Walking into the venue last night fans could not miss the huge wheel with red and yellow pie shaped triangles containing song titles standing toward the right of the stage. Purple wedges held themes while special green tiles were reserved for a mysterious "Joker" category. During the set, Costello explained that these special categories "held two, three, four or even 25 songs!" However, the stage also contained other special areas like a go-go dancer cage to the left, a vintage bar with stools and stocked with drinks and a small television.
Starting promptly at 8:05 p.m. with no opening act, Elvis Costello and the Imposters hit the stage draped by a large backdrop of a television displaying the TV test pattern. A clean-shaven Costello sported a blue pinstriped suit, royal blue shirt with tie, black fedora and his signature horn-rimmed glasses. Backed by two of the original Attractions -- the spectacular Steve Nieve on organ and piano and the tight beats of Pete Thomas on drums -- the Imposters were rounded out by the talented Davey Faragher on bass guitar and backing vocals.
Last night, the 56-year-old artist exuded energy like a man 30 years his junior. For over two hours and 45 minutes and a whopping 36 songs, he worked the room of teenagers to 60-year-olds like a Master of Ceremonies making sure that everyone from floor to balcony got their money's worth. By the end of the main set Costello's suit was soaking wet with sweat.
For the prolific Costello, an artist with a particularly deep catalog, the whole Spinning Wheel tour is about the surprises that can happen during a set list for any given evening and last night's special surprise happened quite early. Though not spinning the wheel to begin the show, Costello started the evening with bang, launching into "I Hope You're Happy Now" followed by a cover of Nick Lowe's "Heart Of The City." The go-go dancers hit the stage giving off a sexy '60's dance club vibe with fishnet stockings and fringe on the dresses flying.
Before calling for song three, shouts and applause rose from the audience as out from the shadows walked Eddie Vedder to the stage. In town for his date at the Fabulous Fox Theatre the same night, Vedder helped Costello belt a raucous version of the Who classic "Substitute." Not sharing the microphone, but standing close with a handheld, Vedder sang along with the ferocious power he's known for. After the song, Costello called for Vedder to spin the wheel, his result landing on the classic "Pump It Up." Off to a great start, the night was already special and only the fourth song of the set had passed.
Costello indicated that the St. Louis stop was "the last night of spinning tour" and checking his dance card on his website the band takes a two-week break returning to the road in mid-July. It's easy to see why. After one of these sets it would be like a football game, most people would have to take a week off to recover and train.
Next, Costello moved into host mode as his lovely assistants brought up a beautiful, leggy audience member to spin the wheel. He explained that the evening was "about sex, death and dancing -- not necessarily in that order." Costello advised the participant, "I don't want to alarm you, but the next five minutes are in your hands." Her spin resulting in "Human Hands."
After another spin for "Living in Paradise," the following spin landed on the "I Can Sing A Rainbow" jackpot. Breaking first into the deep cut "Green Shirt," a demo included later on This Year's Model moving into the mid '80s single "Blue Chair" from Blood & Chocolate. The color-themed jackpot yielded the classic "(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes" and another surprise -- Costello ended the category with a cover of "Purple Rain" by Prince. The color wheel never sounded so good.
Moving the show along, a couple were the next contestants to spin the giant wheel. Costello took the role of Chuck Woolery making a "Love Connection," joking with the two, "You might get lucky! The wheel has the power of love for couples" describing that a young man in Boston proposed to his girl on the spot. The two spun up "Every Day I Write The Book" and "Veronica" As the two left the stage after the songs, Costello quipped of the couple "I think they're starting a family tonight!"
Continuing the love theme, another couple was brought to the stage -- Joe and fittingly his companion Alison. Costello directed them to the wheel, and as a hush fell over crowd the two spun for "Long Honeymoon" and with a little help from Costello, "Alison." Costello moved into the "slow dance section of the evening" as he called it and playing a beautiful version of "Alison" with a medley of the Smokey Robinson classic "Tracks of My Tears."
