Elivis Costello hosts a new show on the Sundance Channel called Spectacle: Elvis Costello with…. Each episode features another musician (Elton John, Lou Reed, James Taylor), with whom Costello performs and discusses that musician’s musical tastes and process.
I’ve just watched the James Taylor episode. I loved James Taylor starting in high school, when a friend of mine introduced me to his music. Every quality that I loved is on display in this televised hour: thoughtfulness, humor, insight, confession, and musicianship.
The show is great fun to watch because Costello, a talented musician with extremely varied musical taste, happily focuses on his guest’s likes and dislikes and shares his admiration with the studio audience.
It’s always a treat for me to listen to successful artists discuss how they create and, in this case, how they perform. Taylor talks about the profound shock of being a singer-songwriter emerging from the introspection of writing into the spotlight of a pop star’s fame. It is what you work for, he says, and then when it gets there, you realize that the product is not so much the music as the self, and you can get a little lost. He says, specifically, “Hang onto your hat.”
He also says that he understands the cult of celebrity as an effort by ordinary people to use celebrities to represent them in the wider world. Fascinating.
Tonight, the intimacy of the music and the connection between the two aging musicians represented for me both my aspirations as an artist (which I have to admit may come to nothing) and my thirst for collaborators.
Watch the show if you are a music lover of a certain age.