Despite “his reputation as one of rock's great angry men,” said Karla Peterson in the San Diego Union-Tribune, Elvis Costello “is an engaging, well-informed interviewer.” Spectacle, his new talk show on the Sundance Channel, comes off “like a chat you'd have during a cross-country flight—the kind where you discover that your scary-looking seat mate is actually a very friendly guy with a cool iPod playlist and surprising taste in books.”
To be honest, said Aaron Barnhart in The Kansas City Star, Costello “does no better than hold his own with guests.” But “it’s the music that makes this show” anyway. “He usually opens each hour with his own band, augmented by guest musicians,” such as Lou Reed, Elton John, and Allen Toussaint.
But “those with only a fleeting interest in the history of pop, jazz and blues are advised to skip the party,” said Neal Justin in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Often, the conversation on Spectacle “leans toward the obscure,” such as “former President Bill Clinton gushing over jazz artists who have about as big a public profile as Franklin Pierce does in the world of politics.”
Spectacle is refreshing, though, said Mack Rawden in Cinema Blend. Usually when you see musicians interviewed, “it’s by non-musicians, and regardless of how much the journalist or television host loves music, there’s still always a disconnect.” But with “a seasoned recording artist like Elvis Costello, the guest can wax poetic on the same level as the host.”