The Pat Metheny Group is one of those bands that I have heard of, but that’s about all. I seem to recall the name, but I couldn’t tell you what kind of music they play, or if they are any good. They seem to fall into the “miscellaneous information” bin of my brain.
After viewing this DVD, at least one of those questions has been answered. While I still have a problem defining their style of music (progressive/new age/jazz?), their level of musicianship cannot be denied. These are wonderfully talented musici…ns… some of the most talented that I have ever heard. I feel as though terms like “the best ever” get thrown around an awful lot, usually without merit. This is the exception to that rule. These truly are some of the best musicians that I have ever heard in my entire life.
Of course, as is the case with movies, talent level does not always evenly equate to popularity and success. In fact, some artists can become so talented, so completely advanced from their contemporaries, that they only succeed in confusing the general public. Bands such as They Might Be Giants and Portishead have been dealing with this frustration for years, and the Pat Metheny Group has become part of that obscure fraternity.
Maybe this band will not win any Billboard awards, or do a “collabo.” with 50 Cent and Nelly Furtado, but I don’t see anything wrong with that. In fact, there’s something very appealing about watching musicians perform outside of the constraints of radio-friendly pop hits and corporate marketing tie-ins. This is music for music’s sake. Passionate, aggressive and beautiful. Come and warm your heart by the fire of natural talent allowed to roam free.
Viewers have the ability to chose between two audio options, seldom-used Dolby Digital 4.1, and consistently-excellent DTS 5.1. I am surprised that DD 4.1 is not an audio option that is used more frequently for concert DVDs. I have heard some live performances that sounded very artificial when utilizing the center channel for vocals. 4.1 is a much better option, however, since it draws the sound away from the center of the sound field, and out to where the loudspeakers would normally be had the viewer attended the event in person.
As usual, however, I prefer the DTS track. Since there is no real vocal in this performance anyway, the use of the center channel is not really an issue, but instead it just helps to fill in the gaps in the sound stage. The track is also much fuller than the 4.1 offering, with lots of clean, powerful low end. The tones are very, very clear, and made my speakers sound simply fantastic. Surrounds are not utilized to their full effect, but mixing the applause into the rear speakers was a wonderful decision that really helps to place the viewer in the audience. This is a track that doesn’t get in the way, but is as transparent as possible, allowing the art to be presented much as it was originally intended.
The quality of the video presentation varies by hue. The first few songs of the show are played with the house lights up, and the result is slightly below average. No grain is present, and the transfer is also free from dust, scratches and the like. However, the warm browns and reds have soft edges that leave the images a bit undefined.
Once the house lights go down, and the stage lights come up, the picture is much improved. Where many live music presentations suffer from the extremes of stage lighting, this disc thrives in them, bringing a sharpness and depth that was not present in the first few songs of the concert. Cool colors transfer especially well, with hard, tight edges. Blacks and whites both look better also. While black tones come across as very deep grays during the first part of the show, once the lights go down, true deep black levels can be found. After the performance finally gets rolling, this show looks great.
Sadly, there are no special features included with this title whatsoever. It would have been easy to include some backstage footage, crowd arrival footage, or even a multiple angle presentation on select songs. There’s not even an insert included in the disc’s packaging. As with the performance itself, the focus is on the music, and the music alone. While I can appreciate what the band is attempting to do, I disagree with their decision. The inclusion of value added content is part of what makes the DVD format so wonderful.
This is a great snapshot in time of an absolutely brilliant fellowship of musicians. Video and sound are both fantastic, and the playing simply cannot be equaled. If you have never heard this group, you owe it to yourself to check them out. Even if modern jazz is not your bag, it is easy for any music fan to appreciate the incredible talent level of the members of this band. The lack of special features and a bland menu presentation brought the overall score of this disc down, which is a real shame. A little more effort in the post-production process could have made this a near-perfect release.