Last night, Elvis Costello and the Imposters brought their Spectacular Spinning Songbook show to the Paramount, and it was wonderful. As I mentioned in my preview piece:
Tricked out with song titles spanning Costello's career, the Spectacular Spinning Songbook is a Wheel of Fortune–style contraption spun by lucky audience members, with the band banging out whatever song the wheel reveals. If live-action Costello Song Roulette isn't gimmick enough for you, the stage also holds a go-go dancer shimmying in a cage.
What I learned last night: the cage-dancers are, more often than not, the lucky wheel-spinners themselves, and I am happy to report that despite our region's reputation for not dancing at rock shows, last night's audience-participation cage dancers totally brought it. I don't know if I've ever been more proud of my city. (I'm looking at you, Freaky Steve, and also at you, couple that's been married for 26 years and shimmied together in the cage to "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding?".)
The band: amazing. Keyboardist Steve Nieve remains Costello's greatest not-so-secret weapon, fleshing out the melodies with simultaneously high-drama/low-cheese touches. Costello is a ridiculous charming showman, veering between enthusiastic carnival barker-isms and wry self-deprecation. And, somehow, Costello's contentious singing voice sounds better and less-strained live than it does on record (or at least than it has on recent records).
Highlights: the aforementioned "Peace, Love, and Understanding," "Girls Talk," "Accidents Will Happen," "Man Called Uncle," "(I Don't Want to Go to) Chelsea," and covers of the Beatles' "Please Please Me" and Chuck Berry's "No Particular Place to Go." Also, a slamming version of "Waiting for the End of the World" that made me wish Costello & co would deign to do a full re-recording of My Aim Is True, the thin, flat sound of which has always been slightly at odds with the brilliant compositions.
Dashed Hopes: The wheel never landed on Imperial Bedroom's "Man Out of Time" or King of America's "Suit of Lights."