Elvis Costello: The Return of the Spectacular Spinning Songbook DVD

Elvis Costello & The Imposters
The Return of the Spectacular Spinning Songbook
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

If you’re going to spin a big wheel to determine what song you’re going to play, you better have a slew of classics on tap so that the audience isn’t let down by what comes up. Luckily, Elvis Costello’s catalog more than fits the bill, and he and the Imposters are in impeccable form throughout this excellent live DVD.

When he first devised the Spinning Songbook concept 25 years ago, Costello used it as a way to liven up the drudgery of performing the same old hits in concert every night. Many of the evergreens (“Radio Radio,” “Alison,” “Watching The Detectives”) make the cut here, along with some choice album tracks (“Uncomplicated,” “I Hope You’re Happy Now”) and nifty covers ( a spirited take on the Stones “Out Of Time.”) Luckily, even the most oft-played songs are given a shot of life by Steve Nieve’s fabulous, mad-scientist organ fills.

E.C. no doubt makes an amiable Pat Sajak, but much of the suspense of the wheel is mitigated when you’re sitting watching at home with the track listings in front of you. The DVD really soars when Elvis takes the stage alone to play acoustic versions of two songs from his unjustly unheralded recent albums. Displaying vaudevillian charm, he makes “Slow Drag With Josephine” and “Jimmie Standing In The Rain” an unexpectedly powerful one-two punch. The presence of the wheel may imply a game of chance, but Costello’s immense talent assures a performance of the highest level.