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[W]e're all members of the Frisbeetarian Order. . . . We believe that when you die your soul goes up on a roof and you can't get it down. -- Bono

Elvis Costello talks about opening 'Spectacle' second season with U2

The Canadian Press
TORONTO - Elvis Costello is opening the second season of his interview show with a bang or, more accurately, a Bono.

One-half of U2 - Bono and the Edge - will be the first guests when the second season of Costello's show, "Spectacle," launches this Friday (CTV, 10 p.m. ET).

The British-born, Vancouver-based Costello introduces the Dublin band as the "last rock stars" during the show, which he taped at Toronto's storied Masonic Temple.

The band performed album tracks ("Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of," "Stay (Faraway, So Close!)") and a lesser-known gem ("Two Shots of Happy, One Shot of Sad") which Bono says he wrote for Frank Sinatra. They then joined in a medley of their recent single "Get On Your Boots" with Costello's classic "Pump It Up."

Costello, meanwhile, adopted the tone of a carnival barker as he closed out a version of "Mysterious Ways" and introduced the rockers - Bono clad in a brown leather jacket and V-neck T-shirt, with translucent wraparound shades obscuring his eyes, Edge with a Western-style button-down shirt and ears tucked under one of his signature toques.

As they chatted, Costello was brought back to the first time he ever heard U2.

Elvis Costello and the Attractions were headlining the Rock on the Tyne festival at International Stadium in Gateshead, England. They were at the "back end up of our pop star moment," and U2 was among a group of bands who took the stage before him.

"They were a rocketship waiting to take off," Costello told The Canadian Press in a recent telephone interview from New York.

And yet, Costello wasn't quite sure what to make of U2, the group having then released only "Boy," with "October" soon to follow. What he knew was that the band's shimmering textures and cascading guitars represented something very new.

"It didn't sound like songs as I knew them and that's usually a good sign, if something's got a different approach," he said.

"People had the same impression of my stuff when I was coming up. It had a degree of structure that people could recognize, but some things didn't sound like songs I'm sure to other people."

It follows, then, that Bono and the Edge cited Costello as one of the band's primary influences, along with Krautrock innovators including Neu! and Kraftwerk.

Bono also reminisced about his formative years, when he caught Costello perform at the Stella Cinema in the Rathmines suburb of Dublin.

"You blew our minds and everybody who was there formed a band," Bono said.

"You should point out that the Stella, in Rathmines, only holds about four groups worth of people, it wasn't like a hugely big place," Costello responded.

For his part, he said he had no idea that his punky early efforts had such an effect on the band.

"That was something of a surprise," Costello said. "I didn't realize. I wouldn't have guessed that."

That mutual respect led to Bono soliciting Costello's help when organizing the Conspiracy of Hope tour for Amnesty International in 1986.

He called up Costello at 3 a.m. and asked him if he would join the tour. Costello said no. He struggles slightly now to explain why.

"I wasn't comfortable with, you know, I didn't really know how to go about getting on that stage," Costello said after considering the question for a moment.

"I don't think it really is to my credit that I couldn't do it, I just felt it wasn't the right thing for me. They have always understood better how to use the large-scale stage to address big subjects. And I maybe felt that my job was something different than that. That was my conviction then and maybe to a lesser degree now.

"I don't hanker after the big stage, or the big, broad statements. It's not like their songs lack subtlety or nuance, but I suppose I write different types of songs than they write."

But Costello's interview show has become something of a prominent stage for the 55-year-old musician.

"Spectacle" averaged 506,000 viewers during its first season on CTV, according to BBM Nielsen numbers provided by the network. That places it among the top 10 best-rated new shows in Canada last season.

His star-studded seven-episode second season will feature New Jersey rock stalwart Bruce Springsteen (whom Costello cites as one of his own influences), Sheryl Crow, Lyle Lovett, Neko Case, Nick Lowe and Canadian Ron Sexsmith.

Costello says he's feeling more comfortable as host now with a full season behind him.

"I don't doubt there's a little more fluency to it," he said, before adding: "Still, I can find fault with anything I do."

And yet, despite the program's success, Costello's not sure how much longer he will continue making it.

"No, not really, no," he said. "I think it's good to go into everything you do as if it's the first or last thing you're going to do."

"You have to take note of the fact that Season 1 was 13 episodes, and Season 2 was seven episodes. So maybe, if there were a Season 3, it would only be three-and-a-half episodes," he adds, slyly.
© The Canadian Press, 2009.