November 21, 2006

Gift Guide: Show time for the holidays Concert DVDs take you back

Ray CharlesFew aspects of life stir the soul like a live concert.Whether it’s Led Zeppelin’s iconic “The Song Remains the Same” or The Band’s jaw-dropping “Last Waltz,” these cinematic treasures can transport listeners to a state of emotional ecstasy without all the pot smoke, spilled beer and sticky floors.Thus, LEO has cherry-picked some of the best concert DVDs released in 2006 — although in fairness, this list is by no means comprehensive.For those who had the pleasure of seeing these artists live, the following list will make for a thrilling trip down memory lane. For those who haven’t, it’s a chance to time-travel with one hell of a backstage pass. ElvisElvis Presley, “Elvis: The Ed Sullivan Shows” — If you were alive between 1948 and 1971 and did not watch Ed Sullivan, then — whatever. Anyway, this three-disc set explains why the King aroused young girls, infuriated conservative parents and unnerved CBS execs to the point that by his third performance on the show, they filmed him only from the waist up. The DVDs contain three full episodes filmed on Sept. 9, 1956; Oct. 28, 1956; and Jan. 6, 1957. Special features include a rare movie of an Elvis show in Houston, Texas, plus Aug. 7, 1955, home movies of Elvis and Priscilla and some of daughter Lisa Marie.Nirvana, “Live! Tonight! Sold Out!” — Whereas “Unplugged” showed Nirvana at itsNirvana most vulnerable, this DVD release captures the band as the rollicking, cathartic force we fell in love with. They wreck gear with Who-esque zeal. Originally released on VHS in 1994, “Live! …” contains footage from nine countries and 16 tracks culled from the band’s breakout Nevermind and its critical Sub Pop debut Bleach, in addition to one track titled, simply but appropriately, “Noise.”Ray Charles, “At The Olympia” — The phrase “the show must go on” was never more appropriate than for this concert. On Nov. 22, 2000, while the rest of his band was stranded at the airport, Charles, his drummer, guitarist and bass player turned in a masterful performance. The show contains Ray’s classics “Georgia On My Mind,” “What I’d Say” and “I’ve Got a Woman.”Crowded HouseCrowded House, “Farewell To The World” — INXS wasn’t the only worthwhile export from Down Under. Pop geniuses Crowded House performed for the last time at a benefit concert at the Sydney Opera House in 1996. Feast on interviews with brothers Neil and Tim Finn, marvel at the behind-the-scenes featurette, then watch “Don’t Dream It’s Over,” and walk again to the beat of the drum.The Cars, “The Cars Unlocked: The Live Performances” — Originally titled “Ric Ocasek: The Man, the Myth, the Sunglasses,” (we kid, we kid) “Unlocked” culls the best of the best of this ’80s hit factory: “Magic,” “Let the Good Times Roll,” “Shake It Up” are the highlights on this 20-song opus. Includes a 28-page lyric book and six bonus performances. Muddy Waters, “Muddy Waters Classic Concerts” — Truth be told, JimiMuddy Waters Hendrix would have wound up an insurance salesman had it not been for Muddy Waters. This DVD features Muddy’s show at the 1960 Newport Jazz Festival, which begat his live album, Muddy Waters at Newport. The set features, “Got My Mojo Working,” “Rollin’ Stone” and “Mean Mistreater.” The second classic concert shows the legend at work at the 1968 Copenhagen Jazz Festival — all the more amazing when you consider the footage was buried, according to, in Danish vaults for 37 years. The third concert finds Muddy tearing it up at the 1977 Molde Jazz Festival in Norway. “Classic Concerts” includes a foreword by Bill Wyman of The Rolling Stones, and a 5,000-word essay by Steady-Rollin’ Bob Margolin, Muddy’s lead-guitarist from 1973 to 1980. “Classic Concerts” has been available since May, but this DVD, like Muddy’s music, remains timeless.The PixiesThe Pixies, “loudQUIETloud” — We were shocked when they split in ’92, overjoyed when they returned in 2004. This documentary gives fans a window into their rehearsals leading up the band’s sold-out reunion tour, while documenting internal tensions on the road. Sayeth their press people: “Old wounds have not completely healed and the extreme pressure of the tour takes its toll on the band, but nevertheless, they deliver the goods onstage.” Definitely a winner. Contact the writer at