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Published: 2009/09/25

Levon Helm, Nick Lowe, Richard Thompson and Allen Toussaint Join Elvis Costello

Levon Helm, Richard Thompson, Allen Toussaint, Larry Campbell, Ray LaMontagne and Nick Lowe shared the stage with Elvis Costello & the Imposters last night. The all-star jam took place at New York’s Apollo Theater as part of a taping for Costello’s Sundance Channel talk show program Spectacle. Costello has been filming his show at the Apollo all week, including episodes featuring Sheryl Crow, John Prine and Lyle Lovett.

The night opened with Campbell jamming onstage with Costello & the Imposters on “Blame It On Cain” and “Rag Mama Rag.” Costello then shifted into talk show host mode, introducing and interviewing Fairport Convention’s Richard Thompson. The two musicians discussed their longstanding friendship and performed a few songs together, including “Shoot Out the Lights” and “How I Wanted To.” Thompson remained onstage for the show’s next segment, which featured Allen Toussaint (who Costello referred to as A.T.). Costello has performed with the New Orleans legend a number of times since first collaborating on a Yoko Ono record in 1983 and released the collaborative LP The River in Reverse in 2006. The two musicians discussed their longstanding friendship onstage and played a few songs, including “Fortune Teller” (Toussaint had not performed at the famed venue since 1957).

After a short break, Lowe—another one of Costello’s heroes—took the stage for a similar segment and jam-session. Costello told a humorous story about trying to buy the seminal musician a drink before reaching the legal age and joked about the white haired singer’s punk roots. Costello, Toussaint, Thompson and the Imposters then backed Lowe on “Ascension Day.” Lowe also offered an acoustic version of “The Beast in Me.”

The show’s final segment was something of a tribute to Band drummer Levon Helm. While introducing Helm, Costello discussed the drummer’s connection with each musician onstage, especially Toussaint who produced two records for the Band (Costello and Toussaint also previewed some songs off The River in Reverse at one of Helm’s Midnight Rambles in 2006).

Helm has been unable to sing or speak in public since July due to a vocal strain and, in a particularly humorous moment, answered Costello’s questions through a serious of drum fills. The evening’s entire cast—including Campbell—then took the stage together for an all-star jam-session. The set’s clear highlight was a Costello-sung version of the Grateful Dead’s “Tennessee Jed.”
Ray LaMontagne, who recorded an episode of the program a night earlier, also sat in on two sing-along versions of “The Weight.”

Bruce Springsteen will tape an episode of Spectacle at the Apollo this evening.

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