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Sheryl Crow: Live At The Capitol Theatre
Sheryl Crow is the type of musician who, despite a solid discography peppered with multi-platinum albums, has been largely out of the public eye for over a decade. Case in point: I own several of her earlier albums up until 2008's Detours but had to double-check to see if she was still releasing music. The offering of Live at the Capitol Theatre (2017) offers a firm reminder that she's still alive and kicking: it's peppered with songs from that year's album Be Myself but features more than a few chart-topping hits that even the most casual fan would recognize. Her backing band for this show includes long-time associate Peter Stroud (guitars and backing vocals), Audley Freed (guitars), Fred Eltringham (drums), Josh Grange (pedal steel, guitars and backing vocals), Jennifer Gunderman (keyboards and backing vocals), and Robert Kearns (bass, acoustic and electric guitars, bongos and backing vocals), with direction by Mark Ritchie.
Running approximately two hours with 21 total songs (including, of course, a few conversations with the crowd), this live performance is captured on two CDs or a separate vinyl release. The first option also includes the full concert on Blu-ray or DVD, which adds in a short introduction about the venue's history plus a few behind-the-scenes interviews with Crow at her home in Nashville. While these extras segments aren't long enough to feel out-of-place or distracting, it would've been nice to play the concert without them. After all, most folks are just here for the music...and for the most part, it delivers. Casual fans, or those like myself who aren't up to speed on her newer material, will appreciate cuts like "Every Day Is A Winding Road", "A Change Would Do You Good", "All I Wanna Do", "My Favorite Mistake", "Leaving Las Vegas", "If It Makes You Happy", "Soak Up The Sun", and more. Covers of The Allman Brothers' "Midnight Rider" and Cat Stevens' "The First Cut is the Deepest" -- perhaps more her song than his at this point -- are great, too.
All things considered, Live at the Capitol Theatre is a really solid show played with an infectious energy; the crowd, many well into their 40s and 50s, look just as excited to be there as the band does. As a bonus, the venue itself has a great atmosphere and this only enhances the show's overall warmth and effectiveness. Though I doubt it'll make me run out and buy any of Crow's more recent albums in the near future, concerts like this only cement Crow's legacy as a durable, talented singer-songwriter that's obviously in it for the long haul. So unless you're a close friend or relative of the late, great Kevin Gilbert, you'll probably enjoy this full-length concert from start to finish. Here's the set list:
(21 songs on 2 CDs or 1 Blu-ray)
Presented in its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio, Live at the Capitol Theatre looks reasonably strong on this 1080p transfer -- certainly a step up from the separate DVD edition. The ending credits advertise that this concert was shot on 4K video / 35mm film and the level of image detail supports that: close-ups and mid-range shots showcase a strong amount of texture, while wider shots of the venue and crowd don't end up being a garbled, low-resolution mess. Most angles are well-lit with solid black levels and good saturation, although some transitions don't look to be evenly color balanced. Others seem to be over-saturated with heavy blue lighting, black crush, and excessive noise. Both extremes can be a bit jarring at times, but overall it's a reasonably seamless presentation. Encoding is good with a medium range bit rate (~22 Mbps), while no other potential encoding issues -- aside from a bit of macroblocking and slight aliasing -- could be spotted along the way. Overall, Live at the Capitol Theatre is right in line with most modern concert releases on home video; certainly one with room for improvement around the edges, but good enough for most fans.
The included Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround track sounds...OK, but the lack of lossless audio here is ridiculous. Why go to the trouble of having two separate releases when only the visuals get an upgrade? In any case, Live at the Capitol Theatre is mixed fairly well for a concert of this type: most everything is squarely up front with occasional crowd ambiance and echo drifting into the rear channels, as if you're standing a section or so back from the main stage. I usually prefer a closer mix for live concerts, but this one still features strong staging with solid dynamics and a decent amount of low end. Overall, it's passable with obvious room for improvement, both in the mixing style and the format. A second unlisted audio track is also included which got my hopes up, but unfortunately it's just a down-mixed Dolby 2.0 stereo track. Disappointingly, no optional subtitles have been included during the concert or bonus features.
The interface for Live at the Capitol Theatre is frustrating: it's authored like a DVD, which means that you can't switch songs on the fly and must wade through repetitive, music-driven menus to do so. But if you're just in this for the full concert or extras, it's passable enough with organized content and a chapter selection menu (songs only, not segments). This three-disc release (two CDs and a Blu-ray) is packaged in a gatefold-style digipak CD case [seen above] with a loose Booklet that features more photos than actual content -- it's mostly just credits and copyright information.
Not too much of interest, but at least there's some effort. The main attraction is a series of short Behind-the-Scenes Interviews (14 segments, 19:50 total) featuring Crow at her home in Nashville; a few also appear during the concert, but these bite-sized personal anecdotes and other stories can be viewed in full here. We also get a self-playing Slideshow (2:16) of still photos from the concert, as well as a Trailer (3:50) for the release you already bought.
Live at the Capitol Theatre captures a solid night for Sheryl Crow and her band, who blaze through a collection of very good to excellent tracks from her long and successful career thus far. It's a decent cross-section of material and even the most casual fans will definitely recognize half of these songs by title alone. Crow and her band sound great and seem to be in good spirits, while the Capitol Theatre's warm and inviting atmosphere doesn't hurt either. Cleopatra's Blu-ray/CD option is appreciated but could've used some fine tuning: the audio isn't lossless, the menu is authored like a DVD, and the bonus features are a little lacking. Still, it's a decent package for casual and die-hard fans alike, especially since her target market (myself included) likely still favors physical media over digital albums. Recommended.