Judge Dan Mancini likes a good beer buzz early in the morning...if by "beer buzz" you mean "bowl of muesli."
We're just gonna play a bunch of tunes and we're glad you showed up.—Sheryl Crow (speaking in a tone of voice that suggests she may have chugged an entire bottle of NyQuil before stepping on stage)
The original Soundstage was a PBS show produced by WTTW in Chicago from the mid-'70s to the mid-'80s. It featured concert performances by everyone from Al Green to Bob Dylan. In 2001, the show was resurrected by WTTW and upgraded for the new millennium by HD Ready, LLC. Over the last seven years, the new incarnation of Soundstage has presented performances by everyone from Tom Petty to Chicago to Heart—many of them excellent, some not so much.
Sheryl Crow's 2008 performance of 17 songs on the WTTW stage is, unfortunately, a drag. Through most of the concert, Crow and her band are tight and professional, but they look like they're going through the motions. They look bored. It may be that the stripped down stage, bright lighting, and white bread audience members robotically bobbing their heads and clapping their hands as if on cue are so foreign to the concert environment that Crow and her band are used to that they can't find an authentic groove. Regardless of the cause, the concert comes off as overly slick and soulless.
Crow's hair, make-up, wardrobe, and lighting are impeccable, and she hits all the right notes, but little of it satisfies. There's more warmth and spontaneity in her between-song banter with the crowd than in the performance of the music (but only slightly). She's the most impassioned while covering the Nick Lowe tune "Peace, Love and Understanding" and her own "Let's Get Free"—both anti-war songs. She looks like she barely registers a pulse on the run-throughs of her own radio hits, like "My Favorite Mistake," "Leaving Las Vegas," "Strong Enough," and especially "All I Wanna Do," during which I worried she might lapse into a coma.
On a technical level, the concert looks and sounds great. The sparsely dressed stage is brightly lit in blues and whites for the benefit of the cameras. The resulting image is sharp and detailed—not as detailed as Soundstage presentations on HDNet or Blu-ray, but plenty gorgeous for DVD.
Both the Dolby 5.1 and 2.0 audio tracks are impressive, too. The show was expertly recorded with an ear for naturalism. All instrumentation is crisp, discernible, and mixed with subtlety and taste. The recording is clean, but still sounds like a live performance. An uncompressed HD mix would have considerably more punch, but the two mixes offered on this disc are top-notch given the format.
The Set List:
Zzzzzzzz. What? Oh. Guilty as charged.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Koch Vision
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