|Photo: Chad Batka|
King Center / Melbourne, FL (April 23, 2012)
With its gigantic, colorful game show-type ferris wheel, go-go cage, TV screens and other eye-catching frippery, the stage appeared to be set for a raucous performance by Mötley Crüe, or perhaps the Ringling Brothers were in town. No, despite the scantily-clad, onstage show girls and the overall carnival-like atmosphere, this wasn’t a hair band revival or circus event. This was a live concert performance from pop music icon, Elvis Costello and his band, The Imposters.
Donning suits, ties and hats, the dapper-looking four-piece ensemble (featuring longtime keyboardist Steve "Nieve" Nason and drummer Pete Thomas) took the stage at 7:45pm. The show kicked off with a fistful of high-energy ditties that included such early Costello staples as, “Mystery Dance,” from his 1977 debut My Aim is True and "Radio Radio" from 1978's This Year's Model. Although a simple tribute to his edgy, new wave glory days of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s would have sufficed for some, Costello is one of the most prolific singer/songwriters of the last thirty-plus years. And with dozens of albums to his credit, and more than 1,000 fans of all ages in attendance, this two-hour musical onslaught offered a balanced representation of his impeccable body of work.
Assuming a carnival barker-like persona, Costello proved to be a charming and charismatic host. With the aid of his lovely, hard-body, female assistant, the fifty-seven-year-old musician invited various members from the audience onto the stage to spin the enormous "Wheel of Fortune" that featured specific classic Costello song titles as well as general themes — creating the perception of fan interaction while providing the band with a bit of artistic wiggle room. "The wheel possesses the power of love," Costello announced. (It offers) "songs about love, songs about death, but not necessarily in that order."
Upon taking their turn at the wheel, "contestants" were encouraged to remain onstage for a song or two, and dance or just hang out and enjoy a complimentary beverage at the onstage bar. Although the rather original concept quickly became more distracting than entertaining, it did make for a few unique moments as Costello offered an impromptu Neil Diamond impersonation — bursting into a brief a capella rendition of Diamond's 1980 hit, "America."
But Costello is endeared to his fans as a brilliant singer, songwriter and musician — not as a Pat Sajak-type personality. In that regard, he connected best when stripped of production trappings — walking into the audience (even making his way up to the balcony) and personally serenading his adoring, faithful flock.
|The Very Best of Elvis Costello|
Along the way, Costello took fans on a decades' long musical journey — serving up much-loved favorites such as "Everyday I Write the Book," "Alison," "Almost Blue," "Watching the Detectives," "Alibi" and the Paul McCartney-penned, "So Like Candy."
Oddly, the highlight of the evening was during the encore when Costello delivered a dynamic mini-set of acoustic numbers featuring "A Slow Drag with Josephine" and "Church Underground" — a pair from his most recent record, National Ransom. Totally stripped down, Costello presented himself in the most vulnerable context — one man, with one guitar — and for a moment, completely off mic! Literally bringing the King Center audience to a dead silence, it made for a chillingly honest, pure and personal connection.
Ending with the same high-energy, kick in the pants intensity as it began, Costello and crew wrapped up the show with blistering renditions of his 1978 fan fave, "Pump it Up" and his Nick Lowe-penned signature classic, "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding."
The concert proved to be both enjoyable and memorable. And as always, the beautiful King Center venue and cracker jack staff only further enhanced the experience.
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