The State Theatre proved to be the perfect venue for Elvis Costello & The Imposters last night, as the veteran performer put on a show that was more vaudeville show than straightforward rock concert. After ripping through a high-energy four-song set that concluded with one of Costello’s biggest hits “Radio Radio,” attention turned to the enormous wheel at the center of the current “Spectacular Spinning Songbook Tour.”
A revival of a popular tour from the mid-1980s, the Spinning Songbook Tour saw several members of the audience invited on stage to spin the giant wheel and randomly determine the setlist. “Tonight we’ll hear songs all about love. And sex. And death,” Costello bantered. “But not necessarily in that order.”
Fate was on the side of the spinners last night. The first, a woman named Heidi, gushed that she had been following Costello for 30 years. Her spin landed on a wild card slot, so she got to pick exactly the song she wanted and chose “Watching the Detectives.” The next spinner, a man named Ben, said he’d cry if the wheel landed on “Shipbuilding.” It did. No word on whether or not Ben cried.
With each spin of the wheel, Costello and the band launched into a veritable mini-concert. Each bite-sized set was accompanied by its own theatrics, such as a caged go-go dancer with boundless energy, Costello singing in the aisles and remixed versions of some of his most popular songs The crowds were on their feet at the end of nearly every mini-set – Costello’s voice has lost little over the years and he still plays guitar with more bite and flash than musicians half his age.
After three hours of random song choices (which managed to include most of Costello’s greatest hits) and an encore that went on nearly as long as the main set, the show ended with Costello looking like he could have played for another three hours. It was a high-energy show with a lot of flash, colorful banter (including some digs at local political figures) and one irresistible central gimmick. Sure, the Spinning Songbook is a gimmick, but it’s one that Costello clearly enjoyed. His good spirits were certainly reciprocated by the crowd.
Best moments: Two enthralled female fans dancing with Costello inside the go-go cage, Costello concluding a mini solo set by singing a capella – without a microphone.