Reviews by - Lindsay Planer

This week, we're gonna usher you to the best seat in the house. Your house that is, as we're spinning a handful of recent concert DVD offerings. Each is not only guaranteed to have you groovin' in the aisles, but just think of how much shorter the line for the bathroom will be.

Elvis Costello & Allen Toussaint -- Hot As a Pistol Keen As a Blade (Hip-O/UMe)

Although Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint had worked together off and on since the early '80s, it took the tragic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to unite these pop music icons for a project titled The River In Reverse (2006). Those who weren't lucky enough to have experienced one of their rare live gigs can now revel in the nearly two-hour Hot As A Pistol Keen As A Blade -- ­spotlighting their July 3rd, 2006 stop in Montreal, Quebec.

Backed by the same musicians that were used on The River In Reverse -- a combo of Costello's Imposters with Toussaint's hand-picked Crescent City Horn section -- the show has a little something for everyone. Suitably there is plenty from the pair's most recent confab, most notably "Tears, Tears And More Tears," "The Sharpest Thorn," "Who's Gonna Help Brother Get Further?," the title song "The River In Reverse," "Freedom For The Stallion," "Broken Promise Land," "International Echo" and "Six-Fingered Man." 

Vintage Toussaint selections include "A Certain Girl," "Yes We Can Can, "Fortune Teller," "Play Something Sweet (Brickyard Blues)," and the inspired "Big Chief Medley" -- containing "Big Chief, "Tipitina" and "The Olde Professor". Not to be outdone, the Big "E" is in fine form on Toussaint's fresh arrangements of the key Costello cuts "Pump It Up," "(I Don't Want To Go To) Chelsea," "Tears Before Bedtime," "Poisoned Rose," "Clownstrike," "Deep Dark Truthful Mirror" "Clubland," "Watching The Detectives" and "Bedlam".

The DVD has a few cool supplements, primary among them is a bonus take of Costello's "Allison," an in-studio rendition of "Who's Gonna Help Brother Get Further?," interviews with the primary players, a still-photo gallery, and printed in the liner booklet are excerpts from Costello's tour journal. The concert audio is presented in a choice of either Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo or a spacious 5.1 Surround Sound mix.

John Prine -- Live on Soundstage 1980 (Shout! Factory)

Singer/songwriter John Prine is featured on this edition of Shout! Factory's Live On Soundstage series. The show finds Prine in support of his concurrent release Pink Cadillac (1979) with John Burns (guitar), Bob Hoban (keyboards/fiddle), Tom Piekarski (bass), Angie Varias (drums) and longtime Prine associate Leo LeBlanc (pedal steel/dobro) all lending their respective talents.

Among the Prine classics are the staples "Hello In There," "Spanish Pipedream," "Paradise" and "Angel From Montgomery" all circa his 1971 self-titled debut. He briefly dips into Sweet Revenge (1973) for "The Accident (Things Could Be Worse)," plus  "Fish and Whistle" and "Bruised Orange," both of which are off of the critically underrated Bruised Orange (1978) long player.

Rockabilly legend Billy Lee Riley joins in on his co-written "No Name Girl" from Pink Cadillac -- as well as Riley's own venerable "Red Hot". Other Pink Cadillac tracks performed on the show include "Automobile," "Saigon," "How Lucky," and a cover of Warren Smith's mid '50s rave-up "Ubangi Stomp".

The roughly hour-long program has held up nicely and looks just as good as it did on public television circa 1980. The audio however has been significantly upgraded with playback options of either stereo or 5.1 surround sound.

U2 -- Zoo TV Live From Sydney - Deluxe Limited Edition (Island/UMe)

After being teased for half-a-decade with an 'on-again/off-again' release, Zoo TV Live From Sydney (1994) has finally made it into the digital domain. Hard-core fans now have even more reason to replace those worn videotapes. The November 1993 gig from Sydney's Football Stadium has been upgraded with a frame-by-frame visual remastering as well as a trio of audio alternatives -- PCM Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround or DTS 5.1 Surround. Indeed, they've made it better than the real thing.

Under the direction of David Mallet -- whose lengthy résumé includes the Rolling Stones'  Voodoo Lounge (1995) Pay-Per-View, Pink Floyd's P.U.L.S.E. Live at Earls Court 20.10.94, London (1994), Madonna's Blond Ambition World Tour Live (1990) and Rush's Grace Under Pressure Tour 1984 (1985) -- viewers are plunged headlong into the intricate and overly-stimulated world of Zoo TV.

The multi-media sensory overload is replicated behind the band as they roar through favorites spanning their entire catalogue up to that point. "New Years' Day," "Bullet The Blue Sky," "Pride (In The Name Of Love)," "With Or Without You" and "Angel Of Harlem" are mixed in with plenty of more recent tunes. "Dirty Day," "Numb," "Lemon," "Stay (Faraway So Close)" and "Daddy's Gonna Pay For Your Crashed Car," are from Zooropa (1993) while "Zoo Station," "Even Better Than The Real Thing," "One," "Until The End Of The World," "The Fly," "Mysterious Ways," "and "Love Is Blindness" from Achtung Baby (1991).

The double-DVD Deluxe Limited Edition takes the experience to the next level with an extra disc. Included are "Tryin' To Throw Your Arms Around The World" and "Desire" -- both from the Zoo TV Special. Plus, the alternates of "The Fly" and "Even Better Than The Real Thing," are circa June of '92 when U2 appeared at the Stop Sellafield Concert in Manchester, England. These cuts are also available on the audio CD single for "City Of Blinding Lights".

There are additionally three mini-documentaries. "A Fistful Of Zoo TV," includes a few words from Brian Eno and Bono, "Zoo TV - The Inside Story" is just that, and "Trabantland" -- boasts cameos from Paul McGuinness and Anton Corbijn as they hail the merits of a 'Trabbie'. The "Video Confessionals" section is interesting as show attendees were encouraged to contribute their own confession that could be broadcast onto the big screens. There is also a sing-a-long or karaoke version of "Numb".

And if you want more, then search out the 'easter eggs'. Here keen-eyed viewers can find a half-hour documentary on U2, various and sundry "Interference" (from the Zoo TV video release), stock footage of war used presumably on the mammoth concert stage screens, as well as a cool time-lapse shot of the entire Zoo TV set-up being loaded in and then torn down. All told there is nearly four hours of content on what can rightfully be considered a Deluxe Edition of Zoo TV: Live From Sydney.

Lindsay Planer is a freelance journalist and is the weekday on-air producer at WDYT 1220 AM in Charlotte, NC. He's also a contributor to All Music Guide, CrutchfieldAdvisor.com and the Gaston Gazette.
All comments and questions are encouraged and can be sent to <asthediscspins@earthlink.net>.


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