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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome.
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Enough with the Generic Concert DVDs
Friday, January 09, 2009

The other day I was sitting down to yet another concert DVD when I realized something. Despite being a fan of the artist, and despite the fact that I’m sure I would have had a great time at the show, I didn’t feel compelled at all to watch the DVD. It wasn’t the artist, and it wasn’t my mood, it was the simple fact that concert DVDs that are just a concert are usually fairly bland.

We all have favorite artists, but unless our favorite artists are dead we can still see them live whenever they tour. Obviously a concert DVD is necessary if you want to see The Beatles, Bob Marley or The Doors, but for living artists the concert DVD is a let down. Here’s why:

There is no way an artist can recreate the atmosphere of a live show with a DVD. You won’t have your friends around. You won’t be meeting other fans of the artist and making new friends. You won’t be singing along to your favorite songs with the crowd, or shouting out your requests (which will more than likely go ignored because of this little thing called a “set list,” but who cares, it’s not about whether it gets played, it’s about the artist knowing you dig his or her work). You won’t be buying too expensive beer at the bar and getting your shoes stuck on the floor. I know, it may sound like a good thing to be missing out on those last two, but in reality it’s all part of the ambience of a show. A concert is supposed to be a group experience and involve being a part of a community, not making sure the bottoms of your sneakers stay clean.

Simply put, concerts were meant to be experienced in a venue with other people around, not in your living room while sitting on your couch. This is especially true of Hip-Hop shows which usually sound like an inaudible mess on DVD. Partly this is due to the fact that so many rappers don’t know how to hold a microphone correctly, but it’s also due in part to the fact that Hip-Hop relies heavily on a rowdy crowd and a rowdy crowd creates a lot of noise, which is great live, but a mess on DVD.

Motivating people is one of the biggest goals of a live performer, and even the best artists would have to admit it’s damned near impossible to motivate a person when that someone is sitting down and really comfortable. So do we ditch the concert DVD altogether? No. We make it better.

I have seen a number of concert DVDs that have worked and it’s been because the artist has created a documentary around the show. It’s not just the concert, there are backstage moments, tour bus moments, moments with the artists just talking and hanging out. In the case of Hip-Hop artists there are dressing room freestyles. Some artists talk about the history of certain songs, or the history of the group. I’ve seen rare backstage interview footage used. There’s plenty that can help make the entire viewing experience much more enjoyable.

In the end it’s really all about context. An artist wouldn’t perform for a packed venue the same way they’d do a personal show for you in your living room, so how can anyone expect the reverse to work? Thankfully, with a little creativity, a concert DVD can be turned into a concert documentary and become something a fan will truly enjoy.


posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:37 AM  
  • At 11:49 AM, Blogger DJ Mike G said…

    That Beasties DVD is an exception to the rule. That "Awesome! I fuckin Shot That!" is a pretty amazing DVD. I was at that show, and the DVD actually captures a pretty good percentage of how much fun it was.

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