Graham Reid | | 2 min read
television talk shows depend largely on the quality of the guests,
programme, not the man) will always be more interesting than any
local production. When it comes to visiting artists and
celebrities, Australia gets more passing trade.
then the greater talent available in New York if you set up a
music/talk show with Elvis Costello – whose musical reach is from
post-punk to country and latterly scoring for ballet -- as the
interviewer and co-performer. And if you have Sir Elton John as
executive producer of these hour-long shows recorded in 30
Rock's studio or the Apollo
Theatre before a live audience.
guest list which includes Bill Clinton (clearly aging, but talking
knowledgeably about jazz and growing up with Presley's music), a wry
Lou Reed (showing the secret chord in Sweet
Jane), Tony Bennett, the
Police (Sting playing Roxanne
on acoustic guitar as he originally conceived, with a Latin shuffle),
the ageless and probably Botoxed Smokey Robinson, and a poised Rufus Wainwright among
others you have music-talk television which can hardly fail.
backing band in various segments includes Presley's guitarist James
Burton and New Orleans piano legend Allen Toussaint, there are guest
spots by bassist Charlie Haden and guitarist Pat Metheny (on a
beautiful ballad Is This
America in the Clinton
interview), and illustrative video clips are interpolated.
who like singer-songwriters Costello pulls up a chair and guitar with
Kris Kristofferson, Rosannne Cash, Norah Jones, John Mellencamp,
James Taylor and others, and the younger generation is represented by
Jakob Dylan, She and Him (M Ward and Zooey Deschanel) and Jenny
Renee Fleming tells candid and funny stories about her life as a diva
and enchants in a piece with avant-guitarist Bill Frisell, Herbie
Hancock is the subject of one programme, and in another Elton John
and Costello's wife Diana Krall chat to each other at the keyboards.
an exceptional gathering of talent, but if there is a problem it is
with Costello. He sweats unattractively under the lights, relies on a
tightly clutched clip-board, sips water incessantly to the
distraction of some guests, and opens every show with his
interpretation of a relevant song which can be hit and miss given his
inclination to turn some material into shouty, over-emoting
aside, it is the quality and candor of the guests and if Costello's
questions become long statements rather than Parkinson's pointed
probing, it supports the idea that this is a conversation rather than
guests are, without exception, fascinating.
highpoint among many on these four interview discs (and one of bonus
performances) is the artist/film maker Julian Schnabel joining Lou
Reed for a revealing chat, and Schnabel ending the programme with a
spontaneous and compelling recitation of Reed's Rock