By Joe Viglione
Chief Film Critic and Entertainment Editor
PBS Soundstage larger than life capture of Sheryl Crow Live is an amazing 91 minutes of big camera angles, powerful close-ups and quick-paced direction under the capable hands of Joe Thomas. Koch Vision’s release comes with no frills – no backstage chatter, not sit-down with the crew or the director, just 17 titles that have Crow in superb vocal form.
The audio recording by Jim Mancini and Frank Pappalardo, with final mix by director Thomas and Pappalardo, is as sublime as you’d expect. The ten person camera crew captures Crow and her band – Shawn Pelton, Mike Rowe, Tim Smith and Peter Stroud, in all their very serious glory. In fact, the only drawback is that this is such a flawless performance – not a hair out of place on anyone – that the essence of rock and roll is missing. Everything moves without skipping a beat, as if it poured out of The Matrix itself, created by the machines with none of the mayhem that made The Rolling Stones’ Get Your Ya Ya’s Out (and its bootleg counterpart Liver Than You’ll Ever Be) essential textbooks of how to rock. Perhaps as a teacher Sheryl Crow has forgotten that drawing lines without a ruler is what makes a concert so much fun.
In his sixties Alice Cooper can still generate the magic because as the band goes into Election in a Boston concert right before the Obama win (October 25, 2008) the political signs and the madness on the stage give it all that extra edge – teetering on pandemonium – and an audience that stood on its feet from start to finish.
Crow is more restrained than that – “The First Cut Is The Deepest” leaning more towards Cat Steven’s original composition than the stunning P.P. Arnold U.K. hit which brought the tune to the attention of the world. Indeed, with P.P. Arnold being California born and working with The Blow Monkeys frontman Dr. Robert there’s no reason why Crow couldn’t have brought Arnold onto this soundstage and blown everyone away.
That being said, fans will adore “Leaving Las Vegas”, “All I Wanna Do”, the closing theme to the Erin Brockovich film that is “Everyday Is A Winding Road” and an outstanding take on the Elvis Costello chestnut (by way of songwriter Nick Lowe)…outstanding for this show.
Of course Elvis rocks it out a little harder, but even this colour by the numbers version contains a little style, and gives Crow and her boys an opportunity to let their guard down…about as much as they can. It’s “captured in high definition” and, as stated, it is flawless.
The PBS Soundstage series has featured John Fogerty, REO Speedwagon, Bon Jovi, Josh Groban, Matchbox 20 and others so the mainstream aspect of it makes Sheryl Crow a perfect fit.