Thursday, May 15, 2014

Reviews from the Archive - Vol. 1 - "A Celebration Concert" DVD

As I mentioned way back when I started this blog/page, the idea was to restart the old “Beach Boys Opinion Page” (or “Beach Boys Resource Page”) that was around starting in the late 90’s (wow!) through the mid-2000’s. It was a repository mainly for reviews of concerts and DVDs/CDs. With this new blog, I originally figured I would mix in new commentary with somehow reformatting/reposting old stuff from the old site.

There hasn’t been a ton of news in Beach Boys land lately, so I thought I might start up a sort of “From the Archives” series for my old reviews. I guess if the actual Beach Boys can’t start their actual “archival” releases of material, I will stick fans with the alternative: an old web page archive!

I suppose I’ll just pick out some random reviews of interest and start there. Please remember some of these reviews are as much as 15 years old (maybe a bit more!), and while I’ve briefly looked at them again and in some cases have done some re-writing and editing, they are not perhaps up the standard of what I would write now, scary as that may be.

So, here is “Reviews from the Archive – Vol. 1”:

We’re going to take a look back today at the oddball Japanese DVD release “A Celebration Concert”, the only official release of the band’s July 4th, 1980 Washington DC concert:

The Beach Boys- A Celebration Concert (1980)
Color, Full Screen (1.33x1)
Columbia Video (Region 2)
Sound: Dolby Digital 2.0
Supplements: Chapter Selections

The Film:

This Region 2-only release from Japan is quite obscure, apparently. This one was difficult for me to track down back when it was still in print in 1997. It eventually came to me courtesy of a friendly fan who grabbed it for me at a Virgin Megastore in France! (289 francs!). Let me tell you, the cost of importing a DVD from Japan to France, and then to the USA, is astoundingly high!
The Beach Boys performed their first concert on the 4th of July in Washington DC in 1980. Culled from the show (which was broadcast live on the radio) were 17 songs for an eventual HBO TV special. It was never (and still hasn't been) released on home video in any format in the USA. The show was issued on videocassette in Japan sometime in the 80's as my research indicated years ago. The version on this Japanese release is that same HBO special. This DVD was issued in Japan around 1997, and as far as I can tell, quickly went out of print.
As for the show itself, it’s pretty darn similar to the “Knebworth 1980” show. Not surprising, considering this DC show took place a mere two weeks after Knebworth. On the plus side, all six Beach Boys are present. This was one of the last times that they were captured performing a full show together; certainly one of the last televised in-concert performances showcasing all six members. I personally feel that the performance is pretty tight and enjoyable, and all the group members (except for Brian who isn't very involved) are in good form. Even Dennis does a pretty good job on the drums. He doesn’t have the spunk he showed at Knebworth, but he holds the band together well.
Also, besides covering the mandatory hits, this DVD captures a few songs that survived in the Beach Boys' set list for a relatively short amount of time, namely "Good Timin'", "School Days", and "Keepin' the Summer Alive." It has at least a few tracks that aren’t repeated from the Knebworth DVD release as well (“Good Timin’”, “Catch a Wave”). However you view this era of the group’s history, this is a pretty historic concert. It still must be among one of the more widely attended shows of all time, with the crowd reported at 400,000 to 500,000, maybe even more. It’s certainly among the band’s biggest shows.
The band may not have been known to rock out convincingly that often, but even I must admit they do a pretty nice job on “Keepin’ the Summer Alive” at this show, breathing life into what was a stale studio recording and better-but-still-stilted performance at Knebworth. Also making this show fun is the uncensored crowd. We see an angry fan flipping the camera off, another guy smoking weed, a topless woman, and so on. Sorry folks, I was never a fan of James Watt, but he was actually kinda right about the audiences at these DC shows! It’s certainly a more surly, energetic crowd that the gingerly-moving baby boomers in Hawaiian shirts you see at Mike Love’s shows these days.
Video Quality:

The DVD itself is pretty stripped down, but it delivers the show itself in excellent quality. The picture quality is stunning, easily surpassing my now 34-year-old original off-air videotape of the show, which is still of better quality than most copies floating around the videotape trading circles. Simply put, this is truly as good as a live concert shot on videotape in 1980 is going to look.

Audio Quality:

As noticeable as the improvement in clarity of the picture is that the picture is much brighter. The sound is Dolby Digital 2.0, featuring a good stereo mix that is of much better fidelity than how it was originally broadcast in mono. As with Knebworth, this show did benefit from some post-show overdubbing (most notable in some apparent backing vocal overdubs and, to my ears, some electric piano/keyboard, which you can hear punched-in at certain points when listening with headphones). Indeed, it appears as though years later Bruce Johnston may have viewed the DC show as a more "polished" product than Knebworth, as the DC show was overdubbed and then presented as a "finished" product via its TV airing, while Knebworth sat shelved for another nearly 25 years.


There is no supplemental material, apart from a chapter menu available both in Japanese and English.
Since it is quite doubtful this show will ever see official release in the US, or anywhere else for that matter (especially as it is somewhat redundant in light of the DVD release of the Knebworth show), this release is probably the only way you can get the show on DVD, or any officially released format. The disc is NTSC, but it is encoded in Region 2, meaning those in the USA will have to either have a Region 2 player or have your existing Region 1 player modified to play Region 2 discs or modified to play all regions. That is, if you can even find this disc. I couldn’t even easily find a *picture* of this release online (resulting in my getting off my lazy ass and taking pictures of my disc), let alone a copy for sale when searching in 2014.

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