Bjork’s Volta Tour Live & A Few Other New Live Concert DVDs

Although this is primarily a film blog I like to review recent concert DVDs and musician bio-pics every so often. Here are some brief blurbs about some new favorites:

Björk’s Voltaic: The Volta Tour Live in Paris

(Nonesuch, 2009)

I was told that this was a “a gorgeous cinematic interpretation of the tour” and it certainly is. With all the theatrical bombast we’re come to expect from Björk, this beautifully shot concert film features a 10-piece female Icelandic brass section augmented by Chris Corsano of Sonic Youth on drums, Jonas Sen on keyboards and electronic composer Mark Bell from LFO providing computer sequencing. It’s an energetic, at times fiery ensemble as on highlights such as “Army Of Me” and “The Pleasure Is All Mine”. A showstopping “State Of Emergency” oddly doesn’t appear in the track listing but that’s my only quibble with this rousing and powerfully pleasing performance film.

Ashes Of American Flags: Wilco Live (Nonesuch, 2009)

As fans of the former Chicogoan band Wilco well know, there have been many personnel line-up changes in the 15 years since their debut. The highly recommended documentary I AM TRYING TO BREAK YOUR HEART (Dir. Sam Jones, 2002) is essential for some background dealing with one extremely pivotal era in the band’s existence but this DVD isn’t about their past; it’s a representation of where the band stands now. Judging from this, they stand strong indeed.

Filmed at various venues over the last tour from Tulsa to Washington DC, Jeff Tweedy leads his crew through a set-list mainly made up of songs from their last few albums (“Monday” from the 1996 album “Being There” is the oldest selection). Fellow film makers Christoph Green and former Fugazi member Brendan Canty handle the camera and editing duties while Wilco brings the rock they’ve majestically fine tuned over the years. From their rapturous applause at the end of every song, the audience sounds very satisfied – viewers at home will surely be too.

The Hold Steady: A Positive Rage (Vagrant, 2009)

Not a concert film or a bio-doc (though there are elements of both), this is more a “bonus featurette” DVD that accompanies the Brooklyn band’s first live CD. That said this 53 minute film is as alive and boisterous as their live shows as it actually acts a sort of mission statement. As front-man Craig Finn reflects right off the bat: “There’s so many of these indie rock shows that you go to that are so joyless. I people to feel this joy and the celebratory nature of rock ‘n roll when you go see the Hold Steady.” From fan testimonials to scrappy live footage, “A Positive Rage” lives up to its title and gives newcomers an inside look at a band just starting to hit its stride. Because it only has a couple of full songs (“Chips Ahoy” and “Stuck Between Stations”) coupled with the ramshackle approach of the interviews, it’s not really one for repeated viewings, but as a companion to the live disc (which is pretty scrappy itself with its bootleg audience recording sound quality) it’s worth one good concentrated viewing.

Okay! There’s a few choice music DVDs for you. If you have any recent favorites – hit that comment box below and let me know.

More later…

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