Grand Rapids Press, June 26, 2011
Elvis Costello's Spectacular Singing Songbook
Sadly, the Spectacular Spinning Songbook will skip Grand Rapids.
Elvis Costello fans in the know will bemoan this disappointing piece of news, which comes as Costello and his rock band crisscross the country with a gigantic spinning wheel first unveiled on a 1986 tour.
It means concertgoers attending Costello's sold-out concert Monday at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park won't get to spin the singer-songwriter's version of the Wheel of Fortune to help choose songs for the evening set list.
A huge hit with fans, Rolling Stone magazine described this audience-participation roulette game as "pure showmanship."
But Costello's camp warned on his website that the band simply can't bust out the wheel for select summer festival dates or for the Meijer Gardens amphitheater show.
"At the multiple-act festival dates, it would be impossible to construct and install the wheel on stage in the time allowed," according to a statement, "while in a few other instances, safety or production issues have prevented the wheel from being part of the presentation."
I'm guessing Meijer Gardens falls into the "few other instances" category, though my digging and numerous queries to Costello's representatives and concert promoter generated only an acknowledgment that the amphitheater setting "does not work well" for the Spinning Songbook. Seems I was, well, just spinning my wheels.
Is it too late for a "Bring Back the Spectacular Spinning Songbook" campaign? Maybe fans could stage a candlelight vigil. Maybe they could pepper the Costello and Meijer Gardens Facebook pages with 11th-hour pleas to roll out the wheel here after all.
Now, band reps insisted wheel-less shows will get a dose of spontaneity as Costello & the Imposters "choose from their newly expanded repertoire of favorites, hits of the future and surprising covers."
And while it's probably little solace, fans can "spin" a version of the wheel appearing on Costello's website to play snippets of up to 38 songs from his 35-year catalog — a catalog he's explored extensively on this tour, everything from "Alison" and "Watching the Detectives" to "Turpentine" and "A Slow Drag with Josephine."
Frankly, the Spectacular Spinning Songbook is such a fabulous idea, I've come up with a host of dandy uses for the roulette-styled wheel at other concerts:
The Lady Gaga Wardrobe-ometer — Concertgoers could spin the wheel to pick the flamboyant dance/pop singer's stage costumes, from her naughty flying nun outfit to her red pointy-shouldered contraption. I'd add more choices to the wheel, like a giant egg, over easy. Or a gown made of Asian carp. Better yet, what about a straitjacket?
(By the way, the Mother Monster's famous raw meat dress would be off the wheel: The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum recently acquired the hand-sewn gown — now apparently dried into beef jerky — and will display it in their new "Women Who Rock" exhibit.)
The Sensational Spinning Seat Selector — This puts the kibosh on gripes at general admission seating shows, not to mention stampedes to the stage when gates open. Fans just spin the wheel to see where they'll end up, Floor Row AA or Nosebleed Row ZZ. No more tiered pricing, no more lining up overnight for tickets to get primo seats. The luck of the draw rules.
The Boffo Band Roster Buster — "Round and round it goes, and where the wheel stopped, the lead singer it chose." Song to song, or show to show, the wheel could determine a band's lineup. You might get Van Halen with singer Sammy Hagar, or maybe David Lee Roth. Styx with Dennis DeYoung or without. Journey with an old Steve Perry or a young Arnel Pineda. Audience members could even win a chance at stardom by spinning the wheel to join the band on stage, a la Green Day (which often brings fans up to play guitar).
Any way you spin it, the wonder wheel could revive a beleaguered concert industry desperate to spark interest in over-priced tours.
Come to think of it, how about letting ticket-buyers spin that wheel to see if they can skip paying those exorbitant facility fees and service charges? Now that would be spectacular.
If you go
Elvis Costello & the Imposters
When: 7 p.m. Monday (gates open at 6 p.m.)
Where: Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, 1000 East Beltline Ave. NE
Tickets: The concert is sold out.
More info: See lawn-chair rules, beverage restrictions and more amphitheater details at meijergardens.org.
The Grand Rapids Press, June 26, 2011