Blue Zulu Music, June 18, 2013

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Blue Zulu Music
  • 2013 June 18

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Elvis Costello & the Imposters

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

Blue Zulu Music

Next up for the Vaudevillian act that is Elvis Costello and The Imposters Spectacular Spinning Songbook tour was Edinburgh on Sunday night, the venue was Edinburgh's Festival Theatre. The former Art Deco Empire, which dates back to the 1920s, was extensively renovated in 1994 and reopened in time for the Edinburgh Festival (hence the name). The 1,900 seat theatre was "packed to the gods" and you could feel the anticipation as we took our seats.

The band positively bounded on to the stage at 20:00 and stormed straight into "I Hope You're Happy Now" from 1986's Blood & Chocolate album and then raced through the next four or five songs without stopping. Clearly they were in the mood to entertain and get through as many of their back catalogue as possible in the allotted time. So we also got Nick Lowe's "Heart of The City," "Mystery Dance" and "Radio, Radio" all before we could really show our appreciation!

On stage, the Imposters were lined up in a row behind the "Executive Lounge" and "go-go cage" whilst Elvis Costello, aka Napoleon Dynamite, stood front and centre. However, the stage was dominated by "the show-business marvel of the age," the Spectacular Spinning Songbook wheel which stood, festooned in garish hues, to the right of the stage. The backdrop was a huge TV set with a version of the test card permanently displayed in bold stripes which reflected a variety of vibrant colours depending on what stage lights fell on it. There was activity and a joyous, riot of colour everywhere. The visual impact of a gig can be as important as the audio and this was a fabulous balance of both senses.

After a rollickin' start to the show, Costello doffed his "pork pie" hat and donned a top hat and "Napoleon Dynamite" stepped up to the front of the stage, with walking cane to hand, and explained that the colourful fairground-style wheel of musical fortune would be spun by "those members of the audience brave enough to come up onto the stage" and have a go. So, over the next couple of hours, we had a regular parade of aunties, friends and couples from as far afield as Glasgow, Fife and Canada on the stage to try their hand at selecting a particular song off the Spectacular Spinning Songbook. One group even managed to get the wheel to stop on their particular choice, the wonderful "Alison" from Costello's début album from 1977 My Aim is True! Having made their selection, the participants were then guided by the lovely and mysterious "Josephine" to take a seat at the "executive lounge" and thereafter to take their turn in the "go-go cage" whilst the band performed the selected song/songs and the former Mother Superior of Our Lady of Perpetual Torment, Dixie De La Fontaine gyrated about the stage. What larks and, to be fair, everyone seemed to really enjoy their time on stage, often revelling in the "intimacy" of having Costello sing to them "personally." Along with the Spectacular Spinning Songbook, first seen in 1986 as part of the Costello Sings Again tour, we also had this time out the "Hammer of Songs," another fairground attraction favourite. These are a great idea as it makes for a new experience, especially for the band, at every gig. It is probably why the guys on stage seemed to be having a really great time, at one point even breaking out in nervous laughter as they were totally unaware what song Elvis was going to kick off with next!

At one point we had a poignant moment when, having just sung the magnificent "Suit of Lights" from 1986's King of America album, Costello told us that he had written the song about his late father and went on to tell us of his struggle with dementia and how awful that particular condition is. So bad is it, he said, that he would not wish it on his worst enemy and he seemed genuinely moved when he then introduced the next number, the acerbic "Tramp The Dirt Down" from Spike (1989).

This time out, the 58-year-old Elvis Costello, born Declan Patrick MacManus, had assembled almost the original Attractions line up as the backing band The Imposters. So we had the 55-year-old Steve Nieve (born Steven Nason) on keyboards, probably my favourite rock keyboard player of the modern era, the 58-year-old Pete Thomas on drums (about whom Tom Waits has said he is "one of the best rock drummers alive"!) and finally, 56-year-old bassist Davey Faragher, the non original Attraction, but no less of an attraction for that! Davey has been an Imposter since 2001 and has also worked with The Monkees, David Crosby, Counting Crows, Dusty Springfield, Bonnie Raitt and Buddy Guy, to name a few, so he's "no bad, an 'at" as we say around these parts! With that quality of backing band, we were clearly in for a treat, the bass and drum pounded out a rock solid rhythm keeping the songs coming fast and furious, whilst the piano and organ solos from Mr Nieve were a joy to behold on many songs and I particularly liked his work on "Strict Time," Chris Farlowe's "Out of Time," "Almost Blue" (which Costello sung from the upper gallery!) and the late George Jones' "Good Year For the Roses." I should also add that the "Little Hands of Concrete," as Costello sometimes refers to his guitar playing ability, was on great form too. His guitar solos on "Radio, Radio," "Strict Time" and "Chelsea" were top notch. In addition, "Walking My Baby Back Home," which he played solo on acoustic guitar, and "Jimmie Standing In The Rain," the end of which he sang without amplification, were both wonderful renditions.

So, after an exhausting 2 hours and 20 minute set (Costello by now drenched in sweat, his suit would have needed a quick visit to the dry cleaners), the band took their leave and we went through the customary "we want more" stuff to entice them back on stage. Luckily for us, they returned for a blistering encore, which consisted of almost all of the songs that I would have chosen, had I been lucky enough to be on the stage and get to pick my favourites! We had "Chelsea," "New Lace Sleeves," "Green Shirt," "Red Shoes," "Pump It Up" (by which time we were on our feet) and then finally a cracking version of Nick Lowe's 1974 "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding" brought the show to an end, and what a show. It had it all: humour; pathos; 38 great songs; vibrant colours; dancing girls and above all great musicianship, oh, and my mate got hit on the head by Elvis' chewing gum!. It could only have been bettered if they had played my personal favourite "Indoor Fireworks"!

A big thank you to Elvis Costello and the Imposters, hope to see you all again soon.

Thank you and goodnight


Tags: The ImpostersFestival TheatreEdinburghSpectacular Spinning SongbookI Hope You're Happy NowBlood & ChocolateNick LoweHeart Of The CityMystery DanceRadio, RadioNapoleon DynamiteAlisonMy Aim Is TrueThe Mysterious JosephineDixie De La FontaineCostello Sings Again TourThe Hammer Of SongsSuit Of LightsKing Of AmericaRoss MacManusTramp The Dirt DownSpikeThe AttractionsSteve NievePete ThomasTom WaitsDavey FaragherThe MonkeesDavid CrosbyDusty SpringfieldBonnie RaittStrict TimeOut Of TimeAlmost BlueGeorge JonesGood Year For The RosesLittle Hands Of Concrete(I Don't Want To Go To) ChelseaWalkin' My Baby Back HomeJimmie Standing In The RainNew Lace SleevesGreen Shirt(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red ShoesPump It UpNick Lowe(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding?Indoor Fireworks

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Blue Zulu Music, June 18, 2013


Blue Zulu Music reviews Elvis Costello & The Imposters, Sunday, June 16, 2013, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, Scotland.


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