Attention All Music Fans! The Best Talk Show Ever: "Spectacle: Elvis Costello with..."

"I'm a man with a mission in two or three editions"

       - Elvis Costello, "Everyday I Write the Book"

The best talk show ever. That's what I'd call Elvis Costello's new one-hour weekly show, "Spectacle: Elvis Costello with...", the first episode of which finally aired here in Canada over the weekend.

I know I said in an earlier piece that "Vagina Power", the show hosted by Alexyss K. Tylor and her mom, was the greatest talk show on TV, but what I really meant was that it was the most hilarious and bizarre talk show ever made, while Elvis' show is the most fascinating, at least for anyone who's a serious music fan.

Of course, for those not all that into music the show may not seem quite so fascinating. But for all of us music lovers there's really no denying the appeal of a completely refreshing new program like this.

I'm a huge Elvis Costello fan and the fact he was hosting obviously caught my attention. After all, My Aim Is True (1977), This Year's Model (1978), Armed Forces (1979), and King of America (1986) are four of my all-time favorite albums.

However, my love of Elvis' music is not, in fact, the reason I love this show so much, though there's no denying that his musical performances are definitely one of the show's highlights.

The fact is there's never really been anything like this before: A show featuring one musical legend (Elvis) sitting around talking music for an hour each week with another musical legend (that week's guest). Not about their big hits and life as a rock star, but, rather, about their influences, passions and inspirations. A gossip show this is not. A show for those with a passion for music it most certainly is.

Now I can hear some of you saying: "Elvis Costello as a TV show host? Come on!". But that's exactly what many people thought when they heard that Bob Dylan was going to be hosting his own radio show three years ago. However, few would now argue with the fact that "Theme Time Radio Hour with Bob Dylan" is one of the greatest radio programs of all time. So, leave behind any preconceptions you may have about Elvis and just check out the show. Because, believe it or not, he's perfect in this role.

Tickle Me Elton

The show's first guest was Elton John and although I'm not a huge fan of his I do love the album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, as well as some of his other stuff; "Tiny Dancer" being one of my all-time favorite songs. However, I definitely have a lot more respect for him after watching this show. The man clearly has an immense passion for music - and good music at that. As does Elvis, of course.

It was quite interesting to hear the two of them raving about their shared love of relatively obscure artists like Laura Nyro, David Ackles and Leon Russell.

And then their duet of the old David Ackles song "Down River", which they played to close out the show, was simply fantastic. Watch it here:


Elvis Costello and Elton John singing "Down River"

Ron Sexsmith

Another highlight of the show was seeing Elton talk so passionately about the music of great Canadian singer/songwriter Ron Sexsmith, who, as Elton angrily pointed out, is tragically all-but-ignored by radio. Elvis has been a champion of Sexsmith's music from the start, but this was the first time I realized that Elton is also a big fan.

Big Pink

The biggest surprise for me was hearing Elton talking about how much he was influenced by The Band and Van Morrison back when he was just starting out. He actually said that the album that influenced him more than any other single album in his life was The Band's 1968 debut Music From Big Pink. That was certainly not something I'd ever have guessed, though being a big fan of The Band it was great to hear. As it was to hear him talk about his love of Van Morrison, another one of my all-time faves.

The most bizarre tidbit we heard, however, was that Elton and his songwriting partner of 40 years, Bernie Taupin, have never once sat down together in the same room to write a song. Not one song. I found that truly weird.

Upcoming Guests

Over all, it was a really fantastic first show and if the remaining 12 episodes of this inaugural season are anywhere near as good as this initial episode then we're in for a pretty amazing run. Especially with upcoming guests like The Police, Lou Reed, Kris Kristofferson, Jenny Lewis, Rufus Wainwright, James Taylor, Jakob Dylan, Herbie Hancock, Smokey Robinson, John Mellencamp and even, somewhat out of place, Bill Clinton (guess he must be a fan... or perhaps he just likes to talk).

Beaten To The Punch

The show has actually been airing down in the States on the Sundance Channel since last December, but, for some unknown reason, we had to wait an extra four months to see it up here in Canada. This is particularly bizarre when you consider that the show is a Canadian production. Which in itself might seem weird to anyone who is unaware of the fact that Elvis lives here in British Columbia at least half of each year, together with his Canadian wife Diana Krall (who is also an upcoming guest on the show) and their twin two-year-old boys.

Anyhow, it was terrific to see people with that much passion for music sitting around talking about whatever they felt like talking about. Sure beats Leno.

Check it out for yourselves: The show airs numerous times throughout the week on the Sundance Channel in the U.S. Or, in Canada, on CTV Friday nights at 10:00 p.m. and/or on Bravo Saturdays at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT and Sundays at 6 p.m. ET/3 p.m. PT.

And, finally, here's the complete list of upcoming episodes: "Spectacle: Elvis Costello With..." Episode Guide

Mike Cowie (Oredakedo)
Tuesday, April 7th, 2009



And here's the follow-up rave, written in June 2009: Wake Up Music Fans! Wake Up! Lou and Elvis Tear It Up


To see my picks for the best music of 2008 click here: The Best 20 Albums and 50 Songs of 2008: Dylan Tops Both Lists


And if you're a fan of Dylan then make sure to check this out: The 25 Greatest Dylan Songs of The Past 20 Years


And to read my two - yes two - recent rave reviews of Tell Tale Signs click here: Bob's Back: Tell Tale Signs of Joy... and A Complete Lack of Judgement


And here: Tell Tale Signs of Genius: Dylan's Best Album of The Past 20 Years? (Rave #2)


And for much more on all things Dylan click here: The Bob (as in Dylan)


Or for more on other artists and albums click here: Music Homepage


Or here: Music: Album and Concert Raves


MikesAndDislikes Home

Specacle (Fantastic Show)

Elvis Costello has a nature (relaxed mode) that lets the musicians/singers/songwriters express them selves. Sort of the way Larry King has/did. And that appealing. To listen to some of the great like The Police and after having witnessed their prospective journeys in music and to hear them talk about it with the face masks off is a little bit of a rub. To catch a peak at how their lives changes and benefited from the times at hand and then perform on the show and play with Elvis is really something special. Love that show. Bless you. Wayne Sanelli

Tony Danza

And then there's that classic reference of reverence to Elton John, on FRIENDS: ~ Phoebe: Uh, see, I-I think the one that Elton John wrote for, um, that guy on Who's the Boss?. . Rachel: What song is that, Pheebs? . Phoebe: Um… [singing to "Tiny Dancer"] "Hold me close, young Tony Danza…"