Boston Sports Desk: Jenna Cavanaugh: 31st July 2015
Don’t Mean to be Cheesy, But…: Steely Dan & Elvis Costello and The Imposters
My first thought was of aged sharp cheddar cheese. Blue Hills Bank Pavilion put on a tremendous double header last night to a rowdy crowd of diehard music listeners. Elvis Costello and the Imposters and Steely Dan performed under thick humid, rainy Boston Skies. Both acts have been playing since the 70s; one’s first thought of decades-old musicians is a concern for weakened windpipes and faded stardom. Elvis Costello and Steely Dan showed their fans the brilliance of aging cheese: sometimes the longer something sits, the better it becomes.
I was not around in the 70s to fully argue my point. Yet the intensity and musical ability that the musicians brought to the stage last night were not that of a used-to-be 70s rock star. Instead, the music brought the older crowd to its feet as the summer storm rolled through the city.
Elvis Costello and The Imposters began their hour long set before Steely Dan with a wailing rock vibe that only stems from an experienced onstage performer. Dressed in all black with sunglasses and a hat, Costello was the epitome of “cool, calm, and collected.” The solos and guitar riffs excited the audience as Costello’s expression remained straight-faced. The rocker and band were a perfect transition to Steely Dan’s jazz-rock vibe. There was no one act that completely outshone the other or was clearly a mediocre opener.
Steely Dan began around 8:30 as their instrumental usage further demonstrated the concert’s success with aged musicians. They performed “Black Cow” as well as “Peg,” a huge Steely Dan song. Donald Fagen, the lead vocalist who is also one of the founding members of the band, alternated between many different instruments even throughout the first few songs on the night. Fagen went from the keyboard to the melodica as saxophonists and back-up singers bookended him onstage. Walter Becker, the other founding member of Steely Dan, complimented Fagen with his guitarist skills.
The range of instrumental qualities of Steely Dan’s performance was wider than many bigger shows happening this summer. Most tours rely more on the light effects and back up vocals to carry a good performance; usually, it works. Steely Dan and Elvis Costello stuck to their roots of pure musical ability to carry through a solid night. As I have slightly humorously compared their long-standing talents to the benefits of aged cheese, expertise of the basics should continue to be cherished in order for other musicians to continue a streak as long as the ones performed last night.