"We love to buy books because we believe we are buying the time to read them."
-Warren Zevon quoting Schopenhauer.
I first saw Warren Zevon in concert twenty years ago. I had heard a few of his songs, and a friend was excited about the show, so I decided to tag along.
I was blown away.
The amount of energy and enthusiasm he put into the show left me awestruck. The power of his songs was overwhelming. I was hooked. The next day I started acquiring his albums as fast as my meager funds would allow. I saw him two more times over the years, and even jumped up on stage after he left to snag his discarded guitar pick. I would eagerly await each new album and play it over and over until I had memorized each line. He was one of my favorite musicians.
Somewhere along the line, as the years passed and CDs replaced LPs, my music buying slowed down, and eventually stopped. I just didn't have the time to sit down an listen to an album the way I used to, or even have it on as background music. There was just too much going on.
Then I heard that Warren Zevon was going to die. He had an inoperable form of cancer, and there was not hope. His doctors gave him three months to live.
Eschewing chemotherapy so he could concentrate on finishing one more album before he died, Warren got to work. This DVD is a documentary recording his struggle to finish his last album, The Wind.
The 45 minute program, which originally aired on VH-1, follows Warren as he works in the studio with some of his friends and chronicles his last days. It is amazing to see how positive Warren is throughout the film. As time goes on, he gets weaker and weaker, and grows more frail. It is a sad thing to see, but Warren stays cheerful throughout, cracking jokes and always smiling.
Interspersed with entries from Warren's diary, this show is mainly interviews with Zevon himself, and 'fly on the wall' looks at the recording sessions. There are appearances by many of Zevon's friends who helped him with his last album, including Bruce Springsteen, Joe Walsh, Jackson Brown, Tom Petty, Don Henley, and Billy Bob Thorton, among others. It was great to see these big names come to the aide of a friend in need. The scenes of Bruce jamming in the sound booth were great.
The film covers Warren's last appearance on "Late Night with David Letterman." Letterman was a good friend of Zevon's and he was the only guest for the entire hour. It shows you how difficult it was for Warren to make the cross country trip, and how hard doing the show was. While there are only excerpts from the program shown, it allows you to see how little he let his discomforts effect his performance.
The surprising thing about this documentary is that it is not depressing. Yes, it is sad in parts, and painful to watch Warren get weaker as the cancer takes its toll, but he is so focused on his work, and so happy to have each day, that his delight in being alive shines through.
A great documentary, and one that is a testament
to a great musician.
The stereo sound was not great. Given the documentary nature of this DVD, there is a lot of dialog, and that most of it was easy to hear. Occasionally someone would turn away from the microphone and it would be hard to hear what they were saying. The music segments were really lacking punch. They sounded flat and thin instead of hard and pounding like the album. I was disappointed.
The DVD is in widescreen, but not enhanced for 16:9 televisions. The picture was not that good. Being a documentary, I'm willing to cut them a little slack, but I was hoping for a cleaner image. The video was grainy and fairly blurry. The lines were not clean and there were a lot of video artifacts. Aliasing was very evident, and there was a little macroblocking in the background. It wasn't so bad as to be unwatchable, but I was hoping for more.
There are a lot of good extras on this DVD. Most of them are extended and cut interviews and scenes that were filmed. They wouldn't have made the show better if they had been included, but it's nice to see them as extras.
Music Videos: There are videos to "Keep Me in Your Heart" and "Disorder in the House."
Extended Interview 1: A 3 minute interview with Zevon where he talks about the success of Werewolves and how it effected him.
Extended Interview 2: This was a nice set of clips totaling 25 minutes. Warren talks about how he writes songs, the themes in his music, and his friends. A good interview.
Cherokee Interview: An extended scene where Warren is talking outside of the recording studio one night. It runs 5 ½ minutes, and includes him talking about fan's reaction to the news on the internet.
Warren on Hunter S. Thompson: A short segment in which Warren tries to get VH-1 to pay for a trip to Aspen to see his friend Hunter S. Thompson. This wasn't the best bit. It came across as a lame joke, and I can see why it didn't make it into the finished product.
Warren, Billy, and Dwight "Dirty Life and Times" session: The three musicians joking around about the drugs Warren now takes legally,
Ry Cooder alternate take "Prison Grove": An alternate guitar solo.
Warren Zevon with Director Nick Read: Warren jokes around with the director and even takes the camera from the cameraman to put Nick on film as he is being teased.
Warren and Bruce "Disorder in the House" sessions: a good amount of footage of Springsteen and Zevon, joking around and making music.
Warren, Jackson, and T-Bone, "Prison Grove" Sessions: a short (1 min) segment of the musical stars joking around.
Tom (Petty,) Jorge, and Noah in the studio: Tom and his friends goofing around for the camera.
Home Movies: 2 minutes of
footage from very old home movies. These silent clips show Warren
goofing around and playing guitar.
Warren Zevon died on September 8th, 2003. He was 56. His life of excess finally caught up with him. This documentary is a look at his final days, and his final work. Oddly uplifting, Zevon, who had so often written about death and dying in his songs, seemed very content with he fate, and very glad to be able to wake up each day. A fitting tribute to a great artist. Recommended.