It's been four years since Elvis Costello played in Portland, but that doesn't mean he's not a red hot artist as far as his fans go.
His ability to pack the house was proven when his State Theatre show sold out in less than an hour — and that was with tickets
Since his 1977 debut record My Aim is True, Costello, ne Declan MacManus, has earned legendary status with a sound that's gone from new wave to pop with lots of twists and turns along the way; including collaborations with Burt Bacharach and T Bone Burnett among others. At present, he's touring with his backing trio, The Imposters: bassist Davey Farager, keys player Steve Nieve and drummer Pete Thomas.
This brings us to Thursday night's show, a stop on his Revolver Tour. I use the word show rather than concert because it truly was just that — a show and a very engaging one at that. I would, however, be remiss if I didn't point out the one downer of the evening was the sound. In two words: too loud. It was next to impossible to make out most of the lyrics and considering what a brilliant songwriter Costello is, that was too bad.
But setting that aside, everything else was sensational.
On the right hand side of the stage stood the 12-foot "Spinning Songbook," which Costello hasn't brought on tour since 1986. It's a multicolored game show looking wheel and each spot on it has a different song title. Throughout the evening several audience members were invited by Costello to spin the wheel and hear their song, or in some cases two.
But the fun didn't end there, the wheel spinners also spent time dancing in the go-go dancer birdcage, that is when the fishnet stocking clad go-go dancer wasn't in it. Or they sat on stage in the "Society Lounge" sipping beverages. Suffice to say, the term audience participation was taken to a whole other level.
As for songs, Costello covered the bases and between his own picks and the Spinning Songbook ones, many hits and deep album cuts were included. "Lipstick Vogue" from 1978's This Year's Model started the show off right with Costello strutting on stage wearing a straw fedora and a three-piece glen plaid suit. "Watching the Detectives" came next, much to the audience's delight and that's when Costello started his shenanigans and brought the first fan on stage, a woman named Margo Drayer from Old Orchard Beach, whom I was able to catch after the show out on Congress Street.
I asked her what it was like being brought on stage. "I've never done anything like that before. It was the most exciting concert I've ever been to and he really engaged the audience."
Drayer can personally attest to that, and on her birthday no less.
Coincidentally, I asked another fan celebrating a birthday, Michael Gelsanliter from Portland, what he thought of the show. "It was excellent. He played a lot of the songs I listened to while in college."
As for his band The Imposters, all three of them were terrific.
Meghan Costello from Damariscotta said she was thoroughly impressed with the show and the surroundings, saying "It was great to be back at the State." Sebastian Meade of Freeport had a heck of a time as well: "It was fantastic, a two hour energetic blast."
Sure, it would have been even better if the sound hadn't been a bit off, but other than that I take my hat off to Elvis Costello and his band. From where I sat the crowd of mostly 40 and 50 somethings had a blast and so did Elvis.