Film Reviews: Music To Your Ears, Or Countdown To Extinct Fire In Sydney

December 20, 2014



Bryan Adams / The Bare Bones Tour: Live At The Sydney Opera House           8.5

Joe Cocker / Fire It Up Live                                                                                    4

Megadeth / Countdown To Extinction                                                                  3

Various Artists /121212                                                                                          7


Bryan Adams’ lack of notoriety – he seems like a pleasant, middle of the road sort who minds his own business – is sometimes mistaken for blandness, but the fault for that perspective lies with the observer, not with the Canadian singer-songwriter. This concert film from his successful Bare Bones Tour, which featured Adams alone with a guitar and a microphone plus some occasional, subtle piano backing from Gary Breit, shows that his musicianship, from writing to playing and singing, is of an exceptional order and that such a combination is far more rare than most charts would have you believe. Throughout a long, generous setlist (24 songs), Adams hits every musical mark, which becomes even more impressive towards the end when you consider the strain such a marathon effort must put on his voice. He also charms his Australian audience with dry humour and laconic observations, proving to be a consummate showman. This DVD is a ready-made tutorial for any young musicial requiring an example of what to aim for as a solo performer.

Although a household name, Joe Cocker has never hogged the celebrity limelight in the way that other performers of the Woodstock generation sometimes have. That low-key approach extends to some degree to his live act, which is driven, unsurprisingly, by his unmistakeable voice – though Cocker’s fidgety finger movements also become a focal point. For a while, this is great, as Cocker (like his band, clad all in black) goes about delivering a generous package of hits ranging from career foundations such as Up Where We Belong, You Are So Beautiful, You Can Leave Your Hat On and With A Little Help From My Friends to more recent spikes such as Summer In The City and Feelin’ Alright. After a while, however, the static nature of Cocker’s act – he stands at his microphone and delivers, with arm and hand movements adding a touch of dynamism, but little more – makes the experience more like listening to an album than watching a concert. It’s difficult to stay focused on the images when there’s not much to look at, and the final chapter, which involves a quick look behind the scenes is too little too late in terms of visual appeal.

With the passage of time and the increasing range of options available to artists looking to create an interesting package that satisfies established fans and excites new ones enough to get on board. The options available when putting together a concert film, then, extend far beyond justs a plain recording of what goes on onstage – but that is what Megadeth have chosen to release here. The band plays the whole Countdown To Extinction (their commercial high point back in 1992) collection in the order that the tracks appeared on the album, bookending that bundle with Trust, Hangar 18 and Public Enemy up front and She Wolf, Peace Sells and Holy Wars…The Punishment Due at the end. Guitarists Dave Mustaine, Chris Broderick and Dave Ellefson stand in a straight stripe alongside their monitors and don’t move much other than their hands and fingers up and down fretboards. Drummer Shown Drover is more understandably stationary, but does keep himself busy with an extensive array of toms and cymbals. There’s little imagination regarding the use of the screens behind the band, either, with B-grade graphics doing little to either add scale or depth to the show or to convince viewers that Megadeth are as dangerous as their old-fashioned metal branding would suggest. This DVD is fine for fans, but doesn’t offer much at all for anyone else.

Healthy cynical observers often need to activate their gag reflex when it comes to fundraising events featuring huge industry names and their accompanying egos. Through a mixture of including sufficient performances of quality – from Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, Kanye West and, curiously, Adam Sandler with a daft, defiant spoof number – and entertaining informality – Billy Joel combining black humour with warmth during a rehearsal; Eddie Vedder being sheepishly pleased to be getting a second change to perform alongside Roger Waters after hashing up a previous attempt – 121212 (the date on which the concert took place) overcomes such awkwardness. All the celebrities (there’s a strong feeling that it’s all about profile more than talent) show an awareness of the manufactured feel of such events and add to that by – as is the norm in such scenarios – endlessly evangelising on New York’s behalf, praising the bravery of its people and the never-say-die attitude that informs everything every member of the population ever does … apparently. Footage captured during Hurricane Sandy is included between some of the star patter and performances and does underline the gravity of what took place when the storm came through. That the overriding feeling you’re likely to have when you finish watching this film is a sort of goofy cheerfulness is perhaps the best measure of its success: that’s not the sort of mood people have during a disaster, and it’s also conducinve to the accessing of wallets…