By now, Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint’s The River in Reverse has been pretty thoroughly celebrated, most recently with a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Vocal Album. We know the story—recorded here, response to Katrina, Toussaint’s songbook, New Orleans musicians, etc.—and anyone interested in seeing it live had a good chances at Jazz Fest and the closing night of the tour at the House of Blues. For anyone who missed one of those opportunities, here’s the show, live from Montreal via the miracle of DVD.
As a visual entity, Hot As a Pistol, Keen As a Blade is so-so, focusing primarily on Costello, who seemed to break a sweat before the first note. There’s nothing wrong with the filming—or sweating—but little new is gleaned from watching the performance. Musically, though, the DVD is nice to have because it includes much of The River in Reverse, with Toussaint getting spotlight moments on “A Certain Girl,” “Play Something Sweet (Brickyard Blues),” “Yes We Can Can” a solo piano medley, and when Costello sings Toussaint’s “Fortune Teller.” It also includes Toussaint’s arrangements of a number of Costello songs, the best being “The Poisoned Rose,” which became a 3 a.m. barroom weeper when touched by Toussaint.
The DVD’s extras aren’t anything special, but Hot As a Pistol, Keen As a Blade is a nice ending to this chapter of Costello and Toussaint’s relationship, commemorating their collaboration with high points being their shared moments.