Graham Parker has been steadily cranking out great music for decades, beginning when Howlin' Wind came out in 1976. Not quite punk, not quite FM radio rock, Parker's pub rock tuneage was mercurial yet always emotional - one part edgy, one part soul, two parts angry. As a performer he has gone from having one of the finest support bands in the business (The Rumour) to doing it all himself, as he did on his 2010 release Imaginary Television.
To promote this latest disc Parker teamed up once again with The Figgs (a mighty fine band in their own right) as his backup ensemble, and despite crossing the 60 year mark, he continues to show that he can still generate exciting live music without resorting to theatrics or trying to recapture the past. The guy still plays intelligent music, filled with evocative lyrics, dripping with bits and pieces of humor, angst and darkness. This set showcases a mature return to Parker's pub roots, seasoned with the wisdom of the ages, and The Figgs handle the task well playing behind him.
Recorded in Fairport, Connecticut's FTC StageOne, Parker and The Figgs dole out a diverse 21-song set over the course of 100-minutes. We get the obligatory Parker, including his anthemic Mercury Poisoning, which still stands as one of the finest kiss-offs to a record label ever put to vinyl (yes, vinyl). He peppers the set with half-a-dozen tracks from Imaginary Television, and wisely features two of the best tunes on the disc (Broken Skin and It's My Party). This leaves the rest of the set for Parker to get creative, trotting out the pairing of Local Boys and Local Girls and closing things out with Soul Shoes from the Howlin' Wind debut.
The remainder of the selections were a bit of a surprise (no Stick To Me?), but for a guy with some many great songs spread over so many strong albums condensing it down to 21 is probably a task, and there's really no bad set of tunes.
Here's the set list:
Turn It into Hate
It's My Party (But I Won't Cry)
England's Last Clown
Hole in the World
Life Gets Better
You Hit the Spot
My Love's Strong
Black Lincoln Continental
Bring Me a Heart Again
The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is strong, but not nearly as solid as the audio mixes (see below). Colors and fleshtones are generally warm, but the transfer comes up a bit less so with edge details appearing a bit soft at times. Concert lighting is pretty limited, so there's troublesome bloom from red spots as if often the case with concert discs. Pretty basic and passable, just not remarkable.
Image always done an impressive job audio-wise with their concert releases, and this one is no exception. Two audio options here, available in Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS, and while neither are a slouch the easy winner is the DTS track. The bass is noticeably deeper and cleaner, and the rear channels a bit more pronounced, all of which really lend a more natural and live feel to this presentation. Not to kick the Dolby Digital 5.1 to the curb, but Image has set the bar pretty high with this DTS offering.
The DVD includes an interview (29m:02s), with Parker seated on the stage pre-concert giving a retrospective of his life and career, from growing up to self-producing to working with The Figgs. For those unfamiliar with the man this is a nice intro, and even those more well-versed in his career should find this engaging.
The second disc of this set is a 19-song CD of the concert, with only Life Gets Better and Snowgun not included.
Parker has such a deep catalog it would be tough to work up a consensus amongst fans as to the ideal 100-minute set. I could ask why there aren't any track from the brilliant and underrated our Country, but I won't.
Still, the 21 songs here offer a nice cross-section of the familiar (Mercury Poisoning) and the new (Broken Skin), with Parker proving he can still deliver the eloquent, angry, emotional goods as well as anyone.