Elvis Costello and the Imposters in Indianapolis, or Elvis, please don’t leave the building.

Elvis Costello and the Imposters turned in another stunning performance on their “Revolver Tour” last night at Indianapolis’ Murat Theater. For those poor slobs out of the loop, this is the tour’s schtick: There’s a big wheel up on the stage. On the wheel are song titles, “jackpot” squares, and squares with themes, or the combinations of two album titles. Periodically, people are invited up on stage to spin the wheel. (Typically, a youngish, attractive female likely to dance in the go-go cage set up on stage right. This seems really unfair, since this 46 year old dude would totally dance in the go-go cage.) Elvis and the band then play whatever comes up on the wheel. Elvis had a similar device for encores for one tour in the 90’s. This extended version of the schtick allows the show to become part rock concert, part lounge act. Once the wheel spinning of the show commences, Elvis introduces himself as Napoleon Dynamite (yes, the writers of that movie stole the name) and dons a top hat and cane to mc the proceedings. It’s a wonderful way to not only create spontaneity, but to allow Elvis to dive deep into the embarrassment of riches that is his repertoire. I’ve never sat down to figure out how many songs the man has written and recorded, but there are a shit-load of them, and after 35 years they’re still coming. In my humble opinion he is the best pop song writer out there, perhaps the only one worthy of inclusion in the league of Dylan, Lennon-McCartney and Jagger-Richards. He’s such a great writer of pop songs, in fact, he is too great to ever be that popular. That’s a bonus for serious fans like me, since we get to see him in the intimate confines of the Murat.
Back to the show. Before the wheel started spinning, Elvis plowed through a set five songs, including staples “Radio, Radio” and “Mystery Dance.” Then a girl right in front of me got to spin the wheel, lucky-duck. Up came “Stella Hurt,” from Momofuku. Sporadic applause for the spin’s choice. Certainly the jagoffs who kept screaming “Allison!” before every single song weren’t happy. Luckily, there were real fans in the audience. Elvis and the boys played the frack out of it, especially the extended jam at the end. Same went for the next spin, “You Bowed Down,” from the seriously underrated album, All This Useless Beauty. With the closing notes of the tune, Nadia or Tatiana, whatever the Slavic name of the scantily-clad blonde—probably a rocket scientist—serving has helper started bringing up the next contestant. To her surprise, and to the rest of the band, Elvis went straight into “Shabby Doll.” It’s not on the wheel. Apparently he just felt like playing it, and oh, what an absolutely exquisite take it was! Elvis uses the wheel as a device, but doesn’t always stick to the rules, lucky for us.
Other spins: “Happy,” for the album Get Happy! That spin gave us three songs from the album plus “Watch Your Step.” There was also “King’s Ransom,” featuring songs from alt-country albums National Ransom and King of America. And during the encore, Elvis cheated by spinning the wheel himself, and then guiding it to the space marked “Time.”
All in all, an awesome show, and very different from the Chicago Theater show my fiancé and I saw in May. The Indy show was more music, and less lounge act. Maybe Elvis is tiring a bit of the lounge act, or last night was just how it all played out. Highlights for me: “American Without Tears,” “Secondary Modern/Watch Your Step,” “Shabby Doll,” “Stella Hurt, and the beautiful ending ballad, “I Hope.” Here’s the full set list:
I Hope You’re Happy Now
Heart of the City (Nick Lowe cover)
Mystery Dance
Uncomplicated
Radio, Radio
Spin 1:
Stella Hurt
Spin 2:
You Bowed Down
Shabby Doll
Spin 3 (Happy):
I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down
High Fidelity
Secondary Modern
Watch Your Step
Spin 4 (King’s Ransom):
Brilliant Mistake
Stations of the Cross
American Without Tears
National Ransom
Spin 5:
Peace, Love and Understanding (Nick Lowe cover)
Encore:
Slow Drag with Josephine (solo acoustic)
Veronica (solo acoustic)
The Hammer of Songs:
Red Shoes/Purple Rain
Pump it Up
Spin 6 (Time):
Strict Time
Man out of Time
Out of Time (Stones’ cover)
Quiet About It (Solo acoustic—Jesse Winchester cover)
Alison
I Hope

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