For folks who went to see Elvis Costello at the North Charleston Performing Arts Center hoping to hear a few of the British rocker's classic songs, Monday night's show probably felt like hitting the jackpot.
That's because although he recently released an album of new material, 2010's excellent National Ransom, Costello fans were guaranteed to hear more than a few favorites thanks to a novel piece of stage equipment. A giant spinning wheel, dubbed "The Spectacular Spinning Songbook," served as a sort of musical wheel of fortune, with the prize being the guarantee that Costello would perform whichever of the more-than-60 songs where the wheel stopped.
Spins of the wheel provided the crowd with songs such as "Alison," "Watching the Detectives" and "Time." Other fan favorites performed included "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding," "(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes" and "Every Day I Write the Book."
Costello has been recording and releasing music since the late '70s, and in the process has built up quite a songbook of original material. His deeply literate, sometimes controversial lyrics have always set him apart from other artists. His ability to continually reinvent himself by exploring new music genres has helped him stay relevant for much of his nearly 35-year music career.
Costello also is apparently not one to hole up in a hotel room in whatever city he happens to be in. The artist could be seen strolling through the Market area downtown on Sunday, apparently enjoying some sightseeing on a day between shows, and even paused to pose for a few pictures with fans during his walk.
Costello opened the show with "I Hope You're Happy Now," a song from his 1986 album Blood and Chocolate, and then quickly transitioned to a cover of Nick Lowe's "Heart of the City." As his band, The Impostors, played behind Costello onstage, a dancer clad in go-go boots and a '60s-style fringe miniskirt gyrated inside a large cage. The Impostors lineup included keyboardist Steve Nieve and drummer Pete Thomas, two members of Costello's original band, The Attractions. Between performing more than two hours of his music, Costello served as the show's emcee, donning a top hat and cane, occasionally jumping into the go-go cage to dance, and going into the audience to select fans to join him onstage.
Costello definitely gave the audience, estimated at 1,500, its money's worth, showing them that a rock concert doesn't simply have to be a series of songs performed live.
Prior to Costello hitting the stage, the crowd was treated to a short opening set by Larkin Poe, a four-piece bluegrass/Americana band that featured two-thirds of the Lovell Sisters, a bluegrass band that has performed in Charleston several times over the past few years. With Megan Lovell playing mandolin and sister Rebecca holding her own on dobro, Larkin Poe, which the sisters told the crowd was the name of their great-great-great-grandfather, won over the crowd. Costello also brought the sisters back out onstage midway through the show to play on a few songs.