Elvis Costello: Wheel of Fortune

Elvis Costello
The Fox Theater
Oakland, CA
May 9, 2011

Elvis Costello: Wheel of Fortune

There may not be any current artist more Old School than Elvis Costello from his pork-pie hat to his square glasses and skinny tie, he is hipster personified. He literally writes the book, every day. Every day, he writes the book. Even more awesome is that he has the chops to back up the persona. There may not be a better songwriter around, having penned hundreds of literate, finely crafted songs, he has plenty to choose from when he gets on stage. However, on his current tour, he is leaving the song selection to his fans.

Over 25 years ago, Elvis toured with his Spinning Songbook when he invited audience members on stage to spin a wheel to select the band's next song. The idea is just as fun now as it was then. The stage on Elvis' current Spinning Songbook tour resembles a 1970s television game show, including a color test-pattern backdrop, a go-go cage and a large spinning wheel with the names of over 30 songs, covers and bonus spaces.

During the concert, a comely lass pulled people from the audience to spin the wheel and learn the fate of the show. Though adding a summer-carnival wistfulness to the show, we were all at the mercy of the wheel of fortune. You never knew what you were going to get. Despite the randomness of the wheel of fate, there was nary a bad song the entire evening. Still, when it came round to the encore, Elvis couldn't resist a helping hand on the wheel to make sure the right song was chosen.

After spinning the wheel, audience members were served a cocktail in the Society Lounge on stage and invited to dance in the go-go cage. Most gamely danced a little but one put on a full show that was perhaps a little too exuberant. As for Elvis, he is just a tremendous performer and his voice sounded great. He was accompanied by the Imposters who are a class act in their own right. It was night of pure quality. If you have even an inkling, you should go to the show.

One of the night's highlights was when the wheel landed on 'I Can Sing a Rainbow' which Elvis explained meant singing songs about colors which included his hit 'Red Shoes' which segued into 'Purple Rain' by Prince. When the wheel landed on, perhaps Elvis' biggest hit, 'Alison,' he threw in 'Wind Cried Mary' by Jimi Hendrix and 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow.' Even the bluesy, slower 'Pump it Up' in 6/8 time sounded great. When an artist as deeply talented as Elvis is hell-bent on having fun, it can be an invigorating ride.

Although it is only May, this show is definitely an early favorite for concert of the year.

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