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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.78:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • English: Linear PCM Stereo
  Subtitles
    English, French, Spanish, German, Portuguese
  Extras
  • Additional footage
  • Animated menus
  • Music video - She's A Star, Say Something, Laid
  • Behind the scenes footage
  • Booklet
  • Documentaries

James - Getting Away With It... Live

Warner Vision/Warner Vision . R4 . COLOR . 165 mins . E . PAL

  Feature
Contract

At a certain point in the ‘80s that’s difficult to actually pinpoint, the overseas music that we were exposed to in Australia took a dramatic turn away from being predominantly English, to slavishly following the trends of ever-so-bland America. Airwaves that had previously given exposure to all manner of exciting artists such as Elvis Costello, The Clash, Duran Duran and their like gave way to a tedious sea of slushy, soulless ballads, feeble by-numbers “pop” tunes (certainly not what some of us would define as pop, but anyway) and cringe-worthy big-haired rock - and basically since then things have just got worse, and worse, and worse.

It is possibly this sheer laziness on behalf of the record companies (why spend time and effort promoting something new when you can just piggyback a wave of US success?) that led to Manchester’s James being essentially overlooked in this country. A band with a canon of more genuinely moving anthems than any Olympics, and not a million miles removed from the likes of U2 or REM stylistically, they have rightfully enjoyed massive success and adulation in their home country, as evidenced by this live presentation from a packed to the rafters Manchester Evening News Arena in December 2001. Not just any gig, this was to be the final hometown appearance of the band with singer Tim Booth out front – a celebration of around 20 years of creating inspirational music together, as well as giving us some awfully cute be-flowered t-shirts...

Playing for over two hours, we get almost the entire gig, as for some reason two songs were dropped from this release. The seven-piece, bolstered by guests at times in former members Larry Gott and Andy Diagram, present us with a perfectly balanced set list that features most all of their hits, along with a few album tracks and a couple of surprises for the old faithfuls. Always renowned for their live performances (some of us have never been able to experience them firsthand as the buggers never bothered touring our shores), this presentation certainly proves that their reputation is deserved. Whilst so many songs you’re used to on record tend to get lost in live situations, with James it’s quite the opposite – with bona fide classic anthems such as Sometimes, Tomorrow and Sound all taking on a further majesty in the arena environment, and sounding as fresh as a daisy – impressive for tunes that some of us have listened to so many times that they've become as familiar as our own faces.

Despite occasional sound problems and false starts, a heap of in-between song banter from Tim and Co. manages to bring an intimacy to a packed sports stadium that few bands could manage to pull off. There’s also lots of silly dancing, plenty of expletives beginning with the letter ‘f’ (well damn, that’s certainly going to piss off those puritans out there!), sorties into the crowd mid-song, and crucially ample genuine passion, enough to prove that this is anything but a band going through the motions – making it all the more sad when you consider that they’ll never be the same without the integral part of the band that was Tim Booth. A couple of encores ensue, and the show is capped off by the Madchester classic Come Home, and what has pretty much become the band’s signature tune over the years, the rollicking ode to acceptance Sit Down. And that’s it, well, except for an invite back to Tim’s place for milk and cookies...

If you have the option turned on, at various points between songs a little James flower will pop up at top right of your screen. A quick press of the ‘enter’ button on your player’s remote will have you veering off to various segments of the story of James from the days of stolen instruments and indie labels, through to signing deals with the majors, song writing inspirations and band arrivals and departures up to and including Tim. They’re all told by the band themselves and a few key people close to them, including famed former Roxy Music boffin who produced much of their later work, Brian Eno. The editing is simply superb, with at times different members in different locations virtually finishing each others’ sentences. As a whole this story is a captivating watch, and probably much better seen in one complete sitting, as it does tend to become a bit piecemeal when veered off to from the live performance, not to mention the fact that it breaks the momentum of a storming gig. Anyway, there’s a bit more about this in the ‘extras’ section below...

The full track listing is...

Say Something
Waltzing Along
Sometimes
Laid
God Only Knows
Someone’s Got It In For Me
Vervaceous
Protect Me
Out to Get You
Johnny Yen
Getting Away With It
Tomorrow
Born of Frustration
Ring the Bells
Top of the World
Sound
Space
She’s a Star
Come Home
Sit Down

  Video
Contract

When you’ve seen even a few live shows on DVD you get quite used to witnessing all manner of staple mini-dramas such as grain, flaring, a lack of detail and aliasing galore. So when a disc such as this comes along, exhibiting what is basically a flawless visual presentation, you can’t help but wonder what all these other discs are doing wrong. Admittedly this is of very recent vintage, being shot in December 2001, however probably the only criticism that could be made of the gorgeous 1.78:1 anamorphic presentation could be one or two instances of ever-so-minor aliasing on that which you’d expect – guitar strings.

