Case Number 05825: Small Claims Court

TOTO: 25TH ANNIVERSARY (LIVE IN AMSTERDAM)

Red Distribution // 2003 // 141 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Adam Arseneau (Retired) // December 17th, 2004

The Charge

According to Amazon, this is the #1 top-selling DVD in both Thailand and Central America. It makes sense, in a cosmic sort of way.

The Case

Coming together to celebrate their 25th anniversary, Toto hits the stage in Amsterdam for a night of playing the song "Africa," and probably some other songs they wrote. The band has been keeping surprisingly busy for the last quarter-century, and long after fans in North America found better things to do with their money than buy Toto records, European fans continued to eat them up with a big expensive spoon. And of course, a band like Toto is (and will forever be) big in Japan. Though touring had slowed down in recent years for the multiple-Grammy award winning rock troubadours, their schedules seem to be picking up as of late, with the band embarking on numerous world tours (and recording them for DVD, it seems).

In a packed auditorium, Toto -- 25th Anniversary (Live in Amsterdam) features Toto busting out their hit songs with amazing proficiency and enthusiasm, or at least with as enthusiasm as a band can show after 25 nonstop years of playing the same songs over and over without respite. The band, which has had members shuffle in and out like a game of blackjack over the years, put on their leather rock pants and belt out the classics as best they can -- singles like "Africa," "Hold The Line," "Rosanna," and even an instrumental from David Lynch's Dune, a score I was always particularly fond of. A complete playlist follows.

* Medley: Girl Goodbye / Goodbye Elenore / Child's Anthem / I'll Supply the Love
* Gift with a Golden Gun
* While My Guitar Gently Weeps
* Bodhisattva
* Africa
* David Paich Solo
* Dune / Don't Stop Me Now
* Medley: Waiting For Your Love / Georgy Porgy / Lion / Hydra / English Eyes / Till the End
* I Won't Hold You Back
* Rosanna
* Afraid of Love
* Hold the Line
* Next to You
* Home of the Brave
* White Sister

Time, of course, is a harsh mistress, and a band like Toto simply does not rock out the same way they used to...not that they ever really "rocked out," per se. As time marches on, the members all start to get a bit puffy around the torso, the rock poses get tougher to pull off without throwing the ol' back out, and those high falsettos get harder and harder to hit with each hair transplant and triple bypass surgery. David Paich, in particular, sounds pretty awful on the microphone, managing to butcher most of the songs he sings (especially "Africa"), though his piano playing is as tight as ever. Bobby Kimball, the lead vocalist, manages to hit all the high notes with reasonable crotch-grabbing efficiency, but as the concert progresses, he gets a bit strained and raspy. But the rest of the band plays with computer precision, with every note perfectly placed, every wailing guitar note perfectly timed, and every gigantic Chinese cymbal hit with deadly rhythmic accuracy. It is exactly the sort of performance one would expect from a musically creative and talented band after a quarter of a century of playing together -- astonishingly proficient on their instruments, lacking some of the spark and vocal range of their youth, but undoubtedly having a gay ol' time back in the leather pants. And that's "gay" as in "happy," you savages.

From a technical standpoint, one could say this DVD reflects the band itself: sounding great as always, but starting to look a bit long in the tooth. Visually, the DVD is flat and muddled, with a general lack of detail and definition to the transfer. Though things look acceptable from a distance, get close to the screen and things tend to get a bit chunky, distorted, and anti-aliased. Edge enhancement is noticeable on close examination, and the band members seem to have purposefully chosen outfits so garish and tacky that they continually befuddle the rendering capabilities of the average DVD player, making things shimmer like a mirage in the desert. Clearly, the makers of this DVD have a startlingly new and original interpretation of the phrase "captured in high-definition video" than one would typically assume. My mistake was expecting it to look good, I guess.

While not exactly a terrible presentation, Toto -- 25th Anniversary (Live in Amsterdam) simply cannot hold a candle to most concert DVDs on the market today in the visual department. But to me, a bigger problem than the lackluster transfer is that the actual set for the concert performance seems frighteningly lowbrow and amateur, kind of like a makeshift drama production in the high school gymnasium. A simple black sheet hanging behind the stage is the only set decoration, along with lighting effects and cues at the technical proficiency level of a kid from the local AV club. Why they chose such an uninteresting concert venue to record a live DVD escapes me. The cumulative experience of the editing, the lighting, and the set design is perplexingly bland, and it gives the whole concert presentation a tacky, cheap feeling.

On the other hand, this disc sounds incredible. You can have your choice between three tracks: meager Dolby 2.0 Stereo, slick Dolby 5.1 Surround, and sumptuous DTS, in order of sonic excellence. The Dolby 2.0 track is weak as all get-out, and needs a serious volume boost to even be heard -- this was included merely for posterity's sake, it seems. The Dolby 5.1 track is a big step up, with great distribution of audience and instrumental noise into all five channels and balanced bass response, but switch over to the DTS track to hear this DVD shine. The clarity, brightness, and fidelity of the DTS track practically make up for the average video quality of the DVD, it sounds so good. The mix is perfectly balanced between audience and instruments, and vocals are always perfectly clear. Say what you want about the band, but these cats know how to play their instruments like the devil, and every note is captured on this performance with excellent precision. If audio is the most important part of a live concert DVD, then this DVD gets top marks.

This DVD contains two extra features, one of which you can take in your car, which is kind of neat. This feature comes in the form of a shiny bonus audio CD, which features a similar (though slightly abridged) track listing as the DVD, so one can get one's Toto fix anytime, anywhere. As expected, the sound quality matches the DVD track almost perfectly, and is sure to be a nice feature for diehard Toto-ites. Or is it Toto-heads? The Toto Posse? Err...never mind. The second feature, "Through the Looking Glass," is a tour diary of Toto's behind-the-stage antics, which features a lot of bowling, harassing Japanese concert producers, lukewarm pranks, guffaws, and bowling. Fans of the band will no doubt be tickled in getting invited backstage so intimately, but everyone else will probably be bored as hell. Clearly they are having a blast touring again, and the enthusiasm is mildly contagious, I will admit. But I would have preferred to see the extra space on the DVD go toward improving the heck out of the visual transfer rather than seeing bad camcorder footage of Toto mucking about in various Asian countries.

Whether you like the music or not, the mood on this DVD is light and joyous, and one gets the distinct impression that Toto are having the time of their lives again, enjoying every second back on the road. Good for them, I say. Toto fans can do no wrong with Toto -- 25th Anniversary, and even the casually curious might consider taking a peek into this DVD since it sounds so darn nice. Plus, the inclusion of the bonus CD gives the package reasonably good value. Alas, I cannot recommend it any further than that, however, since the kind words in my brain are being mugged by memories of the general blandness of the concert performance and less-than-pristine image quality.

Also, it's Toto. You know.

In closing, despite popular opinion to the contrary, rhyming "company" with the word "Serengeti" could very well be the most awkward rhyme in the history of rock and roll. That rhyme just sucks. It sucked back in the '80s, and it sucks today. Man, that's been bugging me for like, a decade.

Review content copyright © 2004 Adam Arseneau; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 72

Perp Profile
Studio: Red Distribution
Video Formats:
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* DTS 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)

Subtitles:
* None

Running Time: 141 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Footage from the "Through the Looking Glass" Tour
* Bonus Audio CD

Accomplices
* Toto Official Site
http://www.toto99.com