Elvis Costello (born the slightly less rock ‘n’ roll Declan Patrick MacManus, in London in 1954) has been one of the biggest names on the music scene since the mid 70s when he released critically acclaimed debut album My Aim Is True.
He is at the Opera House on Thursday, June 13 (tickets still available if you’re quick) and the show promises to be a little different to the norm.
Here’s the deal. A member of the audience is invited up to spin the Spectacular Spinning Songbook Wheel – a giant wheel loaded with the names of 50 of Costello’s songs – and the band have to play whichever song it lands on.
There are showgirls on stage, and the lucky audience member can either stay up there in a cage to dance alongside the band – many do apparently – or sit in a more relaxed area at the back and drink cocktails.
It has more in common with old-fashioned vaudeville than a standard rock ‘n’ roll concert, while the wheel serves up interesting combinations of songs, eschewing the normal pacing of a planned set list.
“We have to be well-rehearsed, we have to have 50 songs in the pocket to even play the game,” says Costello. “We’ve delved into the back catalogue a bit so I think we have about 150 we can choose from. “The wheel’s fair, too, until we lean on it a bit when someone tells us it’s their wedding anniversary or something.
Mostly we let it be true and the wheel decides. Some songs have come up two or three times a night.”
Naturally, there are gasps when the wheel approaches any of Costello’s biggest hits - Oliver’s Army, Alison, Watching The Detectives, Everyday I Write The Book or Pump It Up.
Often what would normally be a ‘finale’ song or form part of an encore will be chosen right at the top of a show. “The wheel has made us play the older songs better, and we never know what to expect,” says Costello.
“You have to drop into the darkest, most emotional songs without any preparation, and one of your favourites might not get chosen for five shows.” He does, however, insist on playing Shipbuilding and Tramp The Dirt Down.
His show in Blackpool will see Costello playing with his band The Imposters – essentially the backing band of his 1980s heyday, The Attractions, with one or two different members.
The gig is part of a month-long tour of the UK, and a follow-on from a similar tour last year. “We thought we’d go to the places we missed last spring,” says Costello. “The shows were brilliant last time around, the atmosphere at each really special, so we can’t wait to do it again.”
One fact you’ve probably heard before but which I’m going to repeat anyway because it’s great... Costello’s father Ross MacManus sang the theme to the famous ‘Secret Lemonade Drinker’ adverts for R White’s Lemonade in the 1970s, while a teenage Costello provided the backing vocals.
Meanwhile, you can buy ticket for Costello’s Opera House gig (priced £37.50-£42.50) at www.blackpoollive.co.uk or by calling 0844 856 1111.