Elvis Costello On The Importance Of Being An Opening Band

From American Songwriter:

Last year, the Imposters opened a show for the Who, and that was completely the late-’70s Greatest Hits set, essentially all from the first couple of records.

We knew what we were doing. We were the opening act, and we had nothing to prove by playing a bunch of unknown songs to an audience that was there to see the Who at a big charity event. When you do the private events for charity, sometimes behind closed doors to an invited audience, I have no problem if they give me a set list – I feel I can do it justice and not make a fool of myself and disappoint people – because the job is to encourage people to feel relaxed enough to part with a lot of money for a good reason.

They showed me the poster and I went, “Okay, guys, Maximum R&B – our version.” We’re going to fuck ‘em up here, we’re going to set the bar and the energy is going to just … competitive isn’t the right word, but there are a lot of bands that came out of battles of the bands. We would shamelessly try to undercut any band we played with in the Attractions early on, in some sort of way that would just make it impossible. We’d say, “Go right ahead and close – let’s  see what happens.” We had our share of lessons taught to us on the Stiff tour early on, because Ian Dury had this drilled band and we were only a few weeks into our life as a band, we didn’t have all of our ammunition. It took us going to America to learn how to do it. And most of the time we could prevail, but a few nights we just couldn’t follow them. It was a killer band. So you learn from that.