Smashing Mag: James Mallion: Phots by Julen Esteban-Pretel.
Elvis Costello and The Imposters at EX Theatre Roppong December 12th, 2013.
Day two of his consecutive three Tokyo shows saw Elvis Costello playing alongside his band, The Impostors, bring "The Spinning Wheel Songbook" to Japan. The venue, a brand new Roppongi Ex theater, was just the place to showcase Costello, who is now some forty years into performing. The EX Roppongi is big with good acoustics, but still intimate enough to allow Costello and fans direct access to each other and Costello took full advantage. His experience, showmanship and love for performing really shines through in his live show. His stage show offers up numerous possibilities both in terms of song selection, and also how to present the show.
Live music is an art that in itself is fleeting. It exists for the audience to consume in that moment, then leaves you with only memories (if you’re lucky a recording of the show.) Any given performance or one’s reaction to it may differ greatly day-to-day. No matter how rehearsed or perfected the live show is, there is still always the element of chance. Live music contains the magic of the unexpected, that something intangible that exists between the performer and the audience that keeps people coming back for the experience, instead of just listening at home.
As a veteran performer Costello is well aware of these magic moments and delivers a product that satisfies both casual concert-goers and hardcore attendees alike.
His stage is setup like something of a circus sideshow attraction, inviting one to enter and join Costello in the madness. It’s a colorful set which includes a go-go dancer in a cage, a bar with stools, a giant television backdrop, a circus hammer game and of course the always looming giant wheel labelled with dozens of Costello’s songs.
Costello is indeed the ringmaster and although he does have some staple songs such as, She, Alison and Radio Radio, it’s his involvement inclusion of the audience that gives the show a personal touch. Throughout the show, to the delight of fans, Costello frequently ventures down into the crowd. During this exchange he stops, lingers, sings directly to fans, shakes hands, then inevitably pulls a fan or two up on stage with him. Upon arrival on stage the lucky audience member is then quizzed briefly by Costello and summoned to spin the giant song wheel, leaving to chance what Costello will perform next.
The fan is then seated at a makeshift bar on stage and can enjoy the show for a few songs mere feet away from Costello and The Impostors. These candid moments often proved to be the most memorable as the joy or shock, often mixtures of both radiating from the fans on stage reminded me of why people attend live shows. Costello made his show intimate and memorable. Despite all his success he isn’t some untouchable rock star up on a pedestal. He mixes it up with us commoners, chatting, laughing and ensuring all of us were a part of the show.
Costello and the band also proved their playing mastery throughout the show dropping solos here and there. Costello even belted out a few verses without his microphone to the joy of a darkened, near silent theater before the applause came crashing down like thunder. The crowd, for their part, kept up with Costello’s energy and stayed standing for nearly the duration of the almost three hour set. Just a wave of the hand from Costello and the crowd was clapping or cheering energetically a whole song through. Whether performing in bars to dozens or festivals to countless, it’s clear Costello has stayed grounded in his approach. He aims to please, all the while loving the stage and appreciating the magic and spontaneity it brings.
— set list —
I Hope You’re Happy Now / Heart Of The City / Uncomplicated / Mystery Dance / Radio Radio / This Year’s Girl / Party Girl / Girls Talk / Girl(Lennon/McCartney) / Come The Meantimes / She / Monkey To Man / Tokyo Storm Warning / Alison / God Give Me Strength / New Lace Sleeves / Accidents Will Happen / Walk Us Uptown / Chelsea
— Interlude —
Ascension Day / Good Year For The Roses / Suit Of Lights / A Slow Drag With Josephine / Jimmie Standing In The Rain / Shipbuilding / Viceroy’s Row / Oliver’s Army / Peace, Love and Understanding/Happy Birthday To Mysterious Josephine
— encore —
Watching The Detectives/Help Me / Poor Napoleon / Shabby Doll / The Imposter / Sugar Won’t Work