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Costello’s Imposters receive raucous welcome in Nashville

Elvis Costello & The Imposters performed an energetic set of songs spanning his 40-year career at Nashville’s legendary Ryman Auditorium as part of The Revolver Tour, writes Paul Watson.

Elvis Costello’s current tour (The Revolver Tour) is his most unique ever, as he finally brings a 25-year-old idea to fruition, using audience participation to create as random a set-list as possible each night with the help of a spinning wheel. Last night (September 25), a near-capacity crowd heard Elvis Costello and his band, The Imposters, perform more than two-hours-worth of his songs at Nashville’s 2,262-capacity Ryman Auditorium, original home to the city’s now world-famous Grand ‘Ole Opry. A set-list comprising crowd favourites Almost Blue and Watching The Detectives also featured some unique cover versions including Bob Dylan’s This Wheel’s On Fire and The Who’s Substiute, the latter of which was Costello’s [second] encore. Throughout the evening, Costello brought audience members up on stage to spin a giant wheel which featured 40 song titles from Costello’s past, present and future (yes, he was prepared to play work-in-progress titles too, if need be), and whichever song the wheel’s ‘pointer’ landed on when the it came to a stop, the band would perform, while the lucky wheel-spinner would be asked to sit down (or dance wildly, in some cases) on stage with a free drink, and enjoy the one-off experience up, close and personal. “He’s very much an analogue man,” smiles the Ryman’s technical supervisor, Les Banks (pictured), pointing to the Midas XL4 console Costello’s sound crew had brought in to accompany the venue’s own Yamaha PM5D. “But like all guests, they have interfaced with my system: they go through a [BSS] London Soundweb matrix to distribute audio through the various zones.” Clair Brothers, who carried out the venue’s JBL VerTec install several years ago, came in for two weeks during August this year to improve the PA set-up. “We brought every speaker down and did a very serious impedance check,” explains Banks. “Then we re-hung the PA with a little different pinning, just to get a more complete coverage in the room, especially to the engineers up on the balcony; and it’s much better as a result.” The VerTec system is configured L/R/C, and comprises two hangs of six 4888 L/R, and four 4880 subs in the centre, plus a couple of bi-amped hi/lo boxes for the sidefills. On the floor there are 4887s and two further 4880 subs; and frontfills and a delay ring is located underneath the balcony. “It’s an interesting venue to be a house guy in, because by far my most difficult challenge is the absolute phenomenal difference between empty and full,” Banks reveals. “When it’s empty, it’s bouncing around – and very loud – you don’t know where the sound’s coming from; but with every 250 people that come in, it gets calmer and more focused.” Arguably the most breathtaking part of the evening was Costello’s solo performance of the enchanting 1920s-esque Slow Drag With Josephine, where he twice came away from the mic and dropped the volume of his guitar to zero, literally performing the song acoustically, to a silent, ultra-respectful audience. Utterly brilliant.