It sucks being so easily dissatisfied. Yesterday I received a notification that Elvis Costello would be playing Philadelphia’s Tower Theater, where I enjoyed a number of cool shows in my youth and some midnight movies to boot. The Tower is a dirty, old theater that seats maybe 4000 people. It always had a good rock ‘n roll vibe, and I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to take my 13-year-old son to see one of my heroes.
“Is he still any good?” my boy wisely asked. He knows most of the classic records, which we spin regularly, but noted that he doesn’t hear me talking about any new releases.
“Well,” I had to admit, “he hasn’t been good for some time, but this could be a good show.”
Now I take that back.Today I learned that this tour will bring back the Spectacular Spinning Songbook, a brilliant concept in its initial incarnation, around the time of Blood & Chocolate, that was only occasionally funny when I saw Elvis and the Attractions first do this schtick at the Tower. Musically, the show left a lot to be desired.
The Spectacular Spinning Songbook wheel included selections from Costello’s already vast and diverse catalog as well as covers, from the Beatles to Prince, if memory serves. The show’s MC was the white-suited, white-haired, white-mustachioed guy from Alex Cox’s Straight to Hell, so that was a thrill for me. He’d call up folks from the audience to spin the wheel and determine the band’s next set. There were cages on either side of the stage with go-go dancers, one of whom may have been Costello’s wife-du-jour, the bassist from The Pogues. Plenty of hijinx ensued between song selections. And then even more time passed. The band would play a song or two and then the schtick would start up again. The Attractions couldn’t break a sweat. Elvis Costello & the Attractions shows to that point were all about breaking a sweat and playing 4-song segues at breakneck speeds. This show had none of that. I spent the whole night thinking I should be enjoying myself, but I really didn’t.
My son will have to wait for another tour for me to take him to see my old hero.