Theatre Of Death: Live At Hammersmith 2009
So the long awaited 2009 DVD finally arrives and it was certainly worth the wait. It comes in three flavours, DVD, CD and Blue Ray, the first two of which are basically the same (I don`t have the Blue Ray). The DVD/CD package comes in both a DVD style case and a CD style jewel case, the contents being exactly the same, two discs plus a CD booklet/poster with the DVD case obviously also having a DVD style cover (the CD cover is inside).
It has to be said that there is a little problem with the text on the cover, which is dark red on a dark background and very small making it hard to read the credits and track listing. Not a major thing I suppose but a little annoying all the same. The whole cover is printed in dark colours, giving very little contrast to make the images stand out. A Shame. Stickers on the cover mention the pack includes a poster, which is basically true, although in reality it is just the unfolded CD booklet, which forms a reproduction of the Hammersmith concert poster.
The DVD comes with both stereo and 5.1 surround soundtrack, which was mixed by Bob Ezrin. We watched it using a 2.1 system but even with that you could clearly hear the audience behind you and the band in front with nice separation between the two guitarists. Obviously with Bob Ezrin doing the sound there is little to worry about on that score.
Most people should have seen the 'Theatre Of Death' show live by now, but if you haven`t don`t worry, I won`t go into details about the show and spoil it. Suffice to say it's probably the best show Alice has put together at least since the 'Brutal Planet' tour in 2000. Every song has it's only theatrical twist going from old classics to new ideas, all put together by Alice and Rob Roth. There are very few changes between this show and the current one Alice is performing so if you are going to see one of the shows you may want to wait before watching this.
The best news is that this is far better then the somewhat disappointing 'Live At Montreux' film released a few years back. While that was basically a TV show put out for retail, this is a proper Alice show in a classic venue in front of the always enthusiastic London crowd. One of the best things is playing 'spot the sickthing' along the front rows as the camera pans around. Lots of recognisable faces in there crowd.
Many people complained that the audience on the 'Brutally Live' show, recorded at the same venue, was a little static (if you knew how much space there was between the seats you would know why it looked that way!). The same can't be aimed at this audience who, now the seats have been removed, sing and dance along throughout. It's nice being able to hear them from the rear speakers singing the words with Alice and all helps capture the atmosphere of the night.
Visually the film is clear and action packed without falling into the trap of ultra fast edits, that makes so many recent concert movies unwatchable. There's nothing worse then an editor who thinks he needs to change camera once a second. Here there is plenty of time to see what is happening on the stage, and when they do use fast edits it's for effect and not all the time. One could quibble about some of the shot choices at times, not focusing on Chuck more when he sings 'I Love The Dead' is a bad choice in my opinion, but in general you get to see everything that happens clearly.
We all know Alice doesn`t do a bad show. he is the master of the stage and his performance here is of course excellent and includes all the things you'd expect. So taking that aside it has to be said the real highlight here is the band and how good they are together. The version of the 'Black Widow' instrumental section, which Alice has used for costume change/break so many times in previous shows, is here transformed by this line up. It has power and energy which has been lacking at times in the past, and the interplay between the two guitarists is a joy to watch. Even the drum solo is short and sweet! It's also great to be able to actually hear both guitars together which, when you're down the front at a show, isn`t always possible!
Amazingly, it has to be said, that Hammersmith was not one of the better shows of the 2009 UK tour. It wasn`t a bad show of course, but if you watch this and think it's good, you should have seen them on the couple of nights preceding the London show when they were on fire! At Hammersmith there were actually a couple of quite big mistakes made, although these have been cleverly covered up on this recording. One to watch for is at the end of 'Go To Hell' where half the band actually stop playing before the music stops! You probably wouldn`t notice unless you knew though so credit to the production team for that. If you can compare it to the untouched USB recording that was released on the night and you'll see what I mean. Another amusing thing to watch for the the amazing disappearing screen after 'Be My Lover' where there is a slight cut between the songs. One moment it's there, the next it's gone haha
All in all this is a pretty good souvenir of the current show and stands up very well to the classic concert films of the past. Something you'll be able to watch again and again over the coming years without getting bored of it.
Moving on to the CD version though there are a few problems. It sounds great, and on first look it's the complete show on disc allowing you the bonus of being able to listen to the show in the car etc easily. However there is a small, but to be honest rather annoying, problem with it. It's cut. While it appears to be the complete show it has in fact been edited to fit on one disc, and instead of simply cutting a couple of songs out to make it fit they have actually cut bits from the middle or end of songs instead. I have no real problem with them cutting the drum solo, but 'Poison' sounds very odd without it's big finish. 'Dirty Diamonds' and 'Vengeance Is Mine' have also had the middle of the songs chopped out for example, and being a bit of a purist this is very annoying. I would have much rather they had simply dropped a couple of songs (as they are all on the DVD uncut) if using two discs was impractical. Luckily the solution is to simply make your own copy using the DVD soundtrack, but it's still a shame this route was taken as for die hard fans some of the cuts will be very noticeable.
So all in all this is a successful release, with only a few minor things making it short of the perfect memento of the 2009/2010 show. There are no extras (the 'Along Came A Spider' promo film would have seemed an obvious one) at all so what you get is the show, the whole show (on DVD) and nothing but the show, which at the end of the day is what it's all about!