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on 19 June 2005
It's somewhat ironic that, roughly two decades before this DVD was released, Jonathan Demme's "Stop Making Sense" set a new benchmark for concert films. I say ironic because Byrne also features in that landmark concert, yet the production of this DVD just goes to show that some directors have learned very little.
The director sucks some of the enjoyment out of this performance with his choice of hyperactive camera work. Perhaps he was trying to convey the fervent energy of the show, or maybe he was trying to mirror DB's stereotypical twitching stage persona (who, incidentally, seems to have gone back in his box. DB seems a lot more at ease on stage than music journalists would have you believe). Either way, it wasn't necessary in my opinion; I found it irritating at times.
Also, mini-interviews with DB pepper the DVD and break the flow of the music a little (the same crazy camera work even features in these interviews, which I found rather strange). It would've been nice if these were able to be toggled as you may not wish to watch them on repeat viewings. There is also a lack of extras, which is no problem from my perspective but others may expect more.
The sound quality is very good with 5.1 as well as Stereo sound options are available from the main menu. I like the fact that the sound options are selectable from the main menu rather than hidden away in a sub menu; other DVD makers should take note!
Onto the actual show itself:
The track list of the set should satisfy nearly everybody -- from Talking Heads fans through to admirers of Byrne's latest works. However, don't just expect a standard trotting-out of the classics; I believe DB once said something along the lines of "You've got to be careful if you do nothing but play your old hits, or you'll wind-up being a tribute band for yourself". There's absolutely no danger of this happening to DB. Byrne clearly enjoys revitalising old tracks with fresh approaches, giving unexpected and wonderful results.
It's very fitting that such a well-travelled artist with a huge and varied body of work should perform live with (amongst other things) a string section. The songs are very warm and the sound is extremely rich from start to finish. In particular, "Road to Nowhere" is given a very bright and almost marching-band esque outing, and "The Great Intoxication" mixes strings with interspersed rhythms to great effect. My personal favourite is the old Talking Heads track "Sax and Violins" which explodes to life without being reworked too much; this style of show suited the track perfectly.
There are a few tracks which may miss the target depending on who's listening. For example, Byrne's experiments with opera have been criticised by many. To me, they sound rather nice! In my opinion, the performance of "Un Di Felice" is that of a man who is singing something he loves and wants to share with people. Byrne reasons that Opera shouldn't be off-limits because, after all, old opera was simply the pop music of its time. While Byrne's voice doesn't really have the properties required to recreate the song as the purists would like, his voice has such an unmistakeable quality that he somehow manages to pull it off. Moving on: Opera is small potatoes on the "I didn't see that coming" scale when you consider the Whitney Houston song "I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves me)" is also given the DB treatment. I can't say I'm giddy about this, but it's great fun regardless.
Additionally, the Xpress club anthem "Lazy" is given an airing and once again proves that DB really has put a lot of effort and thought into his live performances. In fact, "Lazy" is something of a case in point. I recently bought Morrissey's "Who Put the M in Manchester" DVD, and while it was very enjoyable, when compared to Byrne's ensemble, his backing band is made to look and sound like a bunch of pub rockers.
As previously mentioned, the rest of the tracks on this album are mostly older Talking Heads or solo works. This concert was recorded well before the album "Grown Backwards" was released, so don't expect to see anything from GB making an appearance (other than "Un Di Felice"). Other than the direction, the only other slight downside (which is hardly anyone's fault) is that the crowd are rather static and don't seem to dance or really get into the music. Much of Byrne's work is driven by infectious percussion and rhythm; even the slower or less punchy songs have a strange, yet danceable beat. However, the crowd remains seated throughout much of the show.
Despite these few negative points, I can't recommend it enough.
5 stars.
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on 29 September 2013
Nice performance with strings. I prefer the Austin 2001 DVD from the same tour, which is a bit more punchy in the song selection. I must admit, I lost track of David Byrne but chanced upon a live show in 2009 and was blown away. His back catalogue is better than I thought and the 2012-3 shows with St Vincent have been amazing and need a live DVD released (please - and with not too many camera cuts, a complete show with the whole stage in view all the time would be perfect, if it must be edited with multicamera angles, have this as a menu option).
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on 8 March 2012
What to say ? It's a good show. Davids band are as good as ever and the performances are great. The only thing missing is some movement. Maybe it's the venue, but I always find a lot of DB's music makes you want to dance or move in some way. Live At Union Chapel is a much more calm & quiet affair for the most part. The audience do get up at times, but overall it much more sedate than other shows. Good dvd though, David is just as charming as I remember him.
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on 11 February 2015
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