The last time Elvis Costello appeared in town he breathed life into a star-studded Neil Young tribute show so dead it still mars my listening to the Canadian legend. This alone made Costello's Wednesday night stop of the Revolver Tour at the Orpheum something to see.
The return of the "Spectacular Spinning Songbook" sealed the deal.
Picture a giant wheel of fortune loaded with song titles, lyrics, album title word games and more from throughout his career ready for fans to spin to win. Or land on the Joker and get — what, dealer's choice? There was the Hammer of Songs too where you could whack away for the Hits of Tomorrow, Ladies Excuse Me or Songs of Sneer. He still has some of that too.
"Hello, it's great to be home," introduced Elvis.
Mr. Diana Krall is rocking out harder than he has in a decade plus these days. Complete with caged maraca-shaking go-go dancer and a Vanna White gal — Katarina Von Valentina — bookending the stage, he and the Imposters (his forever keyboardist Steve Nieve, drummer Pete Thomas and bassist Davey Faragher) hit the deck raging with gems such as "Mystery Dance" and the old Nick Lowe classic "Heart of the City." Fans couldn't contain themselves.
The first spinner came up uninvited and spun "New Lace Sleeves." The next landed on Cash. As in Johnny. A story of the Man In Black followed with a version of "Cry, Cry, Cry" that slew.
Must be nice to have a band that can play anything and with such swaggering confidence.
Nieve remains one of the most engaging and original keyboardists ever, the rhythm section swingingly precise and the man in front a triple threat as singer (check that power on "Shipbuilding"), guitarist and raconteur.
Donning black top hat and gentleman's walking stick, he ventured into the audience to pick the next contestant during an extended "Watching the Detectives." The man likes blondes it seems. But we knew that.
At every turn there were surprises. Double spins, crowd votes, jackpot titles such as Time that yielded up three songs with the word in the title.
The chances of not hearing some of your fave Costello obscurities alongside the hits was all but assured. Brilliant.
"Yes, she is in the audience tonight so you never know what might happen."
That comment added one more bit of icing on what was quite a cake already.
The only problem: this exercise in audience participation really broke the pacing. The energy of the opening four songs wasn't really ever reached again. Yes, there were things worked into the concept to address this. They just didn't do it. So great fun, without a doubt. But I prefer to let the bandleader, well, lead.