Waking the Witch: Live
Zeitgeist Video // Unrated // $19.95 // March 18, 2008
Review by Don Houston | posted July 7, 2008
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Background: I have long appreciated women musicians in all genres of the sonic realm, favoring the power pop princesses as much as the hard rockers for decades now. Unlike the days of old when only the most heavily promoted ladies were brought into the spotlight, the advent of a new sensibility seems to have been giving lesser known female bands the occasional nod, including the subject of today's very short review of a band I had never heard of before I was sent the DVD. The group and performance are called Waking the Witch: Live, a foursome from England that actually just broke up earlier this year.

Concert: Waking the Witch: Live is a concert performance by Rachel Goodwin, Patsy Matheson, Becky Mills and Jools Parker, shot in the City Varieties in Leed, West Yorkshire, back on January 25, 2007. The music seemed to be a modified country folk with an emphasis on acoustic guitar (all the ladies play them) but the lyrics really did little for me. The harmonies and rhythms were nicely played out though, perhaps a third of the songs sticking with me over the weekend after I watched the show. To be frank, I think a CD of the concert would probably be of more interest to me but I'm not an established fan of the band (and with their break up, I don't see legions of new fans joining their club) so the visual component of the concert was secondary for me at best.

The set list:
1) Jenny Thornton and the Boys from the Abattoir
2) Dissatisfied Heart
3) Through and Through
4) Only Human
5) Spring Song
6) Me Leaving Me
7) Rock 'N' Roll
8) Always One Like Her
9) Conscience Keep
10) Waking Hour
11) Horse To Water

I'd like to wax philosophic on the material the band covered and outside of my impression that they were much like the Bangles when that group first started (rough, without the polish) but without the good looks the mainstream music press seems to demand of females in the business. For me, the music in a concert DVD will always be the most important thing but without a reason to differentiate it from the audio release (which are typically cheaper by a substantial amount), the most I could offer this as would be a Rent It or for you to buy the CD instead. Waking the Witch: Live is, therefore, another sort of generic pop music release that you may like but don't become too attached to the works of the band (they have three releases on CD IIRC) as they are no longer together (one had a child, another is going solo, and the other two are reportedly taking time off with their families).

Picture: Waking the Witch: Live was presented in the standard 1.33:1 ratio full frame color as shot back in 2007 when the band was still touring. The lighting was strong enough to wash out much of the flesh tones of the band's skin, the filters and gels not doing much to enhance the look of the show. Of particular interest to those who might like concerts, the ladies did no dancing, costume changes, and barely moved from behind their microphones so there was little of visual interest to enjoy during the otherwise decent audio. The video bitrate hovered around the mid 5 Mbps range when I paid attention to it, a slight bit of grain and some minor video noise but otherwise looking decent (if boring). I can understand the soft focus used (to minimize the look of the gals) but the edits and composition of the camera work was mechanical at best and did little to add to the value of the music.

Sound: The audio was presented in 2.0 LPCM with a 48 kHz sampling rate and the audio bitrate clocking in at 1536 Kbps. There was a modest amount of separation between the channels but the dynamic range struck me as limited, almost amounting to the modern day equivalent of a homemade recording at times on my home theatre. The individual instruments were not always balanced very well and the secondary musicians were generally kept in the dark recesses of the stage (or close by) but it did seem to be a truly live concert and not a group of lip synching performers as is often the case in such shows. The vocals were given some boosting here, to the point where some of them were pushed too far in the mix, but it wasn't a horrible sounding concert.

Extras: The only extra outside of the paper insert was the 24 minute long interview with the band members, each interviewed separately and edited together. The questions were written in text on the screen with the comments then provided in a behind the scenes setting of a make shift kitchen of sorts. The name of the band is generally considered to derive from the Kate Bush album Hounds of Love, though one of the ladies suggested it also came from two of the members offering it up at the same time. The history of the band was part of the show and some overall background rounded out the material with a nod to the material they cover.

Final Thoughts: Waking the Witch: Live was like many low end concerts I used to attend in my youth where the performers hardly moved on stage (looking quite stiff) and forgetting that the visual appeal of a concert goes beyond the audio portion alone. In that sense, Waking the Witch was common but their musical qualities did manage to make them worth listening to if you're into English folk-pop with an acoustic edge to it. I might check out their other two CD releases in the near future but unless you get this one cheaply, the ladies really did not do much to warrant watching them.

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