As much as Elvis Costello’s "Revolver Tour" is an unpredictable celebration of his career, it’s also a nostalgic sampler of 20th-century pop culture.
Costello performed Monday night at the Murat Theatre in Old National Centre, allowing much of the program to be determined by spins on a massive carnival wheel known as he called the "Spectacular Spinning Songbook."
Selected audience members made it onstage to ensure insure tunes such as "Pump It Up" and "(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes" weren’t neglected.
Meanwhile, predetermined elements of the show — from 1960s sci-fi tune "Rise Robots Rise" serving as Costello’s walk-on music to an image of an old TV’s color-test pattern serving as the stage backdrop — hinted that kitsch influenced the singer-songwriter’s formative years.
Fun and irreverence ruled the night, which featured two go-go dancers adding swing to activist anthem "(What’s So Funny ’Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding" and Costello playing his version of Prince’s "Purple Rain."
Truth be told, Costello’s "Purple Rain" unfolded in blistering and heartfelt fashion. The Englishman who helped spark the explosion of punk and New Wave styles knows greatness can reside in a pop song, and he’s folded literature into dozens of his own compositions.
What can be packed into three minutes of mass-market entertainment?
Genius in the case of "Veronica," a tale of bittersweet faded glory performed Monday in solo unplugged style.
As the 57-year-old applied smooth vocals to cinematically narrate 1981’s "Watch Your Step," it became clear rock ’n’ roll got lucky when Costello made the genre his main vocation.
On the topic of luck, the show was blessed to have anniversary couple Melissa and Kip spin the songbook. Their efforts yielded the "Happy" jackpot (selections from 1980 album Get Happy!!), and the "King’s Ransom" jackpot (songs from the albums King of America and National Ransom), as well as "Peace, Love and Understanding."
Keyboard player Steve Nieve and drummer Pete Thomas are two more people whose efforts can’t be overlooked.
Nieve swiveled from funhouse organ to regal piano tones throughout the show, while Thomas lit the fuse of rockers "Mystery Dance" and "Uncomplicated."