Song)
- Someone Takes the Words
- When I Fall I Can’t Get Up (excerpt)
- High loyalty
- Mr and Mrs Hush
- Five Minutes With You
- watching the detectives
- (I don’t want to go) Chelsea
- There Will Be Accidents
- Blood and Hot Sauce
- poison rose
- (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding (with Nick Lowe)