Elvis Costello and the Imposters headlined the M&I Classic Rock on the south end of the grounds Sunday night as Summerfest 2009 came to a close. And Costello clearly took heed of the name of the stage when writing out the exactly two-hour set list.
In a career retrospective of a show, it took Costello 70 minutes to get around to playing "Sulfur to Sugarcane" -- the only song he'd play from his latest disc, "Secret, Profane & Sugarcane."
Perhaps that was not a major surprise, considering that with two long-time bandmates -- drummer Pete Thomas and keyboard player Steve Nieve -- and by now veteran sideman, former Cracker bassist Davey Faragher, in tow as The Imposters, Costello was primed to rock and "Sugarcane" is an acoustic Americana roots record produced by T Bone Burnett.
So, consider last year's "Momofoku" this band's latest outing and from it, they did three tunes, opening the set with "Stella Hurt" and adding "Turpentine" and "Go Away" later on.
Instead, the band focused on hits and deeper cuts from the Costello back catalog. It's easier to name the records up to 1987 not represented Sunday night -- "Get Happy!!!," "Almost Blue" and "Goodbye Cruel World."
From 1977's "My Aim Is True" Costello and company played "Red Shoes," "Waiting for the End of the World" and "Alison," which interpolated not only "Tracks of My Tears" and "Tears of a Clown," but also "Suspicious Minds." "Watching the Detectives" first appeared as a single after that disc.
"You Belong to Me," "(I Don't Want to Go to) Chelsea," Pump It Up" and "Radio Radio" represented the "This Year's Model" era and "Accidents Will Happen" and "(What's So Funny Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding" were drawn from 1979's "Armed Forces."
From "Trust," they played "Clubland" and from "Imperial Bedroom" the overflow crowd heard "Beyond Belief" and "Man Out of Time." An unusual arrangement of the familiar "Every Day I Write the Book" represented 1983's "Punch the Clock."
An electric version of "Brilliant Mistake" came from 1987's "King of America" and "Blood and Chocolate" from the same year provided "I Hope You're Happy Now" and "Uncomplicated."
The quartet also played "Monkey to Man" and "Bedlam" from 2004's "The Delivery Man" and "Radio Sweetheart," which Costello announced as the first song he ever recorded.
Costello and Nieve, especially, were clearly in a playful mood as the latter dithered with a theremin and quirky keyboard sounds that at time threatened to drown the show in novelty. Costello played rock god guitar, with lengthy solos that surprised even the longest, most die-hard fans.
On an extended version of "Detectives" Costello unleashed his inner Vernon Reid, playing a dissonant solo that had some shaking their heads in dismay and held others rapt.
Costello didn't chat all that much, but he did involve the crowd in a sing-along on "Red Shoes" and encouraged some rhythmic clapping. No, Sunday night, Costello was all business.
For those fans who love the rock and roll Elvis most of all, this show was a return to form and was much needed nutrition. Although he appeared at Summerfest two years ago, that was with New Orleans R&B legend Allen Toussaint (E.C. also opened for The Police here last year).
Sunday night's performance was Costello's first headlining Milwaukee rock show in years. And it sure felt good.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.