Matchbox Twenty's new DVD had the bad luck to arrive on the tail-end of a music marathon, as, in a matter of days, I saw Alanis Morisette, Barenaked Ladies and Prince, live in concert, before sitting down with Rob Thomas' band. Why is this bad for them? Mainly because those three acts, particularly Prince, put on some of the most dynamic concerts out there. Matchbox Twenty? Well...they're really good musicians, but their stage show leaves something to be desired. If people simply want good music, they'll break out their CD. If they want something visual, that's not too abysmal (Sorry...I had to.), they'll catch their favorite band live or pop in a DVD.
Popping in this particular DVD gives you 20 tracks in just over an hour and a half, presenting some solid rock n' roll by one of the most consistent groups to hit the scene in the past ten years. There's nothing about this bar band done good that stands out, but it doesn't mean you won't find yourself sitting through their entire show without noticing the time going by. And, if you're of the persuasion, you can take also take advantage of staring at pretty boy frontman Rob Thomas. But that's all your getting. The most action in this show comes from Thomas moving from standing in the middle of the stage to the catwalk to sitting at his piano and back again.
Musically, the highlights are the handful of hits that the band has crafted over three albums, including "Push," "3AM" and "Disease." Matchbox Twenty's greatest strength is its ability to put together songs that straddles the line between soft and arena rock, and that strength is on display here. Halfway through the show, the band seems to finally get comfortable, and really begins to rock out, getting their guitars wailing. Unfortunately, the pacing can be a pain, as soft ballads slip in often, killing the musical momentum.
The concert is directed by Hamish Hamilton, a veteran of concert videos for superstars including Peter Gabriel, U2, Madonna and the Beastie Boys. Hamilton does a good job of giving a somewhat mundane show a sense of motion through the use of good shooting angles and editing that falls just short of bringing on epilepsy. The lighting is nice, but without anything of interest to illuminate, it somewhat goes to waste. The band looks like the least likely rock stars you've ever seen, but, considering the amount of good-looking girls in the audience, they've got something going for them.
Show comes in a nice package, wrapped in a clear plastic slipcover with the red logo printed on it. There are two trays for the two DVDs, and a pocket for the enclosed 16-page photo booklet. The first disc holds the concert, while the second has a documentary, two multi-angle songs, a photo album and lyrics for the 20 songs heard in the concert. The menus are simple, yet nicely animated and everything is in anamorphic widescreen.
The widescreen video in the concert is clear, except when intentionally blurry, though dark, due to the setting. There's no complaints here, as the disc recreates the visual concert experience faithfully.
If only the same thing could be said for the sound. There are two audio options, stereo and 5.1, but neither delivers the way it should. In fact, the stereo track is more balanced, as the surround soundtrack gives too much weight to the audience, filling the exterior speakers with their screams and applause, while burying the music and lyrics in the center channel. Often, Thomas' voice was competing with the crowd, making for a muddy experience.
There's one extra on the first disc, but it's an easter egg, and one that's almost more enjoyable than the rest of the entire set. Its presence is a surprise and is something no one would expect.
On disc two, you'll find a trove of bonus materials, including a behind-the-scenes documentary, directed by Gillian Grisman (director of Grateful Dead documentary Grateful Dawg), that runs around 50 minutes. The featurette includes interviews with the guys in band, as well as a look at the technical work that goes into putting on a major concert. If you're a fan, or want to know more about Matchbox Twenty, you'll find out plenty here. I found myself thinking the entire set could have been better though, if they found a way to blend the on-stage and off-stage parts into one all-inclusive concert film.
A 32-photo gallery provides another look at the band, while the Lyrics section will help decipher the songs and help you sing along. Also included are a pair of songs presented in multi-angle format, "Soul" and "Bright Lights." Each song has six angles, one main feed and one iso camera for each member to the band, enabling you to play director, or just focus on Rob Thomas if you like.
Matchbox Twenty gets the royal treatment with this special edition set, making it the ultimate bit of memorabilia for the band's fans. It's unfortunate though that bands with better live shows don't get this kind of treatment. As it is though, its a good set for the music fans to check out. More likely that not, you like at least a few of the songs here and may find something new. This is a slam-dunk buy for Matchbox Twenty fans and a very good rental for rock aficionados.
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Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or his convention blog called Conning Fellow
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.