Otherwise, a simply magnificent job has been done here visually, both in the filming and editing process - with just the right moments captured at just the right times, as well as the actual disc presentation. Graced with a gorgeously cinematic look to proceedings, no matter what is thrown at the cameras – be they strobe frenzies, roaming spotlights, massive colour splashes, speckled rear projections – no problems are posed in the transfer department. Couple this with excellent detail in light and dark plus perfectly black blacks and you have a concert presentation that throws a challenge out to all other comers. Possibly the only niggle that could be mustered would be with the layer change, which occurs between Ring the Bells and Top of the World, as it’s noticeable, however live performances don’t exactly provide silent and suitable opportunities for such things which in the end come down to a deficiency in the DVD format rather than anything else.

  Audio
Contract

Everybody should be happy with what is on offer here – a perfectly serviceable Linear PCM track for those CD sound purists out there, and a storming Dolby Digital 5.1 mix for those with the systems to crank up and drown themselves in a stonkingly good live performance. The effort gone into mixing this is obvious from the outset, with fabulous placement and separation of instruments across the front soundstage, vocals essentially front and centre where they should be, and a surround channel that is perfectly effective, yet subtle enough not to make things sound lopsided. An ever so slight delay seems to have been placed on the sound that emanates from the rears, which gives an authentic arena-type experience, without making things sound noticeably out of whack. The subwoofwoof gets to romp about the room with much abandon, adding a solid thump to the kick and bass that needs to be experienced to be fully appreciated.

Downsides? Well, all that can be mentioned are the types of things which are part and parcel of live performances featuring tonnes of amplification – the odd buzzes and hums at times, plus occasional mini-bouts of feedback. For some of us no live experience would be complete without such things, however some of those audio fusspots out there may have cause to mumble and grumble, even when they really don’t detract in any way from what is basically a stunning audio presentation.

  Extras
Contract

So, after all the great news above, are we left with yet another live disc that’s had essentially zero time spent on presentation? Not on your Nellie, this disc ain't bobbins! From the very outset, when the disc’s fully animated menus pop up, complete with snippets of James’ music as accompaniment, the presentation absolutely reeks of quality. Upon making any selection random and quite brief snippets of footage are shown, featuring sound bites from band members and various cohorts, rehearsal snippets and the like, and if these become annoying they can even be turned off in a set-up menu.

As for actual extras, the fantastic 43:44 “story” of James as discussed above is available to be watched separately in pieces or as a whole. Like the main feature it is presented in a 16x9 enhanced 1.78:1, however it only features Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. As it’s all made up of interview footage and the like, however, this isn’t worth worrying about, as all is perfectly clear at all times.

Elsewhere, promo clips for three of James’ most successful singles are included, all in full frame and with DD 2.0 audio. There’s the array of impossibly gorgeous women parading about in She’s a Star (3:45, in a faux widescreen ratio of around 1.78:1), Tim and his cronies being ignored by all in Say Something (3:14) and the extremely hairy-legged band dressed up in women’s clothes doing the domestic hell thing accompanied by the radio edit of Laid, complete with subtitled thoughts and Tim making sure that we know the word “sings” is meant to be something else as he almost swallows the camera when mouthing it. And it ain’t hums, either...

Rounding things out are subtitles throughout, including all lyrics and other comments made throughout the gig – so if you wanna singalong-a James here’s the perfect opportunity, and a nice glossy eight-page booklet which includes photos, credits and words from some of the band. There are also at least two Easter eggs featuring some fun backstage stories, if you want it spelled out how to find them you can simply pop by our googies section to learn more.

  Overall  
Contract

If you ever needed proof that the DVD medium is so much more than just a godsend for movie buffs, then James’ Getting Away With It... Live is it. Technically the video and audio are absolutely top notch, and with over two hours of performance PLUS an almost 45-minute documentary as an extra, as well as a few other assorted goodies, it is one of those rare music releases that ups the ante for all who follow in its wake.

It’s joyful, it’s triumphant, blissful and resplendent – and I daresay a lot more adjectives ending in the likes of ‘ent’, ‘ant’ and ‘ful’ – and in all a superb document of a truly talented band at their absolute best in the live environment. This release will ensure, as Tim’s t-shirt donned for Sit Down so super-punfully suggests, that James Lasts in the hearts of all their fans, and if there’s any justice in this world it may introduce a whole lot more people to the joys of the band – after all, it’s always better late than never.


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      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Pioneer DV-535
    • TV:
          Sony 68cm
    • Receiver:
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    • Speakers:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse RBS662
    • Centre Speaker:
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    • Surrounds:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECR042
    • Subwoofer:
          DTX Digital 4.8
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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