Elvis Costello followers have come to expect the unexpected for the most part. But no one could have expected the thing's that happened on Saturday's segment of the Costello Sings Again tour.
The man with a million names, and nearly as many albums, introduced himself by saying from a small black and white television "Good evening, my name is Napoleon Dynamite." The name was in reference to the name of the painting on the cover of his 13th album, Blood and Chocolate. It is also the name-credit under his picture on the back of the album. Costello's actual name is Declan Mac Manus.
The stage at the Beverly Theater was only a small warning of the fun in store for the evening. Along with the TV on a small lounge-type bar, there was a go-go dancer cage, a lighted red sign marked "request" and a giant 36-sectioned pinwheel (not unlike the Wheel of Fortune) that was named the "Spinning Musical Library." The Library included songs from all of Costello's albums plus a few suprises such as Prince's "Pop Life."
Costello then appeared at the back of the audience, the TV still showing him and announced "I'm just another tourist, you know," as he walked to the front of the audience, adding "I'm your warm-up man."
John Doe, the lead singer of X, came out and was introduced as the emcee for the evening and he would call on people from the audience to come on stage and spin the wheel. Doe also played "Wild Thing" with Costello to end the first of a three-part show.
The first effects were that of a game show gone good.
The Attractions, his support band, were introduced as "the greatest band in the world," and the concert was in full swing. Before you knew it there was a go-go dancer dancing in her cage, a lucky audience member sitting at the lounge sipping Costello's Gatorade and Lou Reed playing on television "via satellite."
It was different, fun and exciting because you did not know what was going to happen next. Then he came out with Susanna Hoffs and Vicki and Debbie Peterson of the Bangles for a harmony and acoustic guitar set. All the stops were pulled out. They played three songs in which Costello showed his gift for harmonizing as the voices blended beautiful.
Costello also played a duet with the part-three emcee, Tom Waits, for his first encore.
Costello was playful throughout the evening, making comments to the front row and trying to lead the audience in cheering for their favorite song to meet the arrow on the wheel. For the last song of before the encore, Costello went into the crowd singing the refrain of "Less Than Zero" and even went up to the balcony seats. This could not have been planned because the song had just randomly come up on the wheel.
The best seat actually belonged to the go-go dancer because she was the only one who the ushers allowed to stand up and dance. It seems the audience invented "chair-dancing" on Saturday night. Everyone was moving, but nobody was standing and dancing. Then again, not many were complaining either. There was a feeling that one was just lucky to be experiencing this.
Costello showed in his two-hour set that he is a true entertainer and is still possibly the best performer to come out of the 1977 punk/new wave explosion. Nobody on Saturday could tell you otherwise. They could only wonder what was next.