It's always live in Judge Matt Dicker's courtroom.
"For the first time in over 30 years, Graham Parker and The Rumour!"
Just about any concert film can appeal to fans of the performer, but the best examples of the genre can appeal to the general viewer and find the artist new fans. I had some awareness of Graham Parker and The Rumour heading into this viewing, but unable to rely on any previous devotion to the band, the film would need to win me over on its own merits.
Facts of the Case
Serving as a companion piece to This Is 40, Graham Parker & The Rumour: This Is Live captures the reunion of Parker and his band that was featured as a major plot point in This Is 40. Set in an intimate venue, the band breezes through a 12 song set of both well known songs and more recent catalog entries.
It has got to be hard to direct a concert film. Sure, there are the obvious shots—cut to the guitarist during the big solo, zoom in close on the adoring fan singing along to every lyric—but making a concert visually compelling for the length of a feature film, even one as short as This Is Live, is no easy task. There's only so many ways a director can pan across the stage and focus on individual band members before the monotony sinks in. Some filmmakers intersperse the concert footage with interviews and other off-stage footage (U2: Rattle and Hum, The Last Waltz) and others are blessed with stage theatrics that do most of the work for the director.
Judd Apatow, tasked with filming a little known sexagenarian rocker with little stage patter and no widely recognized songs, gamely records a concert that is historic for the fans of Graham Parker and the Rumour, a small but dedicated group (just how small is a regular source of conversation in This Is 40). Shout! Factory wisely double dipped into the footage of Parker & Co. shot by Apatow for This Is 40 and released a standalone concert recording of the band's reunion.
The band is tight and Parker is in strong voice for the performance, and the band shows no signs of having been apart for three decades, demonstrating an easy, unforced chemistry. The band plows right through their set, and though to the non-Parker fan the songs soon begin to sound mostly the same, the set is spirited and brisk. Reunions, especially 30 years after the fact, are often a bit pathetic and ill advised, but Graham Parker and The Rumour are more than capable of putting on a good show.
Though the audience gamely jumps to their feet to applaud after each song and enthusiastically bops their heads along, there is none of the fist pumping adoration so common in concert films, giving the film more of a VH1 Storytellers feel than the usual concert film. Everyone, both on and off stage, seems to be having a good time, but without any real excitement from anyone other than Rudd (in character as Pete), it's hard to get terribly excited about This Is Live. The band puts on a nice show, but if it were not for the fact that the concert was already going to be used for This Is 40, there would have been little need to record it.
Surely due to the release's small target audience, the Blu-ray/DVD combo release is as bare bones as they come, void of any special features. Even brief interviews with the band would have been welcome and would have provided some context regarding the band's history and the significance of the reunion. Still, it's hard to fault Shout! Factory for not wanting to invest the resources in producing special features on what is certainly a small release.
The sound and video are both of exceptional quality. Both the 1080p of the Blu-ray and the DVD capture the warm hues of the concert venue lighting, and the image is perfectly crisp and free of any imperfections. The 5.1 DTS Master Audio of the Blu-ray and the 5.1 Dolby Digital of the DVD are both more than adequate to capture the performance, and the resulting sound is full and clear, with each instrument easily picked out.
The diehard Graham Parker fan will find much to love in This Is Live, but for general audiences, even music obsessives, there's not much in the film (except a brief Paul Rudd cameo) that separates it from the endless concert footage available on cable.
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