Wednesday, April 18, 2012


A live outing from last year, available as a CD, DVD, or together in a Deluxe version.  Not all the songs overlap, so there's reason to get both.  It's a fun outing, as Costello resurrects an old and very popular show from 1986 tours, the Spectacular Spinning Songbook.  Audience members are chosen to come up on stage and spin the big wheel, much like The Price Is Right, only each spot has a song from his great catalogue on it.

Rather than simply stick with that, Costello has also populated the affair with characters based on old carny types, chief among them his alter-ego, Napolean Dynamite, the M.C. for the night.  There's also a go-go dancer, a mysterious usher, and references to other members of the touring team.  Largely it's stilly, and Costello's British humour has always been a bit obscure, but the site of him being jovial in a top hat is different at least.  Once onstage, guests get to sit in the society lounge and sip drinks while their song is performed just a couple of feet from them.

Recorded in Los Angeles, at one gig, there are some ringers in the audience, obvious as Sandra Oh gets to come on stage, and there's some ringers in the dressing room too, as The Bangles come out for a couple of tunes, just like they did 25 years ago for the last Spinning Songbook show in that city.  But the real thrill is getting up close and personal with the always-exciting Imposters band. 

The randomness of the wheel makes for some odd sequences, such as the hard-charging Clubland leading into the lush ballad God Give Me Strength.  And there might be a few too many favourites on there;  I could have done without Radio Radio, Peace, Love And Understanding or Alison, in order to hear some of the oddball choices listed on the wheel.  But rules are rules, and since the concert was recorded in one night in L.A., without any overdubs, it is what it is. 

Visually, it's a lot more fun that the usual concert DVD's, with the go-go girl, the guests coming up from the crowd, the MC routine, and lots of great close-ups of the Imposters in action, certainly one of the more interesting groups.  Powerful, too.  Watching them go at it should be a lesson to younger bands on how to play with great energy and volume.  These guys are still putting most so-called rockers to shame.  There are some slight glitches, a bit of feedback here, a bass line flub there, but by giving us just one show, it really does feel a lot more like were there.  Highlights include the bitter (naturally, it's Costello) I Hope You're Happy Now, the fun, recent vaudevillian Slow Drag With Josephine, and cool covers of the Stones' Out Of Time and Nick Lowe's Heart Of The City.

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