Spectacle: Elvis Costello with… — Season 2 Blu-ray Review

Ladies and gentlemen, forget about every other series you have ever seen dedicated to music, and I mean every other one. Soundstage? Forget it. Austin City Limits? Love it, but, nope, forget it. Storytellers? Please. You see a pattern developing here? Spectacle: Elvis Costello with… is without a doubt the most brilliant series dedicated to music ever produced for television, and that is not hyperbole. I could just kick myself for not actually knowing about it until now, being the huge fan of music that I am; I mean, I eat and breathe the stuff, yet the series somehow flew under my radar. When I had the chance to review it, all I knew was that it was a series hosted by Elvis Costello, which was enough to have me interested. Man, have I been amazed by what I have seen.

This isn’t just a typical performance show where artists are ushered on and off politely, Costello is an interactive host, beginning each episode with with a musical homage to the artist or artists being “made a spectacle of” that night. When he sits down to interview them, you can not only tell that there is a mutual respect, but that Costello knows his musical history and honors it. As a result, what you get is an honest conversation between musicians that offers a deep and intellectual understanding of these artists, what drives and inspires them, and how they arrive at their art.

Season 2 is captured at New York City’s famous Apollo Theater and Toronto’s Masonic Temple. Its episodes feature Bono and Edge (Episode 201); Sheryl Crow, Jesse Winchester, Ron Sexsmith, and Neko Case (Episode 202); Levon Helm, Nick Lowe, Richard Thompson, and Allen Toussaint (Episode 203); Elvis Costello with Mary-Louise Parker (Episode 204); Lyle Lovett, Ray LaMontagne, and John Prine (Episode 205); and Bruce Springsteen (Episodes 206 and 207).

Each episode features Costello playing along with the artists as well as the artists performing some of their hits and more obscure material. For instance, in the first Springsteen episode, The Boss performs “Wild Billy’s Circus Story” from his second album, The Wild, The Innocent, and The E Street Shuffle and singer-songwriter Jesse Winchester comes on and goes all the way back to his eponymous debut album to perform “The Brand New Tennessee Waltz.” As much as I love Springsteen, however, my favorite performer in Season 2 has to be the passionate and eccentric Ray LaMontagne who, among other songs, performed his beautiful ballad “Jolene.”