On Monday night I had the unique privilege of seeing the legendary Elvis Costello with the incomparably talented Roots. Brush aside the fact that it was an opportunity to see Elvis Costello, rock n' roll royalty in my mind, in the 600-capacity Brooklyn Bowl, which is a veritable bucket-list objective to any dedicated concert goer, but it also served as a chance to see the fresh kind of spin a collaboration with the Roots could offer. Anyone who has heard Questlove speak knows that this is clearly someone with an expansive knowledge of music and music history. Anyone who has seen the Roots play knows that this band is not short on extreme talent. They sound like a band that has been playing together for 18 years. Finding out that this would be a one-off show, with no tour to support the release of their collaborative record Wise Up Ghost, made me even more excited.
As I strolled up to Brooklyn Bowl, I saw two separate lines wrapping around North 11th and North 12th street; one for ticket holders, and the other for the guest list. Clearly this was a highly anticipated event. Speaking to someone from Capital-Blue Note, who put out the record yesterday on September 17, I discovered this event was put together only a month and a half ago. I could hear the band inside doing a soundcheck. Everything was running about an hour behind and the anticipation was making everyone restless in their excited frenzies.
Questlove was the first one to hit the stage. He laid down a fat beat and introduced the other members of the Roots one at a time. By the time Elvis Costello finally made his way to the stage, the crowd erupted in a frantic roar. Both Elvis Costello and the Roots are well versed in collaboration, but this particular partnership oozed serious chemistry from start to finish. They played a bunch of cuts from the record while sprinkling in a few classic Elvis hits from the vault such like "Pump It Up" and "I Don't Want to Go to Chelsea." What made the sound particularly interesting is the ability to combine the nuances of Costello's post-punk eclecticism with the Roots chilly-cool and massively funky rhythms without washing out the distinct qualities of their own artistic individuality.
This collaboration was a trip to the fountain of youth for Elvis. It is as trendy and youthful a release as I've heard him put out in recent memory. It's raw, ambitious, original, and hip, while maintaining the element of vitriolic lyricism that has helped define Costello's career. In an interview with Billboard, Costello says of the record, "It's definitely a collage. We weren't suddenly just going to be singing about any subject... but it was mostly outward looking to the world but then it's where your place in it is and where we all are in it."
Buy Wise Up Ghost on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Wise-Up-Ghost-Deluxe-CD/dp/B00D2I8E46/ref=tmm_acd_...