Arriving in Seattle within days of each other, English rock icons Radiohead and Elvis Costello are set to wow legions of local fans with a bounty of musical treasure.
Radiohead performs Monday at KeyArena and Costello and his band, the Imposters, play Thursday at the Paramount Theatre.
Though a generation apart, Costello and Radiohead each paid dues as pub-rockers. And each went on to help shape, define and energize two distinct eras of British rock 'n' roll — punk and new wave (Costello) and modern rock (Radiohead). Their respective careers have stirred strong passions and inspired rabid followings.
Radiohead — led by singer, guitarist and pianist Thom Yorke — continues to reinvent itself as few other current bands do, blending alternative rock, electronic pop, ambient music, hip-hop, even jazz; Costello and his crew are rarely satisfied playing the old hits in the same old way, either.
Radiohead has credited Costello as an early influence, covering his song, "I'll Wear It Proudly" (from King of America, 1986). R.E.M., the Pixies and Sonic Youth also inspired Yorke, the band's chief songwriter.
Radiohead was launched at a time when Seattle bands Nirvana, Soundgarden and others had reinvigorated the international rock scene, but the English band has continued to innovate, evolve and eclipse its present competition.
The now-classic "Creep," Radiohead's 1992 debut single, was a powerful, post-grunge punch of self-doubt and alienation. The band's 2007 album, In Rainbows, was released as a pay-whatever-you-want digital download, an example of the group's alternative approach to marketing and sales.
The band's latest album, The King of Limbs, became a best-seller on vinyl despite a dearth of singles.
To date, Radiohead has sold more than 30 million albums worldwide.
Once brash and insolent, Costello (born Declan Patrick MacManus) made his debut in the late '70s with a bushel of urgent, introspective and deftly worded songs infused with the vigorous spirit of punk and new wave. In subsequent years, he explored and interpreted other styles, among them jazz, country and Americana.
The Grammy-winning artist donates his time to the Jazz Foundation of America and has been a performer at the foundation's annual benefit concert. He's also famously married to jazz singer Diana Krall.
Both Costello and Radiohead have landed on one of Rolling Stone magazine's "100 Greatest" lists: Costello at No. 80 on the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time," in 2004, and Radiohead's Yorke at No. 66 on the "100 Greatest Singers of All Time," in 2008.
Radiohead opened its first U.S. tour in four years with a concert Feb. 27 in Miami, drawing heavily from "The King of Limbs" as well as its 2007 album, In Rainbows. Among the show's eye-popping visuals was a huge wall of LED-lighted, recycled-plastic water bottles.
"Thom Yorke sang with a languid pleasure across a compelling tumult of percussion and murky jangle," wrote David Fricke in his review of the Miami show in Rolling Stone. "Three songs into the gig, the famously tour-phobic singer was clearly having a grand time."
The band reportedly has prepared up to 75 songs for the tour, among them the new "Identikit" and "Cut a Hole," as well as a few rare B sides.
Costello and the Imposters' "Spectacular Spinning Songbook" tour coincides with the April 3 release of the new live CD/DVD collection, The Return of the Spectacular Spinning Songbook.
The show features an abundance of tunes from different eras and a go-go dancer in a cage. The tour recycles a Costello concept from 25 years ago: a giant spinning wheel, much like that on a TV game show, allowing concertgoers to pick songs by giving the wheel a spin.
Like Yorke, the 57-year-old artist is clearly having fun on tour.