Was Elvis Costello really the angry young man who would storm off the stage after 45 minutes, and turn up white noise to clear the hall? It is hard to believe he was once such an asshole after watching him as the consummate host of Sundance’s Spectacle: Elvis Costello with… series.
Recorded at the Apollo Theatre in New York, the show is one-hour mix of interviews and performances, featuring some of the greatest names in music. The second season of Spectacle has just been released by MVD as a two-DVD set, and it is outstanding.
Only seven episodes were produced for the second season, as opposed to 13 for the first. Nevertheless, the quality is high - and Elvis’ guests are uniformly top-shelf. Take the very first program of the season, with Bono and The Edge. Elvis banters easily with the members of U2, showing them a poster of a gig they all performed on in 1980. U2’s name is barely legible at the bottom of the flier. “Then whoosh, to the moon - Red Rocks and setting everybody on fire,“ Elvis says.
There are so many brilliant musicians who took part in the second season, it is hard to whittle the list down to a favorite performance. However, the third episode of the season is a strong contender, with a band made up of Allen Toussaint, Richard Thompson, Nick Lowe, and Levon Helm. Their take on “The Weight” with Elvis is a big highlight. New York being New York, plenty of celebrities are in the audience. In this one Steve Buscemi is seen rocking out, and grinning ear to ear - possibly for the first time ever.
Mary-Louise Parker turns the table on Mr. McManus during the fourth show. In this one, the host himself is the guest. During the interview he discusses how he and his peers used to hide their influences. To be the 1977 version of politically correct, you could not admit an affinity for Van Morrison or The Band. The show is all solo Elvis. He even performs one of my favorite “angry young man” tunes, “I Don’t Want To Go To Chelsea.”