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The Commitments - Live on St. Patrick's Day
It's been 13 years since Alan Parker's sleeper film about a band from Ireland took America by storm. Although some of the faces in the band have changed, the Irish soul that was the heart of the film and the band was alive and well and rocking at the House of Blues in Chicago on St. Patrick's Day Eve to celebrate the release of the Special Edition DVD of The Commitments.

Claire Malone
photo: Martin Leuders
Although the evening was the official "release party" for the DVD (actually the "Re-Release Party") the discussion of the DVD was limited to the extremely large neon shamrock hanging behind the stage reading "The Commitments on DVD." That was fine, however, because the band let the music do the talking, reminding everyone in attendance why the film was so much fun and how enjoyable the "Irish Saviours of Soul" can be.

Although new Commitments lead singer Joe "The Moose" Walsh took several opportunities to make special mention of the original band members featured in the film that are still in the group - Derek "The Meatman" Scully (KENNETH MCCLUSKEY) on guitar, - Billy "The Animal" Mooney - (DICK MASSEY) on drums, each of the new band members fits in nicely with the Commitments' sound. The band is filled with good musicians and two backup singers with a lot of heart, soul and talent, who each take their turn at the center stage on such standards as "Chain of Fools" and "Destination Anywhere." The end result is of the new revamped Commitments is a nice thick soul sound that will resonate with fans of the band and fans of the film and very little rust.

Claire Malone, Joe "The Moose" Walsh
and Derek "The Meatman" Scully

photo: Martin Leuders
The band, including backup singers Karen Coleman and band newcomer Claire Malone guitarist Kenneth McCluskey, Alan Niblock on the bass guitar, drummer Dick Massey, keyboardist and a two-man horn section, tore through a number of soul classics, opening strong with the Wilson Pickett / Steve Cropper classic "In the Midnight Hour" before jumping into Otis Redding's "Hard to Handle."

Much of the night was filled with hit songs featured in the film and on the film's soundtrack, including "Destination Anywhere," "Try a Little Tenderness," and "Mustang Sally" (featuring a little audience participation on the "Ride Sally Ride" chorus). Although the difference between Walsh and original singer Jimmy Rabbitte (Robert Arkins) is clearest during Walsh's rendition of "Dark End of the Street," the band sounded good throughout the night and were aided by a thick horn section and a great selection of soul classics and gems from the Stax catalog.

During the nearly one and half hour set, the Commitments got the crowd feeling great with other such classics as "Chain of Fools," Hold On, I'm Coming," "I Can't Stand the Rain," "Treat her Right" and "Take me to the River" before the band ended strong with Wilson Pickett's "Land of a Thousand Dances."

Although the DVD certainly took a back seat to the concert, seeing the Commitments put some of the great songs celebrated in the film back in my head ("You gotta gotta gotta try a little tenderness!") and made me excited to get the opportunity to watch Alan Parker's great film in its new special edition format.

Read the DVD Talk Review for The The Commitments (Collector's Edition)

- Jeremy Kleinman


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