As you know if you’ve read my stuff, I loves me some music TV shows. Recently I posted a bit about the whole TV music thing, and I touched briefly on Spectacle, Elvis Costello’s Sundance Channel series (co-produced with CTV in Canada) and today I want to elaborate on it and also share some thoughts about a web series, Live From Daryl’s House with Daryl Hall.
I have now watched, I believe, every episode of Spectacle: Elvis Costello with… and I have to say it is now appointment television for me. Imagine Inside The Actor’s Studio, but about composers and songwriters, crossed with an element of Later with Jools Holland. Sometime Elvis shows his inexperience as a “presenter” but I rather like the idea of him as soul revue barker at the intro of most episodes and he’s gotten increasingly more comfortable with the “blue cards”, so I think he’s tightening up as he goes along. It helps that the sporadically used backup band features Pete Thomas, Davey Faragher and sometimes even Bill Frisell or Allen Toussaint. Highlights for me this season, the Police episode where EC gets to interview Andy Summers, Stewart Copeland and Sting individually and then as a group, before jamming out a sort of medley of white reggae compositions “Walking On The Moon” and it’s stylistic cousin “Watching The Detectives”. I loved Lou Reed, backed by Barenaked Ladies Kevin Hearn AND Imposters’s Steve Nieve, doing “Perfect Day.” I loved the “guitar pull” featuring a Bluebird style round up of John Mellencamp, Kris Kristofferson, Norah Jones and Rosanne Cash. I was surprised by the Renee Fleming opera episode, which also featured grand diva Rufus Wainwright!
The episode with Herbie Hancock reaffirmed my suspicions that not only is Hancock one of the greatest living jazz composers, he is also one hell of sweet guy with a huge open mind and heart. Just felt that in the playing and the chat with EC. The She & Him episode , which also featured Jakob Dylan and Jenny Lewis, didn’t work as well for me for some reason, but I understood why EC did that. The Elton John episode was pretty cool, and he’s a producer of Spectacle too, which came in handy when EC bailed on interviewing his own wife Diana Krall for a really warm episode. The biggest success of the season, if I may be so bold, was the hour with Smokey Robinson. At the Apollo! THERE is a legend. All the hits, all the insider stories. Smokey’s voice is, well, smokier, but he’s still got it. I would love it if there’s a season two and if EC could use his infinite charm to corral Paul McCartney, Joni Mitchell and David Byrne. He should also consider Ron Sexsmith, Neil Finn and Nick Lowe. Anyway, Spectacle is great and I wish them the best with it.
Live From Daryl’s House is another great idea. It’s exactly what it says it is, a musician or songwriter -not particulary well known either – comes over to Daryl Hall’s house where he’s all set up to play and film, with T Bone Wolk (you may remember he was the bass player from the SNL pit band in the 90’s when GE Smith was there, also a Hall & Oates alumnus). They talk, they rehearse, they eat, and they play. Daryl joins in on the guests songs, then the guests, such as KT Tunstall, Matt Nathanson and Nick Lowe, join in on some of Hall’s and Hall and Oates songs, which are amazingly (and perhaps surprisingly to rock snobs) durable.
A fave moment was T-Bone Wolk and Hall joining Nick Lowe on “Cruel To Be Kind”, and KT Tunstall giving it a little Bonnie Raitt-ish grit on “Kiss On My List”. This is one to watch. I love that Daryl is going out with newer artists, shows he’s still listening and how can you not admire that. Plus he’s gotta be the best rock soul singer on the planet. Suggestions, do one with Todd Rundgren. And John Legend. (but not John Mayer).