Elvis Costello + The Impostors – Warner Theatre 09.29.11

Elvis and friends were scheduled to play Richmond, VA this summer. Originally scheduled for July 20, that show was postponed. The venue was Innsbrook, which is an outdoor festival type setting, next to an office park. The rescheduled date of August 1 was canceled and no makeup date was planned. While I was initially bummed about the cancelation, I immediately set forth a plan to see this tour in Washington, DC. 

This tour is called The Revolver Tour, because onstage is a huge wheel with songs from every period of Elvis’ 34+ year catalog. Periodically throughout the show, audience members are invited onstage to give the wheel a spin. Whatever song comes up, unless it is a repeat of one that has already been played, is then included in the set; sometimes immediately, sometimes the song is held until later, but every song that comes up on the wheel is heard that nite. 

I was supposed see the Richmond show with my friend Dana. When I told her about the show in DC, she was game and willing to drive, so she finally got to see her first Elvis Costello show. We walked into the orchestra seating of the Warner Theatre (which is about one-third the size of the Richmond Mosque/Landmark Theatre) and saw the wheel. Our seats were stage right about twelve rows back. Dana started reading song titles on the wheel:

“‘Bedlam’, Pump It Up’…’You Little Fool.'”

“‘You Little Fool’? Really?” I said as I sat up in my seat. “Oh man, if he plays “You Little Fool” I’ll just…wow that would be awesome!”

I said this knowing that there was a one in about one-hundred and fifty chance of the wheel landing on the sliver that had that song title listed, so, as excited as I was at the prospect, I wasn’t holding my breath. Plus i knew that no matter what songs were played, it would be a one-of-a-kind show and setlist. Here is said setlist, from the site setlist.fm:

Lipstick Vogue 
Watching the Detectives 
So Like Candy (SPIN 1)
Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstand 
Other End Of The Telescope (SPIN 2)
My All Time Doll 
Strict Time 
Man Out Of Time 
Next Time ‘Round 
Out of Time (The Rolling Stones cover)
Cry, Cry, Cry 
(Johnny Cash cover) (“Cash” – SPIN 5)
I Still Miss Someone 
Town Cryer (SPIN 6)
You Little Fool (SPIN 7)
Pump It Up (The Hammer Of Songs – Songs Of Sneer)
Heart of the City (Nick Lowe cover)
(I Don’t Want To Go To) Chelsea 
I Want You (SPIN 3 held earlier)
All These Strangers 
(EC solo next 3 songs)
A Slow Drag With Josephine 
Bullets For The New-Born King 
Sleep of the Just 
Welcome to the Working Week 
No Action 
Beyond Belief (SPIN 8)
New Lace Sleeves (SPIN 9)
National Ransom 
(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love and Understanding 

Along with The Wheel, the stage also included the Hammer of Songs, which led to the fan’s choice. She wanted to hear “Pump It Up”, so a song I thought for certain would be an encore was now in the middle of the set. Fans who appeared onstage had the option of sitting in the Society Lounge while their song was played, or if they were more adventurous, they could dance in the Go Go Cage (Yeah, that’s exactly what you think it is). 

Some personal highlights:

Elvis opened with “Lipstick Vogue” instead of my all-time favorite Elvis song, “I Hope You’re Happy Now” and, as much as it would have ruled to hear that, I was transfixed watching drummer Pete Thomas play the intro to “Lipstick Vogue”. He’s now completely grey on top, but he’s still got killer chops and didn’t miss a beat all nite. 

“So Like Candy” – A favorite of mime that I didn’t expect to hear live, and because it was spun on the wheel, it appeared very early in the set. 

“Man Out Of Time” – One spin brought up the word “Time” so the next few songs included the word “Time” in the title. After asking for suggestions, most of the crowd, this blog writer included, screamed out “Man Out Of Time”. Some of the best lyrics in the entire Costello catalog are in that song, so it was great to hear that live. 

“Welcome To The Working Week” and “No Action” – These songs back to back had the crowd on their feet for the rest of the show. I didn’t think it was possible to play “Working Week” faster than the album version, which is only two minutes long, but Elvis and his band tore through this song so fast that it left me exhausted. “No Action” refueled my adrenaline because, well, really anything from THIS YEAR’S MODEL is a winner. 

“You Little Fool” -See above. Hearing this made my nite. 

Had they played the Innsbrook show, it would have just been a setlist with no wheel or audience participation. While I am sure I would have had a blast, Thursday’s show was unforgettable for many reasons. I was so lucky to get the chance to see it, and to see it with fellow Elvis fan Dana was a great added bonus. I already know there won’t ever be another show quite like that one, which is a rare thing to savor.