Elvis Costello is back in town – for two sold-out nights at the Beacon Theatre and this time with the Imposters and the Wheel. If you go to his website you can spin the wheel yourself and listen to whatever song comes up.
Stage left is the giant wheel and stage right is a go-go dancer cage. Next to the cage is a home bar with two barstools and a TV set to static. The curtain backdrop was an old TV (the ones that were real furniture) with a color test pattern.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that I had a great seat – first row, center of the rear balcony. As always there was no opening act and Elvis and the Imposters came out sometime after 8:15pm. They went right into “I Hope You’re Happy Now” Nick Lowe’s “Heart of the City” “Mystery Dance” “Radio Radio” with one song after another with no breaks. Each song was re-worked and played incredibly fast. The go-go dancer was go-going it up in a cage with beaded strings as bars. She was wearing a short Pucci-like mini dress, white platform boots, and long hair with white headband. Elvis was looking very natty in a blue/gray suit, blue tie, blue shirt, and a gray fedora with blue band. The Imposters – bassist Davey Faragher, keyboardist Steve Nieve (both with mandatory fedoras) and drummer Pete Thomas – along with Elvis played like they were teenagers. All manic energy and heart.
Elvis introduced us to the dancer (whose name I forgot) and she walked off leaving the cage empty for the spinners. Putting on a top hat and grabbing a cane, he explained the set design. The people asked to spin the wheel could then go into the go-go booth or sit at the lounge and enjoy a refreshment. The Wheel was made up of well-known songs, obscure songs, covers, and purple jackpots – songs about love and death but not necessarily in that order. The jackpots had names like Girl and Heart and if one of those came up the band would play several songs with that word in the title. Choosing spinners from the audience was Xavier Valentina (an older gentleman in a tuxedo) and his great-niece Katerina Valentina (in an updated Western barmaid outfit).
The first spinner got “Black and White World.” Next one got “Flutter and Wow.” Third person got “Black and White World” again and Elvis said it was a good song but we should spin again. This time he helped it along and stopped it on the purple Girl. We got “This Year’s Girl” “Girls Talk” and the Beatles’ “Girl.” Again he re-worked the familiar – I didn’t realize I was hearing “Girls Talk” until about halfway through. But his version of “Girl” showed that he should be the only person to do Beatles’ covers.
A couple was brought up who turned out to be brother and sister. Elvis gave them each a spin and we got “Alison” and “Veronica.” He decided to do “Veronica” first and then he did such a beautiful rendition of “Alison,” which ended with lyrics from “Wind Cries Mary” “Over the Rainbow” and “Somewhere” all done to the tune of “Alison” – “somewhere a king has no wife” “somewhere over the rainbow” “birds fly over the rainbow, why can’t I?” “somewhere there’s a place for us” So beautiful. So beautiful.
Elvis decided to go into the audience himself (by the way he said those of us in the balcony weren’t safe but apparently we were very safe) and brought up Mike Myers wearing a Joe Jackson t-shirt. Myers was adorably shy and while talking with Elvis or sitting off to the side while the band performed “God Give Me Strength” he kept taking photos with his iPhone. In fact he was posting/texting as he was walking up on stage – check his Twitter page. For this song (as for a few others) Elvis walked into the audience and sang.
Next we got “Everyday I Write the Book” and “The Long Honeymoon.” There was another stop on a jackpot (thanks to Elvis’ help) and we got Time. “Strict Time” “Man Out of Time” “Next Time Round” and Rolling Stones’ “Out of Time.” This time Elvis danced with the woman.
There was a very short intermission and Elvis reappeared wearing a plaid jacket and a small-brimmed plantation hat. The first set was acoustic Elvis and at some points he walked away from the mic and we just got his glorious voice. You could have heard a pin drop in that theater it was so quiet for those moments. We got “A Slow Drag with Josephine” and “Jimmie Standing in the Rain.” Elvis went to the keyboards and was joined by the Imposters for “Pump It Up” – another song with changed timing. At the end I heard the tune for Ray Charles’ “Busted” and couldn’t hope for but Yes! he played “Busted.” When I was a little girl and was sick and would lie on the sofa, my father would play his records and tell me about the artists. I learned about Nat King Cole and Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington and so many others. But one of my favorites was Ray Charles and “Busted.” They finished with “God’s Comic.”
Another short break for the encore now Elvis was wearing a gold lamé jacket and leopard print fedora. They did bring up another spinner but Elvis ignored the spin and listened to the audience. We also got a little drama with the go-go dancer and Katerina when Katerina went into the booth to dance along and the go-go dancer was having none of it and stalked off.
Elvis gave us “(I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea” “Waiting for the End of the World” “Watching the Detectives” “Clowntime is Over” The Who’s “Substitute” (proving again that he’s not only a brilliant songwriter but a brilliant interpreter of other’s work) “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding.”
The show ended at 10:40pm. Not much I can add to that.
By Carene Lydia Lopez