Elvis Costello has been known to create concert set lists by spinning a wheel onstage, but he says that's nothing compared to the spinning he felt by the time he finished taping this year's Spectacle.
The music/talk show Spectacle, whose second season premieres Wednesday at 10 on Sundance, has Costello talking and playing with guests from U2 and Bruce Springsteen, and more.
It's as much fun as it sounds, he says. The only problem is that the whole season — seven episodes — had to be taped in four days at the Apollo Theater.
Also, Springsteen was the last guest, and as these things often go with Bruce, a 2½-hour session stretched to more than four.
"It was a great session," says Costello. "But if I was coherent at the end, it was a bloody miracle."
He was. Besides, exhaustion contributes to the raw feeling he says he likes in Spectacle.
"It's a moment, not a lifetime performance," he says. "I can live with rough edges. We don't try to overachieve because we don't have the time."
Also, for his own part, he says he doesn't have the voice.
"If I only had to sing, I would have sung better on every show," he says. "But since I'm also using my voice for so much conversation over these four days, you just have to accept what you get."
But that still leaves plenty for a season that starts with Bono and the Edge, then moves along until it finishes Jan. 20 and 27 with two nights of Springsteen. In-between highlights include a Jan. 6 show in which Costello shifts from host to guest and will be interviewed by actress Mary-Louise Parker.
Costello says running the show does at times require him to act as surrogate for the viewer, not as peer and colleague.
"Sometimes you have to play the fool and ask the obvious," he says. "You have to talk to the broad audience. Jesse Winchester is a brilliant artist, but there will be some viewers who are seeing him for the first time."
With Springsteen, conversely, much of the conversation can center on musical influences, anecdotes and the craft of writing.
"You start with questions on note cards," says Costello. "But when you're both feeling comfortable, you usually end up throwing them away."
He says taping and performing at the Apollo was also a factor that was hard to quantify, but impossible to ignore.
"I don't know how you measure that precisely," he says. "I think you'd need a Geiger counter. But when Bruce and I were singing an R&B song, you'll see how neither of us wanted to step forward and take the lead. I think that comes from knowing who has sung there before."
While Costello has indicated he probably won't do any more seasons of Spectacle, he has at the very least added a dozen more names to that Apollo list.