Elvis Costello: The Revolver Tour DVD is the quintessential live document – imperfect, improvised, unusual and reactive.
Rarely does a UK musician make his love of the Grateful Dead known but Elvis Costello does. More than the classic songwriting and approach to subject matter, constant reinvention lies at the heart of their kindred core and on the Revolver Tour DVD you'll get ample evidence.
Watching Elvis Costello revisit not only the same material but also the same stage set up as his 1986 tour is watching a master rework ideas with a professional focus that fixates on giving the audience what they paid for. What the Elvis Costello fan desires more than anything is not necessarily a show but an audience, as both participant and acolyte. The DVD the highlights people from the crowd becoming the show; it's a carnival, it's a gameshow, it feels intimate because from the lighting director to the hall usher to the suburban mum with teenage daughter everyone is included.
The Grateful Dead and their Deadhead followers held that every concert experience was different, life and music intertwined could never, and was never supposed to mirror the repetition of the album. Embrace the flaws and the music would soar; constant change and movement, improvisation, no fear in getting it wrong, the philosophy suggested an amateur approach where risk taking wasn't just encouraged but essential. All of this is evidenced on The Revolver Tour DVD, capturing a single show filmed May 12th at the Wiltern Theatre, Los Angeles 2011 which in many respects it is his The Grateful Dead Movie (1977).
The 2011 tour saw 25th reunion of 1986 tour concept, where they randomised the setlist by having all the songs presented on a giant wheel that audience members were invited to spin. Once selected the band would play the song as the lucky winner, more often than not, danced along on stage.
As with the original tour the 2011 set design echoed a vaudevillian variety show sort of atmosphere with ushers, dancing girls, flashing lights and audience participation. Think, less Las Vegas and more Leamington Spa, admirably captured and explained on the DVD and 'making of' documentary.
Watching the DVD in a linear fashion (you could 'spin the wheel' and a song will be chosen at random but it's a bit laborious) Elvis Costello revisits his back catalogue while giving the fans enough hits to keep them quiet (one imagines that for every Costello fan there is a particular set list they'd die for… so satisfaction might be hard to quantify).
The treatment of 'Watching the Detectives', 'Alison', and 'Everyday I Write the Book' bring in other elements and in the former case, other songs, all woven together with a strongly improvised feel. Costello's more avant garde atonal solos drift through the songs as the Imposter keep the pace and expertly steady the form, it's a solid show with lots of nice touches, unique flourishes and if you were lucky enough to attend probably lot of revisited memories. The DVD itself has a number of additional audio features (Dolby 5.1) and some solid extras, all in all it's a nice package and a worthy addition to any music fan's DVD collection.