Elvis Costello

Elvis Costello, host of SPECTACLE: ELVIS COSTELLO WITH... on Sundance Channel, has followed his musical curiosity in a career spanning more than 30 years. He is perhaps best known for his performances with The Attractions, The Imposters and for concert appearances with pianist Steve Nieve. However, he has also entered into acclaimed collaborations with Burt Bacharach, The Brodsky Quartet, Paul McCartney, Swedish mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter, guitarist Bill Frisell, composer Roy Nathanson, The Charles Mingus Orchestra, record producer and songwriter T Bone Burnett and Allen Toussaint. SPECTACLE's eclecticism and depth reflect its uniquely qualified host, a songwriter and performer comfortable in almost every genre imaginable; a musicologist of formidable breadth and knowledge; a contributor to Vanity Fair; and a noted wit whose stint as guest host on The Late Show with David Letterman won rave reviews.

SPECTACLE REPORT: Elvis Costello's Must-Hear Songs by John Prine, Lyle Lovett, and Ray LaMontagne

Article: SPECTACLE REPORT: Elvis Costello's Must-Hear Songs by John Prine, Lyle Lovett, and Ray LaMontagne

Elvis Costello and Lyle Lovett.

Some people imagine I have a head start with my SPECTACLE encounters simply because my guests and I share an occupation.

However, the location of the specific common ground has often been unusual or obscure.

For example, Lyle Lovett and I both contributed to Robert Altman’s motion picture, SHORT CUTS.

I wrote the song “Punishing Kiss” for Annie Ross to perform, while Lyle, rather more crucially, was featured as a sinister confectioner. So, there was not much cause for dialogue, other than to remark upon this coincidence.

When I started my career, my unfortunate face and manner of speaking, which has often been mistaken for insolent at international borders, had me frequently described as “aggressive” or – perish the thought – “surly.”

In truth, I foolishly imagined that my songs might flourish while I remained out of the spotlight, but my natural shyness and impatience to get on with my work was often incorrectly decoded.

So while Ray Lamontagne may have found it hard to imagine that SPECTACLE’s M.C. was in anyway reticent, I can appreciate how his own natural reserve could be lazily mistaken for being “difficult.”

All I can say is that throughout our conversation Ray spoke with the same singular clarity and generosity found in his songs.

For all the contrasts between our three guests, one idea stands: they are all singers who have prevailed after initial comparisons to other performers, even when these supposed resemblances were intended to be complimentary.

I’ve always believed that a lot of good songs have been written while unsuccessfully attempting to copy the style of another writer. A lot of pop music is like this; you start out with someone else’s rhythm or voice in your head, and in utterly failing to duplicate it, you find your own.

SPECTACLE REPORT: Elvis Costello's Favorite Songs

Article: SPECTACLE REPORT: Elvis Costello's Favorite Songs

Taking questions from Mary Louise Parker, Elvis Costello takes the hot seats on SPECTACLE.

As reported elsewhere, passengers on NYC’s “F” Train have been fleeing in terror after being confronted by a frightening countenance leering from every poster along subway platforms. Some say he’s akin to Spencer Tracy’s “Mr. Hyde.”

At times like this, I feel as if I may have missed my vocation. Perhaps I should have been an Albanian Politburo Chairman or Millennial Cult Leader. Nothing else could possibly justify the kind of coverage SPECTACLE has enjoyed among the advertising space of the five boroughs.

Perhaps these graphic enticements may have even worked, or you might not be reading this now, except to avert your eyes from other horrors.

This episode of SPECTACLE was to have been hosted by our Executive Producer, Sir Elton John, a chance to mirror his Season One “guest host” appearance with my wife, Diana Krall.

Unfortunately, ill health intervened, and at very short notice we were extremely fortunate and grateful to have Mary-Louise Parker take part in an utterly different, but equally enjoyable, conversation.

This is the column in which I have, up until now, listed a few of my favorite cuts by our SPECTACLE guests. In this instance, however, it seems immodest and absurd to propose my own songs.

Thankfully, television is something less grand and permanent than an inscription on a marble slab, and something slightly in advance of, in the words of Winston Churchill, “a tuppenha’ penny Punch and Judy show.”

Meanwhile, “Favorite Records” change like alibis.

So, here are five records you may enjoy. I’ll write quickly before they change again.

SPECTACLE REPORT: Elvis Costello's Must-Hear Tracks Levon Helm, Allen Toussaint, Richard Thompson and Nick Lowe

Article: SPECTACLE REPORT: Elvis Costello's Must-Hear Tracks Levon Helm, Allen Toussaint, Richard Thompson and Nick Lowe

Elvis Costello with Nick Lowe on SPECTACLE BUILDING THE BAND This was one of the more chaotic SPECTACLE evenings. It was also one of the most joyful. We began with the simple idea of constructing a one-time-only band of guitar, piano, bass and drums, each member having taken some kind of cue from another somewhere…

SPECTACLE REPORT:  Elvis Costello's Must-Hear "Guitar Pull" Tracks

Article: SPECTACLE REPORT: Elvis Costello's Must-Hear "Guitar Pull" Tracks

From left, Jesse Winchester, Neko Case, Elvis Costello, Sheryl Crow and Ron Sexsmith on SPECTACLE’S “Guitar Pull.” RON SEXSMITH I’ve known Ron since just after the release of his first record. He’s probably gotten tired of reading my name in a paragraph with his simply because I’m among those who think it extraordinary that at…

SPECTACLE REPORT:  Elvis Costello's Must-Hear U2 Tracks

Article: SPECTACLE REPORT: Elvis Costello's Must-Hear U2 Tracks

Elvis Costello hosts Bono and The Edge on SPECTACLE. Our esteemed host has a discerning ear. For the second season of Spectacle, we asked him to choose a track or two from his guests’ sizable songbooks. Not “the greatest” or most iconic tunes necessarily, but pieces that have always knocked him out. We’ll update the…