The Doobie Brothers' biggest hit is "What A Fool Believes," a.k.a. the Judge Victor Valdivia Story.
The farewell tour.
There's probably no more terminally unhip classic rock band than The Doobie Brothers. Lacking the bad-boy glamour of the Rolling Stones, the mystique of Led Zeppelin, the devoted following of the Grateful Dead, or the sheer popularity of the Eagles, the Doobie Brothers have always been dismissed as musical lightweights despite their undeniable popularity. In some ways, however, that very lack of pretense is what makes the band's best songs still enjoyable even decades later. The Doobie Brothers: Live at the Greek Theatre is a TV special filmed at the last performance of the band's 1982 "farewell" tour (though they would reform some years later) and it demonstrates that the Doobies' most enduring music, especially the songs recorded later in the band's career, remains worthy of respect.
The concert was filmed at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley, California, on September 11, 1982. Here is the set list:
• "Listen to the Music"
What the concert makes clear is just how much the band changed when singer Michael McDonald joined. When the Doobie Brothers began recording in the early '70s under the direction of original singer/songwriter Tom Johnston, they were a pleasant guitar-boogie band, as heard in hits like "Listen to the Music" and "Black Water." Johnston left in 1976, however, and was replaced by McDonald, who changed the band's sound to reflect his affection for jazz and R&B. McDonald expanded the Doobies' audience substantially with hits like "Minute By Minute," "Takin' It to the Streets," and "What a Fool Believes," the latter of which scored the band a Grammy Award and was a multiplatinum smash. The band plays both sides of their music with equal skill but the difference is clearly evident in the audience's response. When the Doobies play their earlier songs and even when Johnston returns to join for a closing jam on "Listen to the Music," the audience is pleased. When the band launches into their McDonald-era material, however, the audience erupts into cheers and applause. The early songs are agreeable but it's really the McDonald material that defines what most people think of when they think of the Doobie Brothers. They may not be as groundbreaking or influential as those of their peers, but McDonald's songs remain infectious, well-crafted slices of pop craft that are undeniable. The band's performance is solid (the Doobies were always a consistent, if hardly overwhelming, live act) so the concert delivers the band's most notable songs in entertaining versions that do them justice. It makes for a fine way to enjoy the Doobie Brothers' music.
Technically, the disc is typically first-rate, as is the case with most Eagle Rock releases. The full-screen transfer looks surprisingly sharp and crisp, especially for a concert shot on video in the early '80s. It doesn't suffer from the fading and softness that plagues most videos from the era. The surround mixes are also superb, crisp and clear with good separation of each instrument. There are a couple of spots where they sound a bit tinny, but for the most part these are good mixes. The extras consist of five songs left off the original TV broadcast of the concert:
• "Little Darling (I Need You)"
These are superb performances, easily the equal if not superior to some of the songs in the original broadcast. If anything, it's a mystery why these were cut out since "One Step Closer," "Real Love," and "Dependin' On You" were the most recent hits the band had at the time of the show. As showcases for McDonald, they are exactly what most fans of that era of the band will want to hear. The disc also includes 30 minutes of interviews with various band members, filmed just before the concert, in which they discuss their future plans after the band's breakup. Of course, since the Doobie Brothers reunited by the end of the decade (though with Johnston and not McDonald) the interviews end up as much less poignant as they initially seem, though fans might find them worth a look. The DVD comes with an eight-page booklet with liner notes and photos as well.
Ultimately, this one is worth seeing. It contains the band's biggest hits, their most famous lineup (as well as appearances from former members), and one of their better performances, all assembled in a typically thoughtful package from Eagle Rock. The Doobie Brothers: Live at the Greek Theatre will please longtime fans and serves as a perfect introduction to the Doobie Brothers' music.
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