You wacky kids probably don't remember the Monkees. They were America's answer to the Beatles, and Mr. Nesmith was one of them. Here he plays without his Monkees, and Judge Erick Harper is here to critique the proceedings.
Join Michael Nesmith and his band as they perform on the opening night at the 30th Anniversary of the historic Britt Festival in Jacksonville, Oregon.
Michael Nesmith first came to the attention of American music audiences in the late 1960s as a member of the Monkees, the original made-for-TV boy band. Since that time he has become an accomplished singer and songwriter, as well as a pioneer in the areas of music video and multimedia publishing. In 1975 his production company released "The Prison," a multimedia book/record combination. He was the first person ever to win a Grammy award for a "video record," for his work on 1981's "Elephant Parts." He also created "Pop Clips," the first music video program in the United States, which was later purchased by Warner Cable and developed into an entire channel of its own; you may have heard of a little network called MTV. "Nez," as his friends and fans refer to him, has also written novels, and served as executive producer of the movies Tapeheads and Repo Man. (Oh yeah, and his mom invented Liquid Paper. I am not making this up.)
The Britt music festival is, according to its official site, "the Pacific Northwest's premiere outdoor summer performing arts festival." Located in the historic 1850s gold rush town of Jacksonville, Oregon, Britt presents dozens of summer concerts, featuring world-class artists in jazz, folk, country, pop, dance, and classical music.
Facts of the Case
On a clear summer evening, Michael Nesmith and his band take the stage. Over the course of the next 85 minutes they play a mixture of Nesmith's old favorites and newer material, all with a sense of warmth and fun. Nesmith's style of music is hard to pin down into a certain genre or category; it is a mixture of folk, rock, and country with a casual, bluesy feel. His sound is at times reminiscent of the music that Ricky Nelson, another teen rocker turned serious musician, turned to before his untimely death. Nez's voice is mellow and expressive, although it is at times a bit thin, and sometimes drifts into Bob Dylan/Tom Petty nasal territory. Nesmith pauses occasionally between songs to share self-deprecating anecdotes about his life and his musical career. He comes across as down-to-earth and genuine, and a pretty nice guy overall. He and his band play through around eighteen songs during the course of the evening; the audience in attendance certainly got their money's worth. The wide variety of tunes includes the Monkees tune "Papa Gene's Blues," Mike's solo hit "Rio," "Laugh Kills Lonesome," based on a painting by Charles Russell (one of my favorite artists), and "Different Drum," a song which Nesmith wrote and Linda Ronstadt turned into a Top 20 hit.
This performance comes to us on DVD from Anchor Bay, that champion of obscure and eclectic entertainments. They have done a good job with the video and audio on this release. The video is presented full-frame, which of course is its original aspect ratio. The picture quality is about as good as one could hope for, considering that this performance was shot live and on videotape. It is for the most part sharp and clear, although the focus is occasionally soft. Color fidelity is hard to determine, as the stage lighting throws a multicolored glow over the performers. The stage lights are also quite intense, which causes some haloing, notably around Nesmith's bright white shirt. The occasional crowd shots are understandably underlit and quite grainy. Overall, most of the video problems appear to be the fault of the source material; they are actually quite minor for this type of presentation. There are a few problems that are distinctly digital, notably some blocking and pixelation around bright light sources. The video is not up to the quality of DVD releases of theatrical movies, but is pretty good for a live event such as this.
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, and is adequate for the task. It reproduces the sound and feel of being at a live show fairly accurately. The rear surrounds are put to good use, although there is not clearly defined separation or distinction between the channels. The rear channels carry basically the same sounds as the front channels, and tend to have a bit of an echo effect. The result is something quite different from a Dolby 5.1 mix of a theatrical movie, but is perfectly appropriate to a live show.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
My only real complaint with this disc is the complete lack of extras. No production notes, no biographical information, not even a list of the band members. Nada. This is particularly surprising given Michael Nesmith's status as a pioneer in various multimedia fields.
What can I say? This is a pleasant, laid-back DVD presentation of a pleasant, laid-back guy playing pleasant, laid-back music. The video and audio are not the best that DVD has to offer, but are as good as or better than one would expect from a live concert video. The lack of extra features is pretty glaring, however. How hard would it have been to throw in a discography of Nez, or a quick text explanation of what the Britt festival is all about?
Overall, I enjoyed this DVD and Michael Nesmith's music. I might not listen to it again right away, but I will probably pull it out again at some point in the future. Hardcore Nez fans probably own this disc already; anyone else might be better advised to give it a rental first if it sounds like this might be your cup of tea.
Michael Nesmith and his bandmates are completely exonerated of any wrongdoing, and are free to go with the thanks of the court. Anchor Bay should probably be convicted of the grievous offense of putting out a DVD with no extra content whatsoever; however, I'm still in such a good mood from listening to Nez and the band that I'll let it slide this time.
We stand adjourned.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
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