Bluesfest 2024 – Thursday March 28 & Friday March 29, 2024

Elvis Costello Live at Bluesfest 2024. Photo by Steve Ford

Review by Nick Corr. Photos by Steve Ford. [Galleries below].

Elvis Costello and Charlie Sexton Live at Bluesfest 2024. Photo by Steve Ford.

Elvis Costello & The imposters played a couple of great ninety minute shows on Thursday and Friday. Originally scheduled for Bluesfest 2023 before cancelling due to illness, Costello joked early in the show “sorry our flight was a bit delayed”. The Imposters have become an incredibly tight live unit, and the addition of “special guest” Charlie Sexton on guitar and sweet backing vocals really puts them over the top. Both shows were fairly similar, but Friday was probably the better of the two with the band hitting the stage roaring to go. Elvis seemed much looser at this second show, dressed in a kilt. Both sets featuring a lengthy almost dub reggae breakdown of “Watching the Detectives” with keyboardist Steve Nieve blasting out the songs melody on a handheld melodica. Costello took to acoustic guitar, with bass player Davey Faragher on double bass, as the band gathered centre stage for a mid-show unplugged set with stripped renditions of “(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes” on Thursday and “Alison” on Friday. Both shows including a cover of Mose Alison’s “Everybody’s Crying Mercy” and ended with the band blasting through “(I Don’t Want To Go To) Chelsea” and “What’s So Funny About Peace Love and Understanding”.

Portugal. The Man Live at Bluesfest 2024. Photo by Steve Ford

Later on Thursday evening, Portland based alternative psych rock band Portugal. The Man headlined the main Crossroads stage with a show that included a lot of material from their 2013 release Evil Friends including “Atomic Man”, Creep in a T-Shirt”, “Modern Jesus” and “Purple Yellow Red and Blue”. They also played a weird instrumental medley of Heavy Metal songs mid set. The show included a couple of songs from their Grammy winning 2017 release Woodstock: “So Young” and “Feel It Still” which received the biggest crowd response of their show.

Katie Melua live at Bluesfest 2024. Photo by Steve Ford.


UK chanteuse Katie Melua warmed up the crowd early Friday afternoon on the Mojo stage with a welcoming set of jazz/pop material, with a number of songs from her recent Love and Money album. She closed with a great version of Janis Joplin’s “Cosmic Blues”

Drive-By Truckers live at Bluesfest 2024. Photo by Steve Ford.

Southern rockers Drive-By Truckers opened their hour long set on Friday with a pair of songs from latest album Welcome 2 Club XIII: Mike Cooley’s “Maria’s Awful Disclosures” and Patterson Hood’s menacing spoken/sung “The Driver”. The band alternated between songs from the two principal songwriters for the rest of the show. Patterson Hood was more engaging with the crowd, often prefacing his songs with lengthy spoken introductions, while Cooley preferred to focus on the music, such as a great performance of “Gravity’s Gone”. The band was in great form, name-checking Midnight Oil and Crowded House in place of Molly Hatchet and 38 Special during Southern Rock Operas “Let There Be Rock”. They reached well into their back catalogue for “Eighteen Wheels of Love” from their second album, 1999s Pizza Deliverance. Closing with a ripping medley of Warren Zevon’s “Play It All Night Long” and “Ain’t That Pretty At All”.

Jackie Venson Live at Bluesfest 2024. Photo by Steve Ford

Austin multi-instrumentalist Jackie Venson managed to work up a big sound accompanied only by a drummer for her hour-long set on the Delta stage on Friday. Her shows drew heavily from her most recent album Ghost In The Machine, also including a soulful reading of Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time”

The Dead South live at Bluesfest 2024. Photo by Steve Ford.

Canadian Bluegrass combo The Dead South closed the Mojo stage on Friday with a very well received set. Opening with “Blood On the Mind” the opening track from their latest album Chains and Stakes. The show also included “Broken Cowboy” from 2019s Sugar and Joy. The biggest crowd response was for the whistling banjo and double bass led “In Hell I’ll Be In Good Company”. They closed with the slightly problematic cousin love-song “Banjo Odyssey” from their debut EP 2013s The Ocean Went Mad and We Were to Blame.

Jack Johnson Live at Bluesfest 2024. Photo by Steve Ford.

Across on the main Crossroads stage, Hawaiian singer/songwriter Jack Johnson headlined Friday night with a sprawling two-hour set. His show included a couple of new songs “One Step Ahead” and “Costume Party”. Ziggy Alberts joined for a duet on his song “I Won’t Give You Up”. “Shot Reverse Shot” was performed as a medley with The Modern Lovers “Roadrunner”. Johnson’s best known songs “Bubble Toes” and “Good People” inspired mass singalongs to end Friday on a feel good vibe.