Elvis Costello & the Impostors
June 29, 2011
State Theater, Minneapolis
The first member of the audience who got to spin the big wheel sitting on stage at the State last night was a woman named Heidi. She ran up on stage, squealing with delight, and gave Elvis Costello an enormous hug. "My friend and I have been following you for 30 years!" she exclaimed. At that, Costello, dressed in a black top hat, ushered Heidi's friend, Lisa, on stage as well, and the two women spun the wheel together to see what song would be played next.
There were song titles spread around the wheel from all across Costello's career, including some that weren't even his, and most of which would get played before the night was through. Yet, appropriately enough, the one Heidi and Lisa landed on wasn't even a song, it was the wild card category: "Joker."
The night's elaborate stage show was mostly an excuse to play the part of the variety show host or vaudeville performer, and the man otherwise known as Declan MacManus did so cheekily, pointing to the wheel early in the night and declaring wryly, "Look at those hits!" Hell, there was even a caged go-go dancer, which tells you just about everything you need to know.
But at the heart of the whole set up was the wheel (which he resurrected after having first been used back in the 80s), something that was inevitably a gimmick, but it was more than that too. On the one hand, the cynic could easily point out that after four decades of performing, Costello needs something to keep things interesting for himself, so why not have the audience put together his set list? (Not that it's quite that simple, but hey, a little unpredictably never hurts.)
On the other hand, it was a unique means of reaching out to his audience, not only from an interactive standpoint but in a more meaningful way as well: the sheer excitement of meeting the man himself was writ large across the face of each guest who had the chance to join him onstage.
Critics' Bias:</b> I'll admit, I don't think I've ever watched his TV show. Nothing personal.
The crowd: Mostly middle aged, which seems like a fair reflection of the ticket prices, which ranged from $50 to $90.
Overheard in the crowd: (while drunkenly texting) Let me get up there and spin that wheel! I want to spin that wheel!
Random notebook dump: What do you know, almost three hours and of course we get a little Prince out of the deal too...
I Hope You're Happy Now
Heart of the City
Watching the Detectives
Clown Time is Over
Out of Time
Stations of the Cross
Wheel's on Fire/The River in Reverse/I'll Take Care of You (Medley)
So Like Candy
Please Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood
Slow Drag with Josephine
Jimmie Standing in the Rain
All Grown Up
You Tripped At Every Step
I Don't Want to Go to Chelsea
Everyday I Write the Book
What's So Funny 'Bout Peace Love and Understanding?