An article written for the Entertainment Scene website in August 2007 reviewing some of the greatest gigs available on Music DVD:
The problem I originally had with live albums, particularly of gigs from tours I had actually been able to get to, was that, regardless of how good the musical performance was, a stereo album could never convey the full atmosphere into your home.
All that changed when DVD and DTS arrived, together with the digital surround amp and the decent-sized TV screen. All of a sudden, the gig wasn’t a two dimensional sound several feet in front of you, enhanced by closing your eyes and remembering the rest; now you were there, soaking-up the full sensory experience.
Once that happened, for me anyway, the live album on CD or vinyl became a thing of the past, and that section of my music library began to grow like topsy, but now filled with DVD boxes rather than jewel cases. Some were quite difficult to find originally, as for some reason they were only released in a few overseas markets, so you needed multi-region player to view them, but most are now available on general release.
So, I would like to expand this subject by reviewing my top ten Gig DVD’s, in no particular order. If you prefer the pure sound only, some are also available on CD, although you may have to dig around a bit to find them. Otherwise, well just pop them in the DVD player and leave the screen turned off, they are all still one heck of a musical experience.
P.U.L.S.E. – Pink Floyd
In 1994, we went to Earls Court in London for one of these gigs. Not this particular one, but a few days earlier for the one that was ultimately used on the CD, which I also have in the collection. It is probably still the best gig I have ever been to, and will hold you transfixed for nearly two and a half hours. The first half is a selection of their best live tracks, of which ‘Sorrow’ is probably the highlight. The second half is a full live performance of ‘Dark Side of the Moon’, complete with plane crash!
Secret World Live – Peter Gabriel
This comes top of my list of gigs I never got to, but wish that I had. It was recorded in Modena, Italy in 1994 during the ‘Secret World’ Tour, and features some wonderful support performances from the entire band, but particularly Paula Cole on vocals and the inimitable Tony Levin on bass. The highlights in one and three quarter hours of sheer perfection are ‘San Jacintho’ and ‘Secret World’.
Premonition – John Fogerty
This was an HBO Special filmed at Warner Bros Studios in 1997. 22 tracks in an hour and a half of the best foot-stompin’ southern rock you will ever see and hear, with the man himself at his very best fronting one of the tightest bands around. The long list of guest artists includes the Fairfield Four who feature on the standout ‘A Hundred and Ten in the Shade’.
The Who & Special Guests Live at the Royal Albert Hall
The final gig of The Who’s 2000 Tour was held at the Albert Hall in London, and had special guests including Paul Weller, Bryan Adams and Eddy Vedder (from Pearl Jam). It was their last full tour before the death of John Entwistle, and he features strongly, particularly on ‘5.15’ where his bass solo has to be seen to be believed.
No Quarter Unledded – Jimmy Page & Robert Plant
Another TV Special, this time from MTV in 1994, the concert footage is intermixed on the DVD with live performances filmed on location in Morocco and on the side of a Welsh Mountain. Nevertheless, it is all a totally memorable revisiting of Led Zep classics with both Jimmy and Robert on top form, backed by a four-piece band, full orchestra and an Egyptian ensemble.
Cream at the Royal Albert Hall 2005
In 1969, I paid two and sixpence and crammed into my local cinema to watch the film of Cream’s Final Concert at the Albert Hall. Over 35 years later, Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton got back together to do 4 nights at the same venue. When I tried to get tickets for one of those four nights, they were already changing hands for hundreds of pounds. Obviously it is no substitute for actually being there, but this double DVD compilation of the best bits from each night is certainly closer to the real thing than the rather scratchy 1969 effort was. As for the band, well it leaves you wondering what the three of them could have achieved had they evolved together into the same breathtakingly accomplished musicians they have become individually.
Black & White Night – Roy Orbison
How about this for a backing band: Glen Hardin on piano, James Burton on guitar Jerry Scheff on bass and Ron Tutt on drums (collectively Elvis’ TCB backing band) plus additional guitars & keyboards from Bruce Springsteen, Tom Waits and Elvis Costello, and a backing vocal group consisting of Bonnie Raitt, K D Lang, Jennifer Warnes and Jackson Browne. This HBO special was shot in Black & White in 1988, at the Coconut Grove nightclub in Los Angeles, and despite the array of talent behind him, they don’t get in the way, leaving Orbison as the undoubted star. Absolutely unforgettable.
Paul McCartney Live at the Cavern Club
Well, not exactly, because the original Cavern became part of the Merseyrail development in the early seventies. But it was revived and reconstructed as close as possible to the original in the mid-eighties and is now a regular nightly music venue again. Paul McCartney decided to launch his ‘Run Devil Run’ album with a special gig there in 1999, playing to an audience of just a couple of hundred. Like the album, the gig features straight-forward rock & roll numbers from the ‘fifties and ‘sixties that McCartney used to play both with the Beatles and his former bands. The relaxed atmosphere is wonderfully reminiscent of that time, and really comes across on the DVD, being summed up by Paul‘s introduction of the band. “This is Dave, Ian, Mick and Pete” without mentioning any surnames, which are respectively Gilmour, Paice, Green and Wingfield in case you’re wondering.
Snow Patrol Live at Somerset House
Every summer, the small grounds of Somerset House in London play host to a series of intimate gigs featuring mainly breakthrough bands. In 2004, Snow Patrol squeezed the venue into their ‘Final Straw’ tour, with particularly atmospheric results that are well conveyed on this DVD, despite the editing being a little quirky in places.
The High Road – Roxy Music
Recorded in 1982 in Frejus, France during the ‘Avalon’ Tour, this is Roxy Music in their final, and most sophisticated, form shortly before the band split. Being 25 years old, the video is not as sharp as today’s digital marvels, but the music is fabulous.
There are many more that I could mention, but if you are not yet a Music-DVD aficionado, and you have a really good surround system, then any one of these would be an ideal introduction to the genre. Just be prepared to clear a few shelves for the many purchases that will follow.