Barry Walters reviews a collection of DVD’s from Lemmy Kilmister to Lennon to Punk
Lemmy: 49% Motherf**ker. 51% Son of a Bitch
Damage Case Films/Megaforce
Though the title of this intimate documentary might suggest that the Motörhead vocalist-bassist is a mean bastard, Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister comes across here as a soft-spoken and agreeable guy – albeit one who drinks, smokes and gambles constantly and lives in a Hollywood apartment packed with Nazi memorabilia. Lemmy is rarely as meaningful as the essential metal doc Anvil because we never see the thrash pioneer in conflict: Rockers from Metallica’s James Hetfield to Alice Cooper pay tribute, but only members of his previous band Hawkwind say anything critical (and that’s mostly to admit Lemmy’s taste for speed clashed with their interest in LSD). At 117 minutes (plus three hours of bonus features), the fawning gets redundant, while his life’s defining moments, like the heroin-induced death of an early girlfriend, get lost.
Troubadours: The Rise of the Singer-Songwriter
Three and a half stars
Hear Music/Concord Music Group
Framed by songs from the reunited Carole King/James Taylor team, this doc captures the glory days of the 1970s singer-songwriter movement, whose epicentre was Hollywood’s Troubadour nightclub. The film, airing on PBS’ American Masters, is heavy on vintage concert footage (like Taylor performing ‘Fire and Rain’ six months before Sweet Baby James came out) and famous commentators – including Steve Martin, who was there during Elton John’s nearly empty Troubadour debut in 1970, quipping, “This guy’s really good. Too bad he can’t draw any people.”
Billy Joel: Live at Shea Stadium
Perhaps the most amazing thing about the last two concerts at this historic New York venue is that Billy Joel left out his biggest hits – no ‘Tell Her About It,’ no ‘Just the Way You Are.’ Instead, Joel filled these 2008 shows with his best songs, including early fan favourites like ‘The Ballad of Billy the Kid.’ Backed by a massive and energetic band, Joel’s lung power sounds diminished, but he invites famous friends to assist: Paul McCartney, Steven Tyler, Roger Daltrey and John Mellencamp stop by to belt out their songs, and Tony Bennett sings the tough parts of ‘New York State of Mind.’
A&E Home Entertainment
“I’m just known enough to keep me ego floating, but unknown enough to get around, which is nice,” John Lennon said of his adopted home of Manhattan. LENNONYC celebrates his American life from 1971, when he and Yoko Ono were radical anti-war rockers, to 1980, when the pair made the NYC-inspired Double Fantasy. The doc doesn’t ignore Lennon’s troubled side, including his struggles with drugs and booze. But thanks to Ono’s involvement, there are outtakes of Lennon’s hits and touching glimpses into the Lennons’ home life – like a recording of young Sean singing ‘With a Little Help From My Friends’ to his papa.
Look at What the Light Did Now
Want to know the intimate thoughts of the video director, lighting designer, graphic artist and backup musicians
involved in Leslie Feist’s 2007 world tour? This rambling 77-minute documentary is for you. What Feist’s collaborators say about their contributions isn’t nearly as compelling as the Canadian singer-songwriter’s moody folk pop itself, and Feist’s own perspective often gets lost in the mix. Thankfully, the bonus features pick up some of the slack with clips of the tour’s performance-art-inspired gigs and music videos from Feist’s 2007 breakthrough album, The Reminder.
[Three and a half stars]
This documentary provides an insider’s view of punk’s glory days and beyond: Director Don Letts DJ’d at London punk club the Roxy, was a member of the Clash offshoot band Big Audio Dynamite and shot 1978’s The Punk Rock Movie. Here his associates tell their stories, with several essential Seventies punk acts – as well as acolytes from subsequent No Wave and hardcore scenes – showing up in interviews and vintage concert clips. Good anecdotes, too: The Pretenders’ Chrissie Hynde, a member of the band that spawned the Clash, confesses that she thought bassist Paul Simonon was “too good-looking” to join the rough-edged group.