Music Review: Elvis Costello at the Santa Barbara Bowl

Elvis Costello performing at the Santa Barbara Bowl with Daryl Hall and The Imposters with Charlie Sexton on June 14, 2024 (Photo by Rebecca Horrigan)

While soaking up Golden Hour light and crisp brews in a relaxed reverie at the top of the Santa Barbara Bowl, the opening notes of “Pump it Up” ushered us quickly down the stairs and into the presence of one of the masters of rock and roll – Elvis Costello.

Performing with the Imposters, Costello was full of swagger, decked out in a fedora and golden shoes (did the angels take his red shoes?) and clearly enjoying a picture perfect SB summer night. The tight musicianship of drummer Pete Thomas, pianist Steve Nieve, bassist Davey Faragher and Texas guitarist Charlie Sexton, who played with Bob Dylan for decades, demonstrates the freewheelin’ sound of seasoned pros having fun while doing what they do best.

The set list ranged from classics to covers to more obscure tracks like a lovely piano ballad from Costello’s musical, “A Face in the Crowd.” Hits like “Everyday I Write the Book” were reinterpreted with a windy and fluid performance, leaving plenty of room for Sexton and Costello to jam out on the guitar, and for the audience to take part in the catchy call and response of “Everyday!” “Everyday!” I relished the chance to see this master of songwriting sing the metaphorical lines I’d replayed in my head for years like: “When your dreamboat turns out to be a footnote/I’m a man with a mission on two or three editions.”

The set concluded with an action-packed dive into crowd-pleasers such as “What’s So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding,” a song that seems to only grow in worldly relevance. “Alison” had the audience in rapture, swaying in their seats to this swoony slower jam. It was a treat to see the punkier side of Costello come out in the driving, “(I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea.”

Closing the show armed with enthusiasm, Daryl Hall didn’t waste any time connecting with his 80’s-craving fanbase, reeling us in with “Maneater.” His voice was strong, and although missing Oates, Hall poured an extra serving of passion into favorites like “I Can’t Go for That” and “Sara Smile.” Concluding the encore with the endlessly upbeat “You Make My Dreams Come True” and looking around the Bowl at the grinning and dancing crowd, it was clear that he made the wishes of many a reality.

At the age of 69 and 77, respectively, Costello and Hall are still full of youthful exuberance and exude an easy joy in performing. As that irresistible Costello tune affirms, their “aim is true.”

Rebecca Horrigan

Written by Rebecca Horrigan

Rebecca is a teacher, writer, and lover of food & wine. She enjoys sharing her travel experiences with the Santa Barbara community.

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    • Yeah – and that caught a lot of people off guard; several seats near us that were empty for Elvis filled up during the break but were soon empty again when they found out that Elvis had already played! (I learned a lesson about assuming anything a few years ago when Dylan and the Grateful Dead were at the Ventura fairgrounds. I got there for the second half, only to hear Dylan finishing his last song while I was walking in.)

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