Steely Dan, Elvis Costello Shine in the Rain: 2015

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Elvis Costello at Red Rocks

With the early downpour and a misty cloud sitting on Red Rocks all night long one half-expected Bono and The Edge to come out of the mist and kick into “Out of Control.” While perhaps not quite as epic as that U2 concert all those years ago (the June 6, 1983 show seen in Under a Blood Red Sky), Steely Dan and Elvis Costello made a rain-soaked night easily worth the inconvenience of soaked clothes and muddy shoes.

On this July 6, 2015 evening, they kicked off a tour that initially seemed like an odd pairing that worked beyond all expectations, with no opening-night jitters on anyone’s part. The tickets said 7 p.m. and that’s exactly when things got rolling. Costello’s tight opening set clocked in at exactly an hour, but he still managed to cram 13 songs – some classics, some deep cuts – into that time, with the Imposters running at full speed powered by the always astonishing drumming of Pete Thomas. Costello was thrilled to be back at Morrison, Colorado’s Red Rocks – he had opened here for The Police during that reunion tour – and was charming and upbeat (and included the now-obligatory comment every performer that plays Colorado makes these days about legalized marijuana).

The big hits were there, with “Alison” and “Everyday I Write the Book” getting a mild rearrangement with the former being even more melancholy and wistful than the original and the latter rocking noticeably harder. Hardcore fans were rewarded with “Clubland” and epic, grand versions of “Beyond Belief” and “Man Out of Time,” filled with Steve Nieve’s predictably lush keyboard fills. The Nick Lowe cover of “(What’s So Funny ‘bout) Peace, Love and Understanding” has had an odd evolution, going from a throw-away B-side to becoming a 21st Century anthem. It was a roaring set-closer that had the crowd on its feet and singing along.

Watch Costello and the Imposters perform “Radio, Radio” and “Clubland” one month later

Related: Costello’s 1977 U.S. launch – The inside story

The big Dan band/Photo by Sam Wolf via

The big Steely Dan band

Walter Becker and Donald Fagen were also in upbeat moods, starting with some wry comments about the weather (last time Steely Dan played Red Rocks it was a solid downpour, not just the sporadic rain on this night). Things have settled down since they initially reunited in the early ‘90s. Dan tours are now fairly regular occurrences, but fans are still awestruck to hear “Black Friday” and “Kid Charlemagne” coming to life before their eyes and sound different from the studio versions yet still perfect. The duo allow their crack band to drift a bit away from shore, especially stellar guitarist Jon Herington. “Bodhisattva” crackled with a manic power and stunning synchronicity among the players. While a few recent staples weren’t in the setlist – will I ever get to hear “Pretzel Logic” live? – fan favorites like “Peg,” “My Old School” and “Reelin’ in the Years” seemed to leave everyone satisfied. That included everyone onstage as well.

Watch them perform several months later

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Mark Brown
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  1. Buzz
    #1 Buzz 18 February, 2016, 11:09

    Peace, Love, and Understanding a throw-away B-side? Thought I’d heard it all

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    • Dexter Keys
      Dexter Keys 8 July, 2018, 19:58

      Yes! The Elvis and the Attractions version was originally the B-side to Nick Lowe’s “American Squirm” and was credited to Nick Lowe and His Sound. The song was added to the American version of Armed Forces but doesn’t appear on the original UK version.

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