Produced and Directed By: Jim Gabour
Starring: Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer
There is nothing unusual in mixing comedy and music, the two go together like bread and butter. Rarely though are they mixed with the wit and skill as presented here. Christopher, Michael and Harry reprise some of their favorites from the classics This is Spinal Tap, A Mighty Wind, and Waiting for Guffman along with a few random nuggets thrown in for good measure.
The credits roll silently as the lights come up on a darkened Pabst Hall in Milwaukee. The deep voice of Harry Shearer introduces himself, Christopher Guest and Michael McKean. As soon as they are assembled in front of their microphones and strapped to their instruments they immediately break into the first verse of the folksy Celtic Blues. After this a cappella intro they break into the rousing Hell Hole. It’s almost as if they want to reassure you that, yes they will be playing material from A Mighty Wind, but just because they are holding acoustic guitars doesn’t mean that they won’t be mixing in a fair amount of Spinal Tap. They keep the promise, Never Did No Wanderin’ is followed by Clam Caravan, Rock’ n’ Roll Nightmare and Bitch School which is in turn followed by Loco Man and This Bulging River and so on.
The show bounces back and forth between the more rockin’ numbers and the lighter fare with interesting anecdotes sprinkled in along the way. The play list is well balanced and never seems to drag. The two hours and fifteen minutes of material fly by. The only real flat spot was a live reading of a memo from NBC’s Office of Standards and Practices, the network sensors, detailing the edits needed to approve This is Spinal Tap for a network broadcast in 1984. So whether your a fan of Spinal Tap, The Folksmen, Mitch & Mickey or the New Main Street Singers there is going to be plenty of material here that you will love.
You might suspect that since these are essentially parody songs and owing to fact that the three main performers all have day jobs as comedians the musical performances might be of questionable quality, but there is no question about it, all of the performances are great. As the three wind their way through this collection of faux hits, it strikes me just how good most of these songs are. While they push all of the cliches of hard rock and folk music beyond the point of absurdity the melody’s and actual song construction is excellent. I can think of more ridiculous songs I’ve heard performed without the wink. Without the context that the movies and skits that this material originated in the songs just aren’t that funny mildly amusing, but not really funny. No worrys they’re still enjoyable songs and there are plenty of anecdotes to provide the funny.
The video is presented in wide screen format. The majority of the material is filmed with the entertainers on a lit stage. I never noticed any problems or artifacts with this portion of the material except for a few moments where the focus seemed a little shaky. There are a few clips of old film and video interspersed though the show, some of this material has problems you might expect from older sources but it’s never an issue and it would be silly to leave material out just because it’s not typical DVD quality.
The audio is presented in stereo in English only. There are no subtitles. Since this is a concert DVD the sound is even more important than usual. Even though it’s only in stereo the sound is excellent. The acoustic guitars are crisp and rich with out being tinny or boomy. The bass is bouncy and lively, the mandolin when it joins in is nice and mellow. The mix is always spot on. I never noticed any distortion or other audio artifacts.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The DVD comes in a standard Amaray case. The artwork is honest and simple with a full song list on the back. There is an insert with a note from Harry Shearer and the full credits, a nice touch. The case is clear which is nice as the insert is double sided with a nice concert photo of the three leaving the stage. The Menu is as simple as it gets with two choices, “Play” or “Setlist”. There are no bonus features.
This is a great DVD, the music and stories are a lot of fun, but if you know who these guys are you don’t need me to tell you that. I’ve watched this DVD several times since I’ve received it, but once I get it out of my system I wonder how often I’ll come back to it. Without any kind of bonus materials to draw me back to it this one will probably just end up gathering dust on my bookshelf.
Overall (Not an Average) 6/10
The Movie 8/10
The Video 7/10
The Audio 8/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 3/10
Overall (Not an Average) 6/10