I AM not sure how I managed to miss it when it was first released, but the T-Bone Burnett music-directed Black & White Night Roy Orbison TV special and accompanying live album came and went at the end of the 1980s without crossing my consciousness. This is most curious, because Elvis Costello, about whose work regular readers will know I am particularly enthusiastic, is one of the participants and contributes the only original song to the programme. Burnett had produced Costello's 1986 game-changing King of America album, and famous American musicians who featured on that recording are also the backbone of Black & White Night. The TCB Band – Glen D. Hardin on piano, James Burton on lead guitar, Jerry Scheff on bass, and Ronnie Tutt on drums – was named thus by the other Elvis. They backed Presley from the end of the 1960s until his death in 1977, and the initials stand for Taking Care of Business, which both describes and understates the quartet's capabilities. Roy Orbison backed by those guys would have been a marriage made in heaven on its own, but it would not have commanded the box office attention that Black & White Night did. Orbison had one of the most remarkable voices ever to grace the wonderful world of pop and rock music, so the backing singers Burnett lined up for him are a remarkable posse: k d lang, Bonnie Raitt and Jennifer Warnes alongside Jackson Browne, Steven Soles and J D Souther (who arranged the contribution of the choristers). And the TCB Band was far from the end of the instrumental story, with Tom Waits adding organ, Costello on acoustic rhythm guitar and mouth organ, and one Bruce Springsteen wielding a Fender Telecaster and adding his own backing vocals.

Costello's bespoke addition to the Orbison pop opera canon apart – it is called The Comedians, and fits the Big O like a made-to-measure Nudie suit – the concert was entirely made up of Roy's old hits, a great many of which he wrote himself. It happened before a celebrity-studded invited audience in the oddly-spelled Cocoanut Grove night club of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on the evening of September 30, 1987, with a strict dress code to suit the filming of it in black and white. The director of photography, Tony Mitchell, achieved a singular look to the footage, which both suggested the rock'n'roll era from which Orbison had come, and a much earlier, between-the-wars speakeasy. Thirty years on, it just looks timelessly 20th century, and as a live concert film can sit happily alongside Scorsese's The Last Waltz and Jonathan Demme's Stop Making Sense. Arguably it is an even more important document because Orbison was dead, of a heart attack, a little over a year later, at the age of 52.

Happily, Black & White Night can now be enjoyed all over again – and introduced to those who unaccountably missed it the first time round. It is bigger and better than ever. The singer's estate is managed by his sons ("Roy's Boys") and the youngest of them, Alex Orbison, has returned to the original footage to make Black & White Night 30, a package of audio CD and DVD (or Blue-Ray) which re-edits the entire performance, at least as it was seen on Cinemax at the start of 1988. The new Black & White Night recreates much more accurately what the live audience saw that evening, following the set list in the order in which it was performed, restoring numbers that were cut and adding half a dozen alternate takes, most of which took place at a post-show which was probably a belt and braces exercise until the film stock ran out (which it does half-way through a revisit of Uptown). There is a bunch of interviews with the participants as a video extra as well, and they are as articulate and thoughtful as you would expect of such a cast.

Loading article content

The songs, of course, are terrific. Only the Lonely, Crying, It's Over, Ooby Dooby, Blue Bayou, Oh, Pretty Woman – Orbison had a stack of them and the vocal range he employed is still quite astonishing to hear live. And as the evening wears on, others get their moment in the spotlight too, a highpoint being when Springsteen is foolhardy enough to start trading electric guitar licks with James Burton, a cutting contest where everyone – the band, the audience, and the Boss himself – knows there can only be one winner. And eventually Bruce just raises both hands in defeat.

A week tomorrow, Elvis Costello plays Edinburgh Festival Theatre. It will be one of a very few of his appearances in Scotland at which I will not be present, as other Herald duties require me to be elsewhere. Discovering Black & White Night has helped soften the blow and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Roy Orbison, Black & White Night 30 is out now on Legacy/Sony.