Had you asked me who might be a successful talk/music show host, Elvis Costello would've been very far down on my list. Shows how much I knew. I was not, however, the only skeptic in the crit world, as quite a few eyebrows were raised and more than one smirk. Now we have to eat our words along with a soupcon garni of the polite derision that had accompanied them, as the gent proved in his first season to be surprisingly adept at the task, going over gangbusters and earning a continuation, the Season 2 represented here in 7 hours of great chat and performances.
I was at first minded of the old Tom Jones Show back in times gone by, back then chuckling at the effrontery I'd once considered was a bit too over the top even for so successful but crass an act…but then Jones invited the Moody Blues, The Who, Janis Joplin, Aretha Franklin, and a solid roster of superstars, and I found myself waiting each week to catch the show. Costello's far better than ol' Tom-cat could ever have hoped to be, especially in terms of intimacy and raw performances, frequently inserting himself into the combination of show band and guests for a number of extremely tasty songs well embroidered beyond their original appearances on vinyl and aluminum. The dynamism of the entire affair is inarguable moment to moment.
Here, Bono, for instance, talks about Eno and the embarrassing debacle of Brian's nearly erasing Where the Streets Have No Name and a slew of other cuts as the epochal Joshua Tree album progressed in its haphazard fashion. In fact, what one may have read in the rock press is not only here recited again but this time with a plethora of corollary facts and insights…straight from the mouths of those who were there, not secondhand journalists. The same applies to all Costello's guests, and the list is staggering: Richard Thompson, Jesse Winchester, Bruce Springsteen, John Prine, Nick Lowe, Ray LaMontagne, Nils Lofgren, and so on. More, where I've often commented on the part MVD, a co-collaborator here, and a few other labels are embarked on shifting the dialogue of rock criticism to a higher dimension, the same re-calibration occurs here in the interviewing process, a far more direct and immediate situation than the purely written aspect.
And, man o man o man, how often do ya get to see Jesse Winchester? Sure, The Boss has a two show extravaganza at the tail end of the series, and any John Prine face time is a great thing, but, hell, the Winchsester appearance alone is worth the entire entry price. The guy and his work are so unique. It's too bad a recitation of Twigs 'n Seeds didn't make the show, it woulda broke the place up, but Jesse's rendition of Sham-a-ling-Dong-Ding is so heartfelt that you watch as Neko Case, listening to the poignancy of the lyrics, wells up, a tear coursing down her cheek. Even Costello is visibly moved, just as much as when the number was rehearsed before the telecast. Nonetheless, this is a wonderland of folk, rock, blues, country, and any number of hybrids, from Case covering Harry Nilsson to the bombast of Springsteen. If you doubt for a moment, just glance at the song list below and be hypnotized.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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