Hollywood actor Russell Crowe last night joined Elvis Costello in a remarkable musical cameo. Introduced to the stage by Costello as “the gladiator of guitar,” Crowe proceeded to growl his way through spirited covers of Elvis Presley's Evil and Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues." It will do his ego no good to say this, but he's actually quite a good singer.
Yet this gig was remarkable even before Crowe's appearance. The middle ground between a rock concert and Wheel of Fortune, the Spinning Songbook tour sees members of the audience take to the stage to spin a gigantic wheel, on which is written 40 of the singer's best-loved hits. Whichever song the wheel stops on, Costello and his fabulous backing band, the Imposters, will play.
Naturally, this led to an unlikely running order. “We've gone to the Catholic part of the show immediately,” groaned the 57-year-old, when the first spin landed on the brooding "Stations of the Cross."
But the hits soon came: the punk-pop of "Oliver's Army," bluesy balladry of "Alison" and ska-tinged "Watching the Detectives."
Surprisingly, given the night's cabaret-style context, some of the best moments were the darkest. Reviving the anti-Thatcher anthem "Tramp the Dirt Down," Costello proved the old political fire is still burning bright, while "I Want You" was a prowling, predatory song on unrequited love.
The rollicking rock 'n' roll of "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding" brought this epic show to an end. And while Crowe will grab the headlines, it was Costello who was the real master and commander.