Springfield Republican, July 12, 2011

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Elvis Costello sparkles in 'Spectacle' DVD
with Bono, Springsteen and others


Kevin O'Hare

Spectacle Elvis Costello with… Season Two

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This should be required viewing for anyone ever considering a future career in songwriting, though there’s so much great music in this double-DVD, it should appeal to a much broader audience as well.

Broadcast in the U.S. on the Sundance Channel, Spectacle finds host Elvis Costello matched in various programs with some seasoned songwriters, in this case Bono and the Edge from U2, Bruce Springsteen, Richard Thompson, Nick Lowe, Levon Helm, Sheryl Crow, Lyle Lovett, John Prine and Neko Case, to name but a few.

Running more than five hours in total – the episode with Springsteen is a two-part segment featuring what is arguably the Jersey rocker’s most in-depth interview in decades – it is occasionally a tad patronizing, but overall Costello gets the most of his guests.

Several of the shows start with Costello and his band The Imposters playing a song that’s somehow tied to his guests, such as when they open the Bono and Edge broadcast with a version of U2’s "Mysterious Ways," or the Levon Helm show with the Band’s "Rag Mama Rag."

The interview segments are frequently fascinating, exploring the songwriting process deeply as when Costello gets John Prine to deconstruct the writing of the brilliant "Lake Marie," or Springsteen to talk in-depth about some of his more obscure compositions like "Wild Billy’s Circus Story," and "Galveston Bay."

Nevertheless, with the Imposters frequently serving as a backing band, it is the music that stands out the most with memorable performances like Bono and The Imposters doing a song originally envisioned for Frank Sinatra "Two Shots of Happy, One Shot of Sad;" an amazing version of "The Weight" featuring Helm, Lowe, Thompson, Costello and the Imposters along with Ray LaMontagne and Allen Toussaint; Costello and Ron Sexsmith playing "Everyday I Write the Book;" and Springsteen, Roy Bittan, Nils Lofgren and Costello and the Imposters mixing "Radio Silence/Radio Nowhere/Radio, Radio."

Tremendously entertaining and one of the very best shows on television, preserved on DVD. This one is a must-have.

Rating Scale: One Star (poor) to Five Stars (a classic).

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Springfield Republican, July 12, 2011


Kevin O'Hare reviews Spectacle: Elvis Costello with... Season Two on DVD.


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