Monday, December 28, 2009
Elvis Costello's "Spectacle" : Season Two
The second season of Elvis Costello's "Spectacle" is already almost halfway over. I believe only 7 episodes were filmed, 8 if you count the upcoming two-parter with Bruce Springsteen as two. What we've seen so far has, at least to my eyes and ears, lived up to the promise fulfilled with season one. Though, at least to my eyes and ears, Season Two seems a bit more obligatory and a bit less sincere...so far. I remember seeing Elvis & Elton John doing some early press before the premiere of Season One. Costello remarked how the guests had no time restraints. If a song, or a story about a song needed to be ten minutes long, then so be it. I understand the show is an hour long, but so far, the editing has been terrible, with clumsy intros and obviously bad cuts.
Episode One with Bono & The Edge had the potential to be historic TV. But the powers that be left a few songs on the cutting room floor, one of which was a collaboration on the Costello staple, "Alison." The material is there. Why not let us in on it?
Episode Three featured a dream band of legends-Allen Toussaint, Richard Thompson, Nick Lowe, and Levon Helm. What it didn't feature was the additional hour of talk and performance these four brilliant musical minds should have been granted. Still, Thompson's guitar playing on "Shoot Out The Lights," Toussaint's turn of a phrase, both verbally and on the 88s, Nick Lowe's mesmerizing storytelling and song, and the radiant smile and colossal presence of the great Levon Helm, whose drumming still makes me wanna sell my sticks, made for 48 minutes of thrilling and at times, very moving viewing.
But it was Episode Two that struck the chord. Not so much with Neko Case, who seemed to belong on that stage about as much as Bob Cousy. Even Elvis Costello offered little in the way of engaging conversation or insight to the wonderful, but clearly uncomfortable Case. No mention was made of...well anything, except we know she loves Nilsson. (and who doesn't) I don't blame Neko. But something wasn't right. (Maybe her best moments are sharing a dumpster with Bono singing "Alison.") Sheryl Crow phoned in two hits and that was fine; entertaining. So what? Ron Sexsmith though, tore my heart to shreds with a warm reading of his staple, "Secret Heart," and a lovely reworking of Costello's "Everyday I Write The Book," which Elvis referred to as a song Sexsmith "rescued."
But ladies and germs, it was the odd man out, the elder statesman of the group, the quiet, the polite, the southern draft-dodger, Mr. Jesse Winchester who took what little was left of my heart, and made it littler.
As my friend Carl put it, "This may have just become my favorite song of the year. These are the moments we anticipate when we listen to music."
Take a look at Jesse Winchester above, singing "Sham-A-Ling-Dong-Ding." And if Neko Case didn't quite impress with the few minutes she was given to sing, her 5 second, tear-filled moment during Jesse's performance said it all.
If that doesn't grab ya, maybe Richard Thompson will.