Elvis Costello and his Imposters took the stage last night, nattily dressed in top hats and ties save for drummer Pete Thomas, who insisted on wearing a loose-fitting gold shirt. They looked like luminaries, but because this was one of Costello's famed "Spectacular Spinning Songbook" shows, with a ferris wheel of tracks or topics that audience members came up and spun for, the crowd was the star. And when Costello mentioned Beantown in passing, and not one but two shouts of "Fuck Boston!" came roaring out of that crowd, it signaled that Seattle might be about to get past its passive-aggressive phase.
Costello's gift of onstage gab is perhaps only rivaled by John Roderick, but for the first six songs last night, Declan and his mates barely paused for as much as a breath while blazing through the likes of "I Hope You're Happy Now" and "Radio, Radio." In addition to drum kits and keyboards, the stage featured the aforementioned giant wheel, a makeshift bar called The Society Lounge, and a go-go cage, complete with two professional dancers. If Costello wasn't talking yet, it was gleefully evident that he'd soon be cast in the role of circus barker.
Every fifth song or so, one of Costello's go-go girls would venture into the crowd and pluck an audience member to spin the wheel. The lucky few treated the experience as though they'd gotten Wonka's golden ticket, with the guys bowing at His Elvisness and the women (a collection which included former SW columnist Maggie Savarino) often acting as though they'd be happy to make a cuckold of Diana Krall.
Not content to let his impromptu cohorts simply sit onstage and gape, they were eventually made to shimmy in the go-go cage. Most audience members acquitted themselves surprisingly well, although when a long-married couple named Chuck and Mary Lou jumped in the cage, it was clear that Chuck's moves never quite advanced beyond the "mercilessly grind your groin into the hot cheerleader's rump and pretend you're not wearing jeans" phase.
Costello's 45-minute encore, which included "Veronica," "Watching The Detectives" and "Everyday I Write The Book," functioned more like a second set, but it was an earlier progression from "(I Don't Want To Go To) Chelsea" to "Shipbuilding" that showed off the band's incomparable versatility. While the latter suffered a bit for lack of Chet Baker's trumpet, it served as a reminder that, when he slows down, Costello possesses one of the lovelier voices in pop, a notion supported by his occasional abandonment of instrumentation and amplification, his nude a capella still filling the hall.