Elvis costello and the Imposters with Joe Henry at the Molson Amphitheatre, Wednesday (June 12). Tickets: $20-$75.50. Attendance: 6,500. Rating: NNN
As people slowly filed into the concrete bunker known as the Molson Amphitheatre for the return of Elvis Costello, no one seemed to pay much attention to the mopey Joe on stage -- Joe Henry that is -- dressed for a Whitehorse fall.Not that the tiresome tunesmith warranted a second glance. If a singer/songwriter's thrill value were measured on a colour scale, Henry would be a light beige.
So what's Baron von Bland doing on tour with Costello? Well, our boy Elvis is at that point in his career where he should be cautious about being upstaged by more exciting opening acts. And it just so happens that Henry recently produced a Solomon Burke comeback recording for Epitaph's Anti subsidiary for which Costello composed a tune, so a kindly bit of reciprocity may have been in order.
Whatever the reason, Henry's set spared us from hearing as an opener a tape of Costello's misguided popera experiment with mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter. This indeed was a more considerate Costello.
Instead of hammering away at the songs from his current album as usual, Costello accepted the entertainment side of his sales job and played to the interests of long-time fans by alternating tunes from his new When I Was Cruel (Island/Universal) with old favourites.
While he seemed chuffed at the fist-pumping reaction to Accidents Will Happen, Beyond Belief and Mystery Dance -- no matter however recklessly he thrashed them out -- he couldn't have been overjoyed to hear the light patter he got after returning to the regular program.
The evening's only real surprise was his performance of The Judgement -- the song written for "the king of rock and soul," Solomon Burke -- an attempt to improve on the jury-of-love concept of O.V. Wright's haunting Eight Men, Four Women.
An ambitious bid, certainly, but without any semblance of a melody line or an ending, it's hardly the deep soul classic Costello envisioned. Hey, not every one's another Alison.