ELVIS Costello isn’t so much reinventing the wheel on his latest tour but bringing it out of a 26-year retirement.
The Return of the Spectacular Spinning Songbook finds him sharing the stage with a 20-foot high Victorian Fairground-style wheel colourfully painted with nigh-on 40 songs from his vast back catalogue.
He first used it back in 1986 and the idea has been resurrected for these epic three-hour live shows. It’s a simple but very effective theatrical concept that gives an intriguing twist to the night.
Not only does it bring the audience into the heart of the action as they get to choose the songs by spinning the wheel but it adds an air of unpredictability to the setlist.
But before the games begin, and as a knowingly kitsch silver catsuited go-go dancer in her cage gets busy stage left, Costello and his three-piece band The Imposters propel themselves into a clutch of punkish power pop gems to warm us up including a fiery I Hope You’re Happy Now and Radio Radio.
The first song choice via the wheel is a belter, offering up a particularly fine Good Year For The Roses which boasts a swelling piano accompaniment from long-time Costello sideman Steve Nieve.
More off-piste selections from the wheel included the tender Randy Newman cover I’ve Been Wrong Before and Shabby Doll.
The hits come thick and fast, too, from a crackling (I Don’t Want To) Go To Chelsea, through Watching The Detectives to the evergreen Oliver’s Army.
There are also moments of breathtaking drama such as the solo fingerpicked A Slow Drag With Josephine and a quite beautiful Jimmie Standing In The Rain.
The politically charged anti-Thatcher classic Tramp The Dirt Down was dusted off after decades in cold storage and followed in a devastating one-two punch with Shipbuilding.
We rounded off with all-guns-blazing versions of Pump It Up, (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding and a stunningly broody I Want You.
Wheel or no wheel, this was a masterclass in songwriting and charismatic, nuanced rock’n’roll.