Why do we go to live shows? Squeeze into stifling venues, pay too much for the same beer we have at home in the fridge, occasionally cough up more for a ticket than we paid for every album the artist ever put out? We go because watching the people who wrote those songs and created that music put it back into the world right in front of our adoring eyes can be downright gob-smacking jaw-droppingly amazing.
Elvis Costello at 57 shames front men a third of his age. For his latest Revolver tour with the Imposters, which closed in Durham last week, he pulled out a stage prop that hasn’t seen daylight since 1986. Yes, that’s eighty-six, when most artists currently playing the 9:30 Club were either being conceived or their parents were getting stoned in the back of a Camaro and thinking about it. Costello pretty much defines prolific, to put it mildly, and back then he constructed a 20-foot high wheel containing a dizzying mixture of song titles, categories and random phrases, inviting audience members to come on stage and control the direction of the show. Spin the wheel or make a request, he and the band will play it. We don’t need no stinking warm-up, we don’t need no sound check for this stuff, we are so freaking good we can play anything you tell us to and blow your ears off in the process. That, my friend, is punk.