Musician Elvis Costello hosts his own talk show on the Sundance Channel. In addition to engaging interviews, popular music icons will perform on the show.
Elvis interviewed/conversed with Elton John for most of the show. They reminisced about great singers, piano players and performers they knew or played with. Elton talked a great deal about his idols and influences. The conversation was remarkably informative. Musical highlights included Elvis Costello opening the show with the Elton John tune Border Song, Elton at the piano demonstrating various piano techniques (Leon Russell, Laura Nyro, etc.), and the two of them performing a duet of a David Ackles song called Down River. In addition there were various clips of musicians they discussed, Elvis, his band and Elton jamming on Working In The Coal Mine, a song co-written by the great Allen Toussaint, who currently is a keyboard player in Elvis's band. The end titles have Elvis and his band performing Elton John's Ballad Of A Well-Known Gun.
Aired: December 3rd, 2008
Director: Dave Russell
Lou Reed and Julian Schnabel
Lou Reed joins Elvis for his interview/performance show. Reed, the Velvet Underground legend, discusses music, creativity and all things New York : including music, art and the old days when he was known as the Prince of Darkness. During the show, Reed is joined by Julian Schnabel, an old working buddy. Schnabel reminisces and performs what the Sundance web site describes as "a riveting - and totally spontaneous - spoken-word performance." In addition, Reed joins Elvis and his band for two musical performances.
Aired: December 10th, 2008
Former President Bill Clinton joins Elvis for his interview/performance show. The 42nd President comments on musicians who influenced his life and, according to the Sundance web site, helped shape him "as a man, a politician and a President". Clinton also talks about his early aspirations as a saxophonist, the importance of music in education, and the similar skill sets which distinguish both great musicians and great politicians. In addition, Charlie Haden and Pat Metheny join Elvis and his band for special, live musical performances.
Aired: December 17th, 2008
James Taylor joins Elvis for his interview/performance show. The legendary 'singer-songwriter' comments on his life, his times and the writers and musicians who influenced his four decade-long career. Taylor brings along his guitar and interweaves the often intimate conversation with some of his most famous creations (Fire And Rain, Sweet Baby James), as well as songs by several other great writers, such as Carole King and George Jones. And, as always, Elvis joins James in song for some magical, live musical performances.
Aired: December 24th, 2008
Two of the greatest performers of their respective generations discuss the people and the songs which make up the history of modern popular music. Tony Bennett, the irrepressible 83 year-old wonder, joins Elvis for his interview/performance show. The legendary singer, whose career spans the extremes of covering Hank Williams in the 1950's to winning Grammy's and partnering with k. d. lang in the first decade of the 21st century, is well matched with Elvis, whose own musical tastes and styles run the gamut of genres - past, present and future. Tony, accompanied by jazz pianist Bill Charlap, sings several classics and, according to the Sundance web site, "pulls a very special surprise guest from the audience for a spontaneous and irresistible duet".
Aired: December 31st, 2008
The format of Elvis' fantastic interview/performance show changes this week as Elvis interviews The Police both as a group and individually (perhaps wise as Andy, Sting and Stewart have always been a bit combustible in tandem). Elvis and The Police have toured together recently and it shows in their music. Sting performs the original version of the Police's big hit Roxanne and then Elvis duets separately with both Sting and Andy. For the grand finale Elvis and The Imposters join forces with The Police for what the Sundance web site promises is "an unprecedented 'mash-up' of a Costello classic and a Police essential, as well as a surprising cover of a time-tested hard rock anthem".
Aired: January 7th, 2009
Things calm down a bit this week, at least in volume, as Rufus Wainwright joins Elvis for his unique and fascinating interview/performance show. The flamboyant young singer-songwriter, son of Loudon Wainwright III and Canadian folk legend Kate McGarrigle, talks not only about his music, but about what the Sundance web site delicately describes as "his complicated family dynamics and his status as an icon of the gay community". Wainwright ably demonstrates both his prowess at the piano and his powerful voice. His mother Kate makes a surprise appearance and joins in for a duet with her son. Although not appearing in the show, his father is represented by Elvis who covers one of his songs.
