All altruistic intentions aside, Judge Bill Gibron believes there are better examples of all-star celebrity concerts than this bland, bumbling performance.
It's for charity, so who cares if it's lame, right?
The Band Du Lac is Gary Brooker's brainchild. A random collection of concerned musicians and celebrities both past and present, these good-natured guys and gals get together under the famous keyboardist's tutelage for various charitable events, playing before black-tie crowds in hopes of coercing a few extra pounds out of their pockets. Assisting such well-meaning organizations as the King Edward VII Hospital and HASTE (Heart and Stroke Trust Endeavor), the founding father of Procol Harum has called upon friends like Eric Clapton, Bob Geldof, Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford, Roger Taylor, Ringo Starr, and Andy Fairweather Low to aid in these star-studded showcases. Presenting an appearance last June (2005) at the Wintershall Estate in Surrey, this two-hour concert DVD features the full Band Du Lac performance, offering the following multi-generational set list:
• "Tequila" (The Band Du Lac)
As a souvenir of the concert-going experience, One Night Only Live is a middling musical experience. The only artist running on all six skill cylinders is Eric Clapton, and even then he appears on auto pilot some of the time. Ringo Starr is so sharp during his three songs that he often sounds a full half-step above the melody. Brooker brings down the house with his rendition of Harum's classic "Whiter Shade of Pale," but it would have been nice to include other favorites like "A Salty Dog" or "Conquistador." Roger Taylor (of Queen fame) argues for his place behind the drum kit as he works his way through three weak numbers.
It's Katie Melua, Brit babe flavor of the moment, who sticks out like a novice sore thumb here. With a voice that's a fragile, shrill instrument and a stage presence consisting exclusively of fashionable clothing and a mass of carefully coiffed curls, she's all style and very, very little substance. In fact, she performs no original music here. Instead, she favors the incredibly receptive crowd with tunes penned by others, including John Mayall ("Crawling Up the Hill") and the man responsible for her sudden ascension to the top of the U.K. charts, musician Mike Batt ("My Aphrodisiac Is You," "The Closest Thing to Crazy"). In some ways, it's like including the adult contemporary version of Britney Spears as part of your charity showcase.
However, the real death knell for this otherwise noble effort is the arrival of the so-called Drifters. Since the original incarnation of the vocal group began in 1953 (!), it is clear that this version contains no founding members. In fact, a little bit of research reveals that this edition represents an offshoot faction of the original band, the result of a split that occurred in the late '60s/ early '70s when money and musical direction divided the group. This U.K. unit had several disco-inspired hits in Britain, yet none of these songs are featured. Instead, in between the hip-hop chants and urbanized audience interaction (lots of "yo, yo, yos!" here), they belt out "Under the Boardwalk" and "Stand by Me." It is safe to say that most of the singers present weren't even born or, if alive, weaned when these songs were first on the charts nd the lame, uninspired karaoke-style singalongs we have to sit through are guaranteed to make old-school sockhoppers weep. Besides, their entire "too cool" bluster just seems wrong here. No one primps and preens around the stage. Clapton is breezy and collected while Ringo throws a few flimsy hand signs, but The Drifters are out to wow the stuffed-shirt audience with their false bravura and it just feels wrong. Indeed, should men out in support of a charity devoted to heart and stroke patients be bouncing around on stage in arch athleticism? The Drifters destroy any semblance of respect one has for the show, leaving Band Du Lac to limp along to its bland band-jam finale.
It's a shame that the show is not better, since the technical elements of the DVD are quite exceptional. The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen image is incredibly colorful, the digital video creating excellent contrasts between the setting and the singers. There are no picture problems (flaring, bleeding) to contend with and the amiable atmosphere of a lovely English summer's evening comes across capably. On the sound side, the aural elements are equally compelling. Three different mixes are presented—Dolby Digital Stereo, Surround 5.1, and Surround 5.1 DTS—and all sound amazing. There is a very distinct live ambiance to the show and we feel like part of the crowd during the multi-channel offerings. With a nice amount of instrument separation and a true aura of performance, this is an excellent sonic package. As for extras, we are treated to a short interview featurette, in which Brooker, Carrack, Rutherford, and others discuss their participation in the show. We also get a sneak peek at Clapton and Starr rehearsing. Along with an insert featuring a nice selection of on-stage snapshots, the Band Du Lac DVD is well put together. Too bad the same can't be said for the actual concert.
It is safe to say that those without a clear performance aesthetic will probably love this show. Everyone here is working for charity and no one is trying to upstage anyone else. The songs come across without a great many flaws or flubs and a few of the participants acquit themselves nicely. If you don't mind an occasional off-key moment and just want to hear some old-fashioned rockers delivering the goods, Band Du Lac: One Night Only Live will be an adequate addition to your DVD collection. Those with a more stringent sense of sonic value will, instead, find it ear piercing, not pleasing.
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