Last night Monday September 16th, The Roots and Elvis Costello super-collided onstage at Brooklyn Bowl, igniting the capacity crowd like musical matter and anti-matter, respectively. The occasion was the first live performance of Wise Up Ghost–their collaborative LP on Blue Note Records, which was released today, Tuesday September 17th. Costello and The Roots casually took the stage to the sound of thunderous applause as the room swelled with anticipation for what was about to unfold. Questlove addressed the room before the band took flight, announcing that this performance would give everyone assembled a glimpse into their creative process at 30 Rock; the dedicated rehearsal space at 30 Rockefeller Plaza that The Roots operate out of for Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. Roots legend has it, it was a namecheck of Costello in Jimmy Fallon’s original pitch to The Roots when he recruited them as his late night houseband that put the inkling of a collaboration in Questo’s mind–an inkling that became full-fledged novel when The Roots and Costello cemented their musical chemistry on live TV last year.
Though his longstanding DJ residency at Brooklyn Bowl’s “Bowl-Train” party has created a sort of hometown crowd for The Roots in Williamsburg, Costello’s rebel vet status drew a whole other generation to the hipster enclave; lines and lines of white people well into their 50s (we saw a few of ‘em that prolly used to rock out pretty hard). The night’s material was equal parts blue collar pub rock–laced with a poetic anger in Costello’s lyrics that consciously channeled Ezra Pound and Allen Ginsburg–and plush soul arrangements underscored by The Roots’ signature percussive onslaught. The melodies – all of them infectious – found the capacity crowd dancing along to the performance that ran through tracks built upon a broad spectrum of influences from dub to Dilla.
While the idea of Wise Up Ghost first elated some and confused others, last night’s performance proved the decision to launch a collaborative project was one of the best The Roots and Elvis Costello could have made. In particular, the crowd was ‘bowled’ over by Elvis’ and Questo’s extended version of “I Want You” a moment that kept coming up in conversation even the next morning (“Crazy epic. Like, I’m pretty sure spirits roamed…”) “Wise Up Ghost” was equally memorable. We chatted with one convert–quite the theatrical lady–in the bathroom about what the night meant for her. Asked which side she was there for in the musical wedding, she replied: “That’s not what matters,” going on to expound that Costello’s lyrics + The Roots’ soul made the blues danceable for the first time in her life. No joke; it was too much for her to handle (her words). Hence the emotional break in the BB ladies room, right in the middle of the most important show of her life.
Hit the link to hear the official album stream as you click through our photo gallery from Michael Weintrob (above) who was on hand to document the historic event and tune in to Late Night With Jimmy Fallon on NBC tonight for an on-air sample.
Elvis Costello x The Roots Live at Brooklyn Bowl Set-List
1. Wake Me Up
2. Refuse To Be Saved
3. Stick Out Your Tongue
4. Watching The Detectives
5. Shabby Doll
6. Sugar Won’t Work
7. Tripwire – with Diane Birch
8. Spooky Girlfriend – with La Marisoul
9. Cinco Minutos Con Vos – with La Marisoul
10. Ghost Town – with La Marisoul
11. (I Don’t Want To Go To) Chelsea
12. Walk Us Uptown
13. I Want You
14. Wise Up Ghost
15. Pump It Up
16. I Found Out