No matter how he tried, Elvis Costello couldn't spin it last Friday night. The real star of Costello's current tour — the Spectacular Spinning Songbook, on the road for the first time in 25 years — never made it onstage at the Pearl. And Costello never provided an adequate explanation as to why fans who paid $65 to $113 per ticket in Las Vegas were denied the full production mounted one night earlier in LA or three nights later in Chicago.
"It's Friday the 13th, so we don't want to court the subject of luck too much," the 56-year-old British rocker offered after he and his three-piece backing band, The Imposters, had reeled off six numbers without producing the 14-foot wheel, which normally dials up each night's setlist in real time. Later, he actually kept a straight face while purporting that the roulette-like prop had been denied access by the city's gaming powers-that-be: "They don't like competition here." And Costello apparently told one local entertainment reporter that the wheel was simply too large to fit inside the Pearl, a venue that has hosted MTV's Video Music Awards, among other massive concert events. A Palms spokesperson later denied that claim, attributing the wheel's absence to "routing issues."
So what happens when you take a band accustomed to bringing audience members to the stage to spin for songs — a concept the Los Angeles Times called "the most invigorating kind of living room party, where attendees challenge one another in a combination of ‘Name That Tune' and ‘Top That!'" — and strip it back to basics? Not much. Where Neil Young & Crazy Horse raged onstage during a Vegas getaway from 2003's Greendale theatrics, Elvis and his Imposters appeared, and often sounded, bored to be here.
The classics-heavy setlist looked solid enough by concert's end: "Radio Radio," "Everyday I Write the Book," "Watching the Detectives," "Clubland," "Oliver's Army," "Alison," "Pump It Up." But few felt more than perfunctory, and some were downright ragged — a far cry from the power shown by Costello on past visits. "(I Don't Want to Go to) Chelsea" started intensely, only to devolve into a faux-funk jam session more appropriate for Phishheads than an overwhelmingly older Pearl crowd.
Costello ultimately did produce a wheel … on an iPad screen atop a music stand. A gaggle of ladies came up to "spin it," then stayed onstage to dance distractingly during the encore. A cliché about insults and injuries comes to mind.