[Originally Published: December 24, 2009]
Making a list of the Best Concert DVDs of 2008 was a struggle, because there weren’t many quality releases to choose from. This year, we have the opposite problem as there were tons of terrific Concert DVD releases.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at the Best Concert DVDs of 2009…
Arcade Fire fans were thrilled when the band announced they would be releasing a concert film chronicling the recording of Neon Bible and the subsequent tour. Unfortunately, director Vincent Morisset works so hard at not being a typical concert film that the documentary, which appears to be shot by cell phone cameras at points, isn’t all that entertaining. The bonus material makes Miroir Noir worth owning and earns it a spot on this list.
Legendary jazz fusion supergroup Return to Forever reunited in 2008 and this DVD gives a good illustration of how good this group of musicians continues to be. Filmed in Montreux, Return to Forever Returns contains a nice of mix of tunes from all of their albums played with passion and verve.
READ ON for the rest of our list of Best Concert DVDs of 2009…
Over the past decade, there’s been no shortage of Paul McCartney concert films. Between 2006′s The Space Within Us, 2003′s Paul is Live and 2002′s Back In The US, Macca puts out a DVD every time he completes a tour. While most of the films I’ve mentioned are pretty damn good, Good Evening New York City is the best of the bunch thanks to both the energetic performance and skillful edits.
Cabin Fever documents the Black Crowes’ experience recording an album at Levon Helm’s barn in Woodstock, during which time the group took the unorthodox step of inviting a live audience in to become part of the process. The resulting documentary contains a nice mix of full songs and footage of the band partaking in the creative process.
Jeff Beck and his awe-inspiring band including Vinnie Colaiuta and Tal Wikenfeld played a residency at the legendary Ronnie Scott’s jazz club in London back in November of 2007. Beck brought his A-game for these shows, which were documented on this two-hour plus DVD that features sit-ins from Eric Clapton, Joss Stone and Imogen Heap.
While personally, I was waiting for a DVD release of Paul Simon’s magical Love in Hard Times concerts at BAM in 2008, this DVD filmed in 2007 features an all-star cast of musicians either joining Simon for versions of his tunes or covering Paul’s songs without him. Highlights include Alison Krauss, Shawn Colvin and Jerry Douglas’ tender version of The Boxer, Simon singing Under African Songs with Miriam Makeba and Simon performing Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard with Stevie Wonder.
While Tom Petty’s Live Anthology isn’t exactly a DVD release, the Ultimate Collector’s Edition comes with two amazing concert films that can’t be ignored. The first DVD contains 400 Days – a 1995 documentary put together by Martyn Atkins that chronicles Petty’s Wildflowers tour. The second DVD features a previously unreleased concert from New Year’s Eve 1978 in Santa Monica. Hopefully the Petty camp will release both DVDs outside of this extremely expensive box set.
Nirvana’s legendary appearance at the Reading Festival in 1992 was finally released this year and there’s no doubt this concert lives up to the hype. Not only do we get plenty of material from Bleach and Nevermind, but we also get a taste of the tunes that would make up In Utero a year later. We’re glad Courtney Love and Dave Grohl were able to put aside their differences enough to green light this release.
Phish Inc. only put out one archival release in 2009, but they certainly made it count with this marvelous 7 DVD set that documents the band’s first festival – 1996′s The Clifford Ball. This release contains contains every note played during each of the six sets as well as killer footage of the legendary Flatbed Jam, the soundcheck and a slew of other bonus material. Considering the critical nature of the Phish fanbase, it’s a testament to the quality of the box set that we didn’t hear any complaints about this release other than “where’s Big Cypress?”
Just when you thought there was no room for originality in concert films out came this amazing documentary by producers/directors Christoph Green and Brendan Canty that brilliantly blends live footage and band member interviews. I’ve watched Ashes of American Flags about five times in its entirety this year and I still find something new each time. Not only do you get a feel for Wilco’s music, but the film also gives an insight into life on the road traveling to some of the country’s most beautiful venues.