As time marches onward, people look back on their lives and their interests and feel the need to relive the past. Thus we saw a resurgance of 70's culture in the 90's, and 80's culture now. We saw the reformation of dozens of different bands for live performances, from The Sex Pistols to Siouxsie and the Banshees, and now Genesis has announced a new tour. But what of the bands that never went away? Those bands who left their glory days far behind, but still plug away on the road maybe for nostalgia, maybe for money, and just maybe for the music. Those bands don't get the high profile hoopla of a band that hasn't performed together in years, because everyone takes them for granted. So what's an aging group to do to get attention? Earth, Wind, and Fire & Chicago came up with an interesting solution: team up. While die-hard fans might see either group alone, the combination of the two together could be interesting enough to get not just the longtime fans into seats, it could be enough to bring in some people who would have otherwise stayed at home.
Chicago & Earth, Wind, and Fire Live At The Greek Theater is exactly what it sounds like: a performance by both bands at the Greek Theater in Southern California. The group opens with the well-known Chicago number "Beginnings," and it's an upbeat start that gets both bands going. The tune sounds gorgeous with all the vocalists lending their talents to the melody, and the various members of the bands, both already large ensembles, work together well. The groups play two more songs before splitting off into their separate sets.
I do wish that both bands had worked out a way to do their entire sets together on stage, because the individual sets are nowhere near as interesting as the combined performances. It also doesn't help that both groups hold on to their best-known material for the finale, because the rest of the songs, for the most part, are only going to appeal to those fans who have stuck with the band all through the years. For someone like me, who mostly know the bands through their hits, it was at times tough to sit through some of the subpar material that unfortunately makes it into the setlist. However, that's not to say that the individual setlists are bad, far from it. They're just slightly handicapped by taking out some intregal songs. For the money, though, I preferred Chicago's set to EW&F.
The real meat of the show is the finale, where both groups come back together again to do the biggest, most popular hits that both bands had. They kick things off with "September," an Earth, Wind and Fire song that anyone who's listened to FM radio in the past 20 years would recognize, and both bands seems utterly renergized. The interplay between the groups is wonderful to behold. The most interesting thing about this sequence is how it highlights the difference in composition and style between the two groups. Earth, Wind and Fire's pieces show them to be essentially a jam band, with lengthy winding musical sections that feature a lot of soloing and riffing. Chicago's pieces, on the other hand, are more tightly structured and feel more like complex compositions, and I noticed that their songs integrated EW&F more fully than during the other band's songs. The finale comes in the form of Chicago's classic "25 Or 6 To 4," a song which is, truthfully, almost better than the rest of both bands' catalogues combined. Both groups synch together harmoniously, taking the already great tune into even better territory, justfying the entire endeavor with just that one song. There's a crackling energy on the stage during the performance, and it, along with the other high points of the show, make this a concert worth catching.
The HD DVD:
This is one of Image Entertainment's first forays into the HD world, and I'm sorry to report that there are some growing pains in evidence. The picture quality on the disc isn't awful. At its best, it's got good details and color saturation. However, I did notice several flaws, such as digital noise, stairstepping, and interlacing issues. The transfer is 1080i at 1.78:1, not 1080p, which might be the cause of a few of those flaws. However, I did also have some blacker than black problems which were not a result of the player. Also, and this may be a problem with the source, I noticed several points where the image would go soft and then resolve, as if the cameraman was adjusting focus. All in all, it's not the worst transfer I've seen, but the constant small problems lead to larger annoyances, as they occur throughout the show.
I've said it before, and I'm going to keep saying it until somebody listens: We need lossless audio on concert films, period. We put these on for the sound above anything else. With that out of the way, the Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 track does its job, enveloping you in a wall of sound that is a trademark of both bands. Also included is a Dolby Digital Plus 2.0 Japanese track.
Ever go to a show and find that the band you're seeing has decided to indulge in the worst live sin possible: the drum solo? Ever use that opportunity to take a break, hit the bathrooms, smoke a cigarette, get refreshments? Yeah, the guys at Image know you do, which is why they cut the drum solo sequence from the main performance and put it on as an extra. It's entitled "Drum Duel," and considering there are only about two or three drummers in the rock world who can make a drum solo genuinely interesting (and none of them are in either of these bands), it's safe to say that you'll only watch this once, if ever at all.
Taking two bands and having them perform together on one stage is always an interesting proposition. When those bands happen to be two large ensemble pieces such as Chicago & Earth, Wind, and Fire, the interest increases exponentially. While there are some visual issues, and the bands could have performed together longer, the good stuff in here is enough to warrant several viewings. Recommended.
Daniel Hirshleifer is the High Definition Editor for DVD Talk.