Babyshambles: Up The Shambles - Live in Manchester:
I know, it's only rock and roll, but I like it. But having no clue as to the Babyshambles sound I thought, "why am I choosing to review this concert DVD?" Sure, from about 1982 to 1995 I listened to almost nothing but British pop, but is that enough qualification? Turns out it is, and though I won't be running out to buy any Babyshambles LPs any time soon (that's what music comes on, right?) I quite liked this bit of concert footage. Up The Shambles is everything a concert movie should be, short, sweet, energetic and in your face.
Babyshambles front man (ex - The Libertines) Pete Doherty is probably best known (if at all) here in the states as being yet another Bad-Boy of British Rock, seen on Entertainment TV shows leaping over paparazzi whilst leaving court and looking for another drink. Slim but doughy, and with puppy-dog eyes, he's the bastard child of Paul McCartney and Sid Vicious in both looks and behavior. He clearly has the chops in writing pop rock, has a decent voice, and for whatever reason has bought into the dark side of being a Rock star.
But what does it mean for Up The Shambles? It means you get a spot-on but short set (65-minutes) of rousing music that fits the lineage of Brit-rock organically and seamlessly - somewhere between The Housemartins and Blur perhaps? A mid-set grouping of acoustic songs with just Doherty, a guitar and Dot Allison singing or playing a hand-held xylophone accomplishes the 'slow things down a bit,' but barely. Even these songs have a sort of swing-your-tankard urgency that the packed crowd eats up. The rest of the time it's tight, pleasantly aggressive 21st Century blues/ rock/ punk/ pub music - catchy but not sweet, with intelligent tempo shifts, nice bass and Jaguar guitar solos.
The fans love it - the bars at the back of the room are deserted whenever they're seen. Mostly, a concert DVD like this is the next best thing to being there, with great on-stage camera-work that puts you right in the action. It looks like about 5 cameras were used, so whenever Mick Whitnall (classic Brit-guitar name, there ...) hits a guitar solo, you're right there in front of the fret board, or feeling you're leaning on the stage. The image and sound aren't Jonathan Demme material, but more immediate. House lighting, bright and colorful, makes images blur and flare a bit at times, while the sound almost seems to have been recorded from out in the room instead of off the board. But this is not a bad thing at all, creating a very authentic-feeling experience, and at that the sound is really pretty good - generally well balanced, with everything clear but obviously live.
Based on this release, I'd certainly check out Babyshambles if they ever make it across the pond.
The Man Who Came To Stay
Do You Know Me
In Love With A Feeling
Gang Of Gin
I Mean You No Harm
Don't Look Back Into The Sun
Time For Heroes
I Wanna Break Your Heart
What Katy Did
My Darling Clementine
This concert is presented in 16 x 9 widescreen format, with an unpolished but very 'live' look and feel. Since no set lighting was used, just stage-lights, the picture lacks some definition. Details might fade a bit into dark backgrounds or Doherty's head might seem to blur some under flaring spotlights, but that might happen after a few pints in the audience anyway, right? Colors are all very saturated and vivid - in all, it's the perfect look for this type of show and DVD.
DTS Digital Surround Sound, Dolby Surround 5.1 and Dolby Digital Stereo audio tracks accompany the concert footage. My set's speakers could only enjoy the stereo tracks (using the 'fake 3D' setting) but the show sounded awesome anyway. Live music fans know that good sound is sometimes hard to find, no matter what size the venue. The fidelity for this concert is definitely live, balances aren't perfect, levels aren't massaged, but for a live gig, it sounds damn good; vocals are understandable (except for the accents) and drums, bass and guitar are all upfront and occupying their own sonic spectrums so they aren't competing or blocking each other out. It's all pretty exemplary for a rock concert DVD. Extras, however, are only in Mono audio.
The Mono audio extra Backstage & More is essentially more concert footage from earlier gigs, with about 25% of the 24-minute runtime consisting of backstage footage. Backstage footage always reminds me of what I hate most of Rock star life in general. (Having been in a few bands and played gigs of varying sizes locally, I have at times resembled the following remarks.) Ultimately, plenty of time is spent sitting around in shabby back rooms with shabby people smoking endless cigarettes, drinking because there's nothing to do, and being forced to watch some wanker or another sing, play a guitar riff, or do something else every five minutes that looks great on stage but is tedious at any other time. Balancing this is the even more gritty footage of a shaved-head Doherty and crew playing tiny clubs and having to be torn away from crowd surfing and stage-dives. It's a nice addendum to the concert, aesthetically flowing seamlessly, and giving you beer-soaked closure to the night.
No longer 18, nor the obsessive fan, I can only conjecture or try to put myself in a younger mind-set, and in doing so think Up The Shambles is a damn fine concert DVD. The not-too-raw, not-too-polished quality of filming and audio really makes this a lively affair, causing me to want to see Babyshambles live but feeling like I'd already done so. If I were a Shambles fan I could see watching this frequently, as I used to do with my King Crimson concert videos and Bauhaus video collections. Even the casual rock fan will enjoy this DVD, but you Doherty freaks and committed Anglo-rockers will regard this as Highly Recommended.