Spectacle: Elvis Costello with...
"Season 2, First 3 episodes"

(Sundance Channel 2009)Spectacle: Elvis Costello with... - Season 2, First 3 episodes

After a well received first season, Elvis Costello returns to the Sundance Channel with the second season of his music show. The premise is pretty straight forward: invite musicians, talk about music and perform music. And while I realize it is Elvis Costello's show and he's the host, the one with his name and image in the opening credits, there might be just a bit too much Costello on Spectacle: Elvis Costello with...

In the first three episodes of the show's second season, the line-up is nothing to sniff at. The kick-off episode welcomes U2's Bono and The Edge, the next ("the Guitar pull" episode that is underwhelming in its actual guitar playing but heavy on quality singer-songwriters) has Ron Sexsmith, Sheryl Crow, Neko Case and Jesse Winchester, while the third episode includes Levon Helm, Nick Lowe, Richard Thompson, and Allen Toussaint.

There's a lot to be said for Costello interviewing Bono and The Edge as they came up in the music scene at approximately the same time. It's a fact that adds something extra to Costello's interviewing but when there isn't that connection, his hosting abilities sort of falter and his occasional habit of giving backhanded compliments doesn't help matters.

The fact that the show is rehearsed is very transparent and while it should offer some flow to things, the show can be kind of clunky. Similarly, Costello's involvement in nearly every musical performance gets tiresome; his collaboration with the duo on "Stuck On A Moment You Can't Get Out Of It" is worth forgetting. That said, by the third episode, Costello has finally found his stride and just gets out of the way and lets the guests play their music: and that's when the magic of Spectacle really happens.

What Spectacle: Elvis Costello with... does offer is something American television is and has been shockingly lacking: music-oriented television. Spectacle has little fat as it packs in musical performances and brief but interesting interview segments. While the show does try to do too much with too many guests at one time, for fans of Costello or the guests, these are shows you won't want to miss.

B-