Judge Joel Pearce doesn't care how funky they are, these meters are right on time.
"They are the first family of funk"—cheesy introduction host
Although not as well-regarded in the funk world as James Brown or Sly and the Family Stone, The Meters have been around since the mid '60s, entertaining audiences with their unique New Orleans blend of funk, blues and jazz. In the mid '90s, they changed their name to Funky Meters, but half of the band is still intact. Keyboardist and band leader Art Neville and bass player George Porter Jr. have been with the band since its conception, and have recently been joined by Brian Stoltz on guitar and David Russell Batiste Jr. on drums. This concert was filmed during the 2000 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
Though the band's line-up has changed slightly over the years, these four guys play like they've been working together since childhood. This is one of the tightest live performances I have ever seen. They strike a perfect balance between tightly wound orchestration and expansive improvisation. Funky Meters doesn't seem out of place at the jazz festival, but they lay down classic funky grooves that flow from song to song without ever getting dull. They don't take a break until halfway through their set, and the first half of the concert is an awesomely smooth journey through Funky Meters' repertoire. When they jump back in at the halfway mark after a quick instrument switch, they kick into high gear, with songs that showcase band member. They share the lead singing spot (except the drummer), which gives each song a slightly different tone.
These musicians are skilled masters and consummate professionals. They make their playing seem completely effortless, but it never looks like they are bored. These guys clearly live to be on stage performing; they adapt to each other without missing a beat. At one point, George Porter Jr. pops a bass string, switches to another bass and gets his original bass back without his absence being noticeable in the concert. Watching closely, you can see that a number of things happen during the set that could throw a lesser band off, but you would never know it from listening to the music. It's a relatively short set (the DVD lists it as 92 minutes, but it's only about 70), but this is a great concert from an awesome band.
Unfortunately, the DVD isn't as impressive as the concert. The video transfer is 1.85:1 letterboxed, and seems to come from a tape source. The colors are reasonably well represented, but there is no real black level and the whole thing looks flat and lackluster. It is beyond time for widescreen presentations to be anamorphically enhanced. It is a concert DVD, however, so the sound is much more important than the image. The audio on this disc comes in stereo or 5.1 Dolby surround. In concerts, a stereo track is often stronger because surround tracks add artificial reverb to the back channels. That's not the case here; the stereo track sounds pretty dead. There isn't much separation, and it lacks the punch that a funk DVD ought to have. The surround track is slightly better because it adds some separation, but it still lacks muscle. The music of Funky Meters begs to tear out of the speakers with a hearty roar; instead, everything seems to get just a little muddled. It sounded somewhat better on a second audio system, but still failed to do justice to the quality of the performance. It's not a terrible track, but the music deserves more.
The only special features on the disc are interviews with Art Neville and George Porter Jr. They reminisce about the history of the band, which is a nice addition for the disc. They talk about the way that each band member brings a different musical style into the group, which they have worked hard to combine into their completely unique sound.
If you're a fan of Funky Meters, you could do a lot worse than this solid concert DVD. The transfer and short running time keep it from being a must-buy for casual fans, even though it's a really great set. Not guilty.
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