One of the better concert films ever recorded finally made its way to DVD this year with the release of the T.A.M.I. show featuring performances from the likes of The Rolling Stones, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, The Supremes and Chuck Berry taped live at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in 1964. This “collector’s edition” release was most definitely worth the wait and is a “must-see” for fans of these acts.
Speaking of long-awaited releases, In Session shows what happened when blues phenom Stevie Ray Vaughan and legendary bluesman Albert King performed together at a Canadian sound stage in 1983. You can feel the respect these musicians have for each other throughout each track as the pair put on a clinic that you don’t need to be a blues fan to appreciate.
[Visit the band's Amazon Page for a preview]
As much as I enjoy the Avett Brothers’ studio albums, like many of the bands we cover there’s nothing like a live Avett’s show. The group’s latest live release was recorded in their home state of North Carolina shortly after the release of I and Love and You and features many of the songs from that stellar album. If you’re unfamiliar with their work, Live, Volume 3 is a fantastic primer.
Phish threw down at the Coral Sky Amphitheater in West Palm Beach, FL on November 2, 1996 for two relentless sets, which found the quartet augmented by Santana percussion wiz Karl Perazzo throughout the entire show and Allman Brothers Band drummer Butch Trucks for Funky Bitch. I love watching the members of Phish interact with Perazzo as they keep him in the loop on what’s happening. Long, jammed out versions of Crosseyed and Painless and Run Like An Antelope are the highlights along with unique takes on Ya Mar and Harry Hood making this release a winner.
As raw and unflinching as the band documented, Under Great White Northern Lights follows the White Stripes as they crossed Canada during the summer of 2007. This 92-minute documentary contains plenty of live footage, but it’s the intimate moments backstage that really captured my attention. You get a real feel for Jack and Meg’s relationship and senses of humor.
In October 2009, a dream roster of legendary rockers came together at Madison Square Garden to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Some collaborations were better than others, but all of ‘em were interesting. This 3-DVD set contains all the footage that aired on the HBO special soon after the concerts as well as 16 bonus performances.
Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival returned in a big way this year and the DVD displays what a memorable show took place at Toyota Stadium in Chicago on June 26. Highlights include ZZ Top ripping up Waiting For The Bus and Jesus Left Chicago, Vince Gill with Keb Mo and friends on Mystery Train, David Hidalgo and Cesar Rojas featuring Derek Trucks for Don’t Keep Me Wondering and Clapton teaming with Steve Winwood for a mini set near the end of the show. Not only are all of the performances great, but the show was masterfully shot and edited.
Over the years, the Rolling Stones’ 1972 American Tour has gotten more attention for the band’s debauchery than for the actual music. Ladies and Gentleman… changes that as we see the group killing it onstage performing “new” material from Exile such as Tumbling Dice, Happy and Sweet Virgina along with “classics” like Brown Sugar, Jumping Jack Flash and Street Fighting Man. This is the Stones captured at their very best.
I must admit, I wasn’t too excited when word came out that the Grateful Dead were opening the vault to put out a CD/DVD set from 1989. While I knew that was a great year for the band, I’ve never been that impressed by the music they laid down…until I actually watched the DVD. Jerry and his band mates were in fine form throughout and the director did a fabulous job of mixing shots just enough to keep things interesting but not so much that it made me dizzy like so many other recent releases. Each member has their moment at this show including Brent wailing away on Blow Away, Jerry delivering a gorgeous Standing On The Moon and Phil taking the mic for Box of Rain.
Honorable Mention: I stuck to concert films, so we left off Rush – Beyond The Lighted Stage and Stones in Exile; both of which would’ve been near the top of this list had I included non-concert-based documentaries. Also, I hadn’t received Phish – Alpine Valley 2010 in time to review for inclusion on this list.