Sunday, May 20, 2012

Elvis Costello blends rock show with game show


     A wild and highly interactive musical performance thrilled the dedicated fans of Elvis Costello at the King Center for the Performing Arts in Melbourne, Fla., on April 23. An uncommon mix of rock show and game show driven by the talented and unpredictable Costello made each stop of his 2012 “Revolver Tour” unique and exciting.

     “I was told the only way Americans would understand us, is if I talked like either Johnny Rotten or John Lennon,” said Costello, explaining what it was like first coming to America. “So I combined the two accents for the first 17 or 18 years, and nobody understood anything I said.”

     Moments like this became a special treat for fans of Costello and his music. His charm and tranquil persona was highlighted with several quick-witted remarks while interacting with the audience.

     What was most noticeably different with Costello's performance was the stage set-up and all the extravagant extras. A giant spinning song wheel, movable spotlights, liquor stocked tiki bar, and a cage for go-go dancing, were all positioned along the stage and between members of his band “The Imposters.”

     Random audience members were picked out by Costello during several moments in-between songs and asked to spin the multi-colored wheel. On different panels were written song titles and other themes that helped guide the direction of the show.

     One individual picked out by Costello introduced himself as “The Sandman” when he was brought onto the stage. A hard spin of the wheel landed on “Time,” which was a "Jackpot" selection of the wheel, that primed Costello to perform a string of tunes with the word "time" in the title. Costello also quickly remarked “‘Time,’ what a perfect theme for ‘The Sandman.’”

     His punk rock and new wave sound was classically refined, but still remains true to its stripped down roots. The band often strung several tunes together and played with a driving tempo topped by style-matching solos. A sound all his own, Costello’s music deals with the commonality of everyday life, and each song has a noticeably different style and direction.

     “This is my first time seeing him live , but I’ve been listening to him since 1979,” said Korinn Braden, a fan of Costello. “It’s a really great personal experience seeing him at a smaller venue and not some giant arena.”

     The pinnacle moment of the evening involved a drastic change in the direction of the show. During a solo performance Costello stepped away from the mic and sang as he strummed an acoustic guitar. The audience came to a dead silence as the acoustically designed theater reverberated Costello's unamplified voice. Though he had to sing a bit louder than normal, Costello’s trained vocals never cracked, and maintained a pitch-perfect tone. This unexpected showing captured the attention of everyone in the sold out crowd.

     One female fan picked out by Costello near the end of the performance actually enticed the majority of the audience to get up and start dancing. Unknown to them, this dance session became the final set of songs performed by Costello, in a fast paced continuous string of hits. Going from one tune to another, he kept people out of their seats as the crowd moved, cheered and demanded more.

     “My favorite moment of the show had to be during his solo performance,” said Daniell Thomas. “It was just so moving.”

     Thomas was with a group of friends that were self-proclaimed diehard fans of Costello. Many were not ashamed to openly admit owning, and possibly making-out with, a life-sized cardboard cutout of the man back in their younger days.

     Over 35 years in the music business, classic compilations with a variety of popular artists, and nearly 40 studio and live albums to his credit, is only one side of this talented artist. To fully appreciate what Elvis Costello brings to the world of music entertainment, you have to experience him live in concert. Classic charm and unpredictable style brings this titan of modern rock to the level of any great performer in his generation.

By James Tutten
info@jamestutten.com

(Published: May 16, 2012 issue of "Valencia Voice" on page 8.)

(All photos by James Tutten)




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