Aired: January 14th, 2009
Kris Kristofferson, Rosanne Cash, Norah Jones, John Mellencamp
The format of Elvis' fantastic interview/performance show changes yet again as a major, magical musical surprise is pulled from Elvis' hat. And by pulled, I mean as in a "guitar pull". Legend has it that the late, great Johnny Cash would have musicians and writers pile into his Tennessee living room and take turns playing their songs - luminaries such as Kris Kristofferson, Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan. The musical gatherings were referred to as a "guitar pull". Now, Cash's daughter, Rosanne, joins with long-time family friend Kris Kristofferson and a new group of legendary singer-songwriters for an hour of old and new classics and a lively discussion on the art of songwriting. Norah Jones, the silken voiced daughter of Ravi Shankar, even reveals a new 'old classic' co-written by Hank Williams himself; while the Sundance web site reports that John Mellencamp "strips his music (old and new) down to the bare essentials"
Aired: January 21st, 2009
Elvis' eclectic interview/performance show goes highbrow this week as he welcomes the internationally acclaimed opera star Renée Fleming to Spectacle. The famous soprano regales the audience with inside stories about the colorful and demanding life of a big-time opera diva. According to the Sundance website, she provides "detailed insight into the rigors, demands and sacrifices involved in taking the human voice to the unnatural (but exhilarating) levels required in opera". Ms. Fleming performs a versatile range of numbers : including a Puccini aria, a jazz piece with guitarist Bill Frisell and an old Appalachian folk song. Opera fan Rufus Wainwright even turns up to "sing something special for Renée!"
Aired: January 28th, 2009
The legendary Herbie Hancock is the next stop on Elvis' colorful, eclectic interview/performance 'tour' of the western worlds variegated music scene. A child prodigy, Herbie's career has spanned almost 60 years - from performing with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at age 11 to recording with Sting, Annie Lennox, John Mayer, Christina Aguilera, Paul Simon and Carlos Santana in 2005. And, while perched behind a beautiful grand piano, he discusses all of it - from Miles Davis to Joni Mitchell and Jimi Hendrix. He also ably demonstrates and illustrates various masterful keyboard styles and techniques. Herbie is then joined by Karriem Riggins and Christian McBride on drums and bass for what the Sundance website describes as "a couple of riveting performances". To top everything off, "Elvis and Herbie join forces to tackle a song from River", the album of Joni Mitchell songs released in 2008 which earned him a Grammy for Album of the Year.
Aired: February 4th, 2009
She & Him, Jenny Lewis, Jakob Dylan
Spectacle's wild circus mix of interview and performance returns to the younger side of the musical mosaic with this fascinating familial portrait. A group of young artists who hail from sometimes famous show business families take center stage on their own : Jenny Lewis, Jakob Dylan and the indie duo She & Him (singer-songwriter-actress Zooey Deschanel and guitarist/producer M. Ward). Elvis' interviews explore both their current musical adventures and their earliest family influences. Musical performances include Jenny Lewis and Elvis getting together for a song from her new album (which EC played on), Jakob Dylan playing a primitive, stripped-down version of a Wallflower song before sharing a duet with Elvis, and She & Him, according to the Sundance website, "showing off their intriguing, timeless sound". The program comes to a rousing close with Elvis and the all the guests "hooking up for a fitting finale on one of the host's signature hits".
Aired: February 11th, 2009
Diana Krall Interviewed By Elton John
Since the penultimate Spectacle episode of the year is 'something completely different', as Monty Python once put it, the producers even changed the title of the show from 'Elvis Costello With …' to 'Diana Krall Interviewed By Elton John'. Other than a wee bit of music, Mr. Costello recuses himself and turns the proceedings over to his wife, Diana Krall, and one of the show's Executive Producers, Elton John. After Elvis opens the affair with a jazzy rendition of his song Almost Blue, Elton joins Diana at a piano where they proceed to discuss jazz, favorite sad songs and the singers who sing them. After a duet with Elton, Diana is joined by Karriem Riggins and Christian McBride, the same rhythm section which played with Herbie Hancock two weeks earlier (and also opened the show with Elvis). After a couple of solo performances, she is joined by Elvis and Elton for a warm and humorous closing number.
Aired: February 18th, 2009
Lucky number 13, the final curtain call of the season on Elvis' vibrant and truly unique interview and performance driven magical mystery musical tour, closes with a true American master : Smokey Robinson. The Motown icon reminisces about fifty years as a singer, songwriter, producer and record executive. Along the way he sings some of the classic tunes he created and forged into the very fabric of the American soul. As a juicy extra, Smokey, reports the Sundance web site, "also sings a surprising cover made famous by Norah Jones". The show, and the season, concludes with a bit of trans-Atlantic history : an Elvis-Smokey "duet performance of Smokey's classic You've Really Got a Hold on Me". That song, a 1962 hit single by The Miracles, and later a 1998 Grammy Hall of Fame inductee, made its way across the ocean where The Beatles acquired a copy and added it to their show early in 1963. It was the first track recorded for their second album With the Beatles. Much of their early success was founded on Smokey and Motown magic, just as, years later, a young Declan Patrick MacManus (aka Elvis Costello) was inspired by the magic of The Beatles to begin forging his musical adventure.
Elvis says that, due to scheduling difficulties, he isn't certain if they'll be a second season of Spectacle. Here's hoping that it works out, because this season has been one hell of a wild, sweet magical ride.
Aired: February 25th, 2009