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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Cars Unlocked - The Live Performances
The Cars Unlocked - The Live Performances
New Video // Unrated // October 17, 2006
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by John Sinnott | posted October 4, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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Exploding onto the music scene in the late '70's, The Cars were a New Wave band that had a long string of infectious pop tunes through the 80's.  Founded by songwriter/guitarist/singer Ric Ocasek (now a reoccurring guest on The Colbert Report) and bassist and vocalist Benjamin Orr, the group also included Greg Hawkes on synthesizers, Eliot Easton on guitar, and David Robinson keeping the beat on drums.  The Cars' songs were insanely catchy and often featured oddly incomprehensible lyrics, which just added to the tunes appeal.  Their first album, simply entitled The Cars, featured Just What I Need the group's first top 40 hit.  They'd have a dozen more over the next decade before the group disbanded in early 1988.  Now a DVD/CD combination of never before released live material has come out on DVD.  As a fan of the group I was very eager to give this disc a spin.  Live performances of the band at their prime would be a great thing to add to my DVD collection.  Though this set comes in a very attractive package, the audio and video quality both leave a lot to be desired, and the way the disc is arranged is also pretty poor.  As a result only the most die hard fans will want to pick this up.

This DVD features 15 of the cars hit songs, all performed live.  Fans are sure to recognize all of the tunes and be happy with the selections.  While some of their lesser songs that I liked are missing, all of their top 40 songs are represented.  The problem is that in between the concert performances they insert home-made film clips of the band behind stage and during interviews that really brings the momentum to a screeching halt and ruins the mood.  These clips are dull and uninteresting in the extreme.  A good portion was filmed by the band with a consumer video camera.  Not only does it look horrid (dark and graining and very soft) but the band doesn't do anything.  You see them lounging around in dressing rooms or hotel rooms.  There's even shots of someone walking down the aisle of a plane in flight filming the band looking out the windows.  *yawn*.  Do we need to see some guy backstage telling Ric that if you tip a toaster on its side you can make a grilled cheese sandwich?  How about a bored Greg throwing food against the walls?  The interviews are just as bad.  They don't show or play (some are audio only) the whole sections of an interview; they'll just splice together the dumb questions without the answers.  I'd rather see the band rock out.

The group does give some good performances.  Gimme Some Slack really rocked, but they followed that clip up with sound check they did in Tokyo that sounded really horrible.  Of course they weren't trying to sound good, just get their equipment adjusted correctly, so I'm a little surprised that they even put that it.  The disc finishes with two songs from the 1982 US festival (remember that?) that were a lot of fun.  It's the highpoint of the disc.

If they had just strung the concert footage together this would have been a fun disc to watch.  As it is, make sure you have your remote ready so you can chapter skip to the next song whenever they take up backstage.

The DVD:


This is a great package.  The DVD and CD come in a hardcover book (they are slip into slots in the front and back cover.)  The book has pictures of the band and partial lyrics to their songs and makes a nice part of the set.

Video:

The full frame video leaves a lot to be desired.  Now all of this video is old and wasn't recorded under optimal conditions but even taking that into account the disc looks horrible.  Just about every video defect you can image pops up at one time or another.  The picture is often blurry with smeared colors.  There are entire songs that have a dozen or more video dropout on the screen at all times.  There is chroma noise, overmodulation, tape tracking errors, and blocking.  The songs that make up this disc were taken from different concerts, so they don't all have the same defects, but none of the songs look good.  This looks like it was mastered from a third or fourth generation bootleg VHS tape that someone bought off of e-bay.  This is a very bad looking disc.

Audio:

Like the video, the audio portion is pretty bad.  The disc comes with a PCM stereo track and a DD 5.1 mix, neither of which sound great.  Going into this disc I thought that the PCM track would be superior since the concerts were undoubtedly recorded in stereo.  That wasn't really the case.  Both soundtracks sounded thin and with limited range, but the 5.1 was more engulfing and felt more like a concert.  They also boosted the audience sounds in that track which served to cover some of the deficiencies of the audio.  Of course this couldn't overcome the fact that the audio was from a 20 year old video tape.  A rather poor showing on the audio side.

Extras:

There are five additional songs in the bonus section:  Cruiser, Strap Me In, Drive, Touch and Go, and Everything You Say which can be played separately or all together using the "play all" option.  I actually enjoyed this more than the main feature because you could see the group play their songs without inane video between the selections.

Final Thoughts:

I really enjoy the cars music, but this disc doesn't present it in the best light possible.  With very poor video and a soundtrack that's nearly as bad, this disc won't win the group any new fans.  The insipid backstage clips and montages only served to ruin the mood that the music was able to create.  I've always considered myself a fan of The Cars, but I don't think I'll be playing this anytime soon.  Skip it.
 

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