Calling an audible, Costello moved "The Long Honeymoon" later into the set list. Dispensing with the wheel for now, he called for songs in an impromptu fashion and the band ripped off four stone-cold Costello catalog classics with "Radio, Radio," "Mystery Dance," "You Belong To Me" and "Accidents Will Happen." Taking it up a notch (if you can imagine that) he added a cover of "And Your Bird Can Sing" by the Beatles for good measure. An hour into the show, Costello and the Imposters had played 17 songs and the house buzzed with excitement.
In an era when many performers (especially older ones) freely use teleprompters or cheat sheets for lyrics, Costello amazed by machine-gunning his lyrics throughout the night without fail and always engaging the audience, band or stage help with his eyes.
Back to the wheel an audience member spun to "Turpentine" and Costello broke out his Gibson Les Paul playing a psychedelic extended solo to end before being handed his Fender Jazzmaster complete with his name scrolled into the fret board for another classic tune "(I Don't Want To Go To) Chelsea." Bringing the previously held "The Long Honeymoon" back to the mix, he then waded through the crowd to look for more contestants to spin up "Riot Act" and "Watching the Detectives/Help Me."
Ending the main set with an extended medley emphasizing the American aspects of his work. Starting with a cover of Dylan's "This Wheel's On Fire" the mix morphed into The River In Reverse/On Your Way Down/I'll Take Care Of You before reprising Dylan to finish. After the song Costello proudly held up the reverse side of his Gibson acoustic guitar that contained the bumper sticker "Forget Iraq, rebuild New Orleans" and walked off stage to gushing applause from the audience. Clearly, no one in the audience thought he was done yet. However, little did the excited crowd know that this show was very far from finished.
For an extended encore stretching to over 45 minutes, Costello played 12 songs that most bands would play for an opening set. Weaving in rare covers of Van Morrison and the Rolling Stones along with classics of his own, Costello began the encore with "Lipstick Vogue," "Beyond Belief" and "Waiting for the End of the World." He played Morrison's "I Can Only Give You Everything" then called for his lovely assistant to spin the wheel to specific jackpots of his choosing and played two and three songs each time. The first, "Girl," elicited "This Year's Girl" and "Spooky Girlfriend." The second, "Happy," brought "I Cant Stand Up For Falling Down" and "High Fidelity" while the third contained "Strict Time," "Man Out Of Time" and "Out Of Time" by the Rolling Stones.
Topping the previous 35 songs off with the sweetest icing on the cake, Costello called for the closer, the Nick Lowe song he stole 30 years ago, "(What's So Funny About) Peace, Love & Understanding" that had old and young alike loudly singing along. As the set finished, our host for the evening enthusiastically introduced the band to the crowd, turned and headed backstage, sending everyone out into the hot, humid Midwestern night. We were a joyous sweaty mess heading for home having just been "saved" by the power of rock & roll. Elvis had left the building a better place than it was before and for that we thank him.
I Hope You're Happy Now
Heart of the City (Nick Lowe)
Substitute (The Who) with Eddie Vedder
Pump It Up (in 6/8)
Living in Paradise
(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes
Purple Rain (Prince)
Every Day I Write the Book
Medley: Alison/Tracks of My Tears
You Belong to Me
Accidents Will Happen
And Your Bird Can Sing (The Beatles)
(I Don't Want to Go to) Chelsea
The Long Honeymoon
Watching the Detectives/Help Me
Medley: This Wheel's On Fire (Dylan) / The River in Reverse/On Your Way Down/I'll Take Care of You/This Wheel's On Fire
Waiting for the End of the World
I Can Only Give You Everything (Van Morrison)
This Year's Girl
I Cant Stand Up for Falling Down
Man Out of Time
Out of Time (The Rolling Stones)
(What's So Funny About) Peace, Love & Understanding (Nick Lowe)