Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Concert Videos

While I am patiently awaiting the release of the latest Pearl Jam concert DVD, Immagine in Cornice (translated: Picture in a Frame), let me muse for a while on concert videos. By the way, Immagine in Cornice will be released September 25th. Okay, here's my rant:

When it comes to concert videos, LET THE MUSIC SPEAK FOR ITSELF.

Case in point: Pearl Jam's 2003 DVD Live at the Garden. This selection is actually from the extra features, from a concert in Australia, it's Ed and special guest Mark Seymour (from Hunters & Collectors) singing "Throw Your Arms Around Me":

Let the music speak for itself. It's a beautiful song. The editing isn't too flashy, just a good selection of angles - nothing fancy. There are even several flaws, if you want to get technical about it. Let the music speak for itself, and it does.

So let's be slightly scientific about this. Here's an equally mellow song, and a great song by Coldplay called "The Scientist." (Pardon the pun.) This selection is from Coldplay's 2003 DVD, aptly entitled Live 2003:

In my opinion, the excessively slick videography and editing detract from an otherwise poignant song. There are too many camera angles, too many cuts, and the shots are way too fancy. The idea for a concert video is to feel like you're there, but maybe have a slight advantage of some choice angles and closeups. An excess of sweeping crane shots gets nauseating after a while. When was the last time you rode a sweeping crane during a concert? If so, how much did THAT ticket cost?

The overproduction effect worsens when the song is more upbeat. Here's "Yellow":

And this is when you let the music speak for itself. Here's Pearl Jam with "Lukin/Not for You," from Touring Band 2000:

Ideally, you're not supposed to notice the camera work (too much), and you're definitely not supposed to notice the editing (too much). A few oops-what-can-you-do-about-it zooms and some well-placed fanciness is fine, but anything done ad nauseam is, well, nauseating.

It's the same complaint I have with the Foo Fighters also-released-in-2003 concert DVD Anywhere But Home. It's - and I say this as ignorantly as possible - too MTV. I've directed my share of music videos, but concert videos inhabit a different realm. Music videos are okay when they're surreal concepts, but a concert video is inherently a document of realism, is it not?

Here's "My Hero":

Alright, alright...that particular example isn't as excessive as the whole Coldplay madness. Moving on...

I'm both optimistic and preparing myself for Immagine in Cornice. It apparently is a "film by Danny Clinch," so it might be tastefully artistic or sadly gaudy. Who knows? Right, we'll know in about a week.

Anyway, here are the points I've been trying to make:
1. If the music is good, LET THE MUSIC SPEAK FOR ITSELF. Excessive fanciness in concert videos detract from the music, which is the most important part of the deal.
2. If the music totally blows, then no amount of video wizardry can make the concert video any good.
3. Since I've been on the record as despising dichotomies (here and here), maybe there are ways to make a good concert video, using more-than-basic techniques that actually complement the music. In about a week, we'll see if Mr. Clinch does it or not...or in between or transcending the extremes.

I guess I like the near-bootleg quality of first three Pearl Jam concert DVDs because I was already a fan of the music, and the music resonates regardless of the videography. By the same token, I get frustrated and nauseated when the concert video takes away from otherwise good music, or music that I would enjoy from time to time. I like the fact that Touring Band 2000, Live at the Showbox, and Live at the Garden were shot by members of the touring staff, with just basic coordination and the right amount of coverage. These are the kind of videos that would say "no would-be auteurs (who should be working in other forms of visual storytelling) or commercial hacks were hurt in the making of this film" in the end credits.

Maybe I'm a bit harsh on singling out the video production. Maybe my antipathy with overly extravagant performances, with excessive stage design and/or the rowdiness of a given audience also factors into my rant. It probably does.

Okay, the rant is over. As a musician and a filmmaker, I stand behind my rant.

Immagine in Cornice cover art was taken from the Ten Club merchandise store. Theft = bad; backlinking and crediting = good; outcome = zero.

1 comment:

  1. What a handy blog.
    Found it while browsing with Blogrush.
    Definitely worth putting on my list of re-visits.

    Great stuff,




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