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Better from a distance
Guitarist Pat Travers and drummer Carmine Appice aren't names that casual rock fans will recognize, but they're true giants of the 1970s blues rock movement; talented musicians who have played with the likes of Jeff Beck, Ted Nugent, and Steve Vai. Though their recent pairing as Travers & Appice isn't likely to be called a "supergroup" by anyone but the most die-hard 70s blues rock aficionado, the pair's first DVD, Travers & Appice: Live at the House of Blues shows them as more than capable performers who can still lay down a blistering set some 30 years later.
Travers, who released several heavy blues guitar albums under his own name in the 1970s and early 1980s, first joined up with ex-Vanilla Fudge drummer Appice after a planned collaboration with Rick Derringer fell through, and the Canadian-born guitarist came to the rescue. The two players clicked, and along with flamboyant session bassist TM Stevens, the band set to work writing and recording the 2003 album "It Takes a Lot of Balls." This live show, shot in the fall of 2004 at The House of Blues in North Myrtle Beach, coincides with their live second album, as the boys lay down ten heavy blues rock tracks. You get:
This DVD was quite a bit better than I could have anticipated. Travers and Appice still have a fetish for insistent 1970s blues rock, with big beats and thick guitar punctuated by wanky solos. But the playing is unexpectedly raw and edgy, and their sound is consistently fresh. It's a tribute to the musicians that they really put their all into playing when they could have just as easily offered up watered-down rock for their aging baby boomer audience.
Their set focuses mostly on tracks from their collaborative album. "Taken," the lead song, is an undeniable foot-stomper that sets the tone for the show before it veers off into nostalgic covers from each esteemed performer's respective career, The Travers Band's "Crash and Burn" and Beck/Bogart/Appice's "Living Alone." Though not a featured performer, the two headliners even let TM Stevens show off his chops on "Gotta Have You" and "Turn Me On." The later cover of "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy" might seem pretty ill-considered, at least until you consider that Appice actually co-wrote the song with Rod Stewart when he was working as his drummer. It's an amusing performance of the song, but not always for the right reasons. The set concludes with a rollicking performance of the riff-heavy "Boom Boom," capping off a fairly entertaining evening.
Shot in what appears to be HD, the image on Travers & Appice: Live at the House of Blues is generally quite clear, although some grain is apparent in long shots. Significant improvements over the stereo track, both the DTS and Dolby 5.1 tracks are quite excellent, full and rich with good use of the surround channels to give you an experience that is probably close to actually being in the audience. There are even a pair of extras here: a still gallery and a 20-minute interview with Pat Travers and Carmine Appice. They talk a little bit about how the project came together and their musical backgrounds, but the interviewer keeps asking idiotic questions like "who's the bigger prima donna?"
Pesentation aside, this is a no-frills, solid rock performance DVD. Don't expect pyrotechnics, posturing, or audience platitudes, these are just three talented musicians giving it their all. Though the material occasionally falters with cro-magnon lyics, they musicians obviously enjoying themselves on stage, and their sonic chemistry is undeniable.
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