On May 2, 2004, The Elms recorded their first and hopefully not their last live concert DVD. Having just seen The Elms live a few days before watching the DVD, I was excited about the product before me. Having a love for classic rock bands, such as The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Monkees and The Rolling Stones, I am drawn to The Elms' style of infusing aspects of these bands into their music. Due to copyright laws, some of the things done live can't be done in studio, and what makes a live DVD so unique is there is no producer to tell them what they can and cannot play. What makes or breaks a DVD is the special features, as you'll see this DVD is far from broken.
During the show, The Elms offer a vast array of songs. They opened the set with a new song called "She's Cold," but then immediately move to an older song, "Lifeboat." During the years, they have revamped their pop songs to give them more of a rock edge. They do the same with the next song, "Who Got the Meaning," both from their debut The Big Surprise. One of the things they do live is offer unique and incredible guitar solos. Thomas Daugherty is perhaps the best guitar player in Christian rock, or even secular rock, providing evidence of this in their ten minute version of "Speaking In Tongues." Owen has great stage presence and knows how to work the crowd and put on a rock show. Their new songs like "Come Down to the Water" and "Black Peach" have that rock feel to them and have a great live sound. I'm looking forward to their new album that's scheduled for release in January.
While there is a good dosage of rock on the DVD, they also take time to slow it down. You can hear how much Owens' voice has gotten stronger over the last five years on "Smile at Life Again." What's great about the DVD, is the mixing of the vocals and guitar, especially noticeable in this and a cover of The Monkees' "Daydream Believer." The band also covers another song in the form of "My Generation," from The Who, which serves as the last song they play before their first of two encores. Played in conjunction with "Come to Me," it is part of a fourteen minute rock extravaganza. They come back to play "Black Peach" and "Hey Hey," the popular stadium rock anthem. For their second encore, the return once again to play toned-down versions of "Goodnight Rosa" and "Burn and Shine" in single-camera footage offered in the bonus features of the album. Even here, it's amazing to see the audio quality between Owens' voice and Thomas' guitar. Owens' voice is still strong after nearly an hour and a half of singing and twenty-four hours of preparation beforehand. The two blend so perfectly together that you'd think they were playing in your living room.
For those of you wondering what spirituality The Elms offer during the show, rest assured that it is still present. Before "Speaking in Tongues," "You Saved Me," and "The Big Surprise," they speak about being noticed by God and He being greater than he who is in the world. But don't take my word for it, buy the DVD and see for yourself.
The thing that makes this DVD even better is the bonus features. There is a special documentary that covers a twenty-four hour countdown to the show. It is eye-opening to see the work they put into the show. All the little things are considered, like where to place the keyboardist (David Alan), where to place the amps and the important things like sound check. What is especially interesting is to see the chemistry between the members with six hours to go before their most important project to date. The other bonus feature is a post-concert interview held months later in the fall. What's even more interesting is the limited promotion done for this release. But the interviews reveal the thoughts that went through their heads beforehand, the apprehension and all the pressure that went into making the DVD. Their personalities, humor and, if you've seen their first DVD The Elms: Truth, Soul, Rock and Roll you'd know of some of their heartaches, all make this one of the most unique and underrated live Christian bands in the industry. They are by far some of the most talented musicians around.
While some live DVD's have different problems with editing, audio or video quality, none of that is really evident here. The audio on this is very crisp. You can hear everything being played, even the harmonics on the keyboard. Even the cymbals are clearly heard. It's by far one of the best mixes I've ever heard for a live DVD. Overall, the video quality is clear with some good camera angles being used. However, the editing is a bit choppy near the beginning and the end of the show, but that can be attributed to the attempt to portray the excitement of seeing (and hearing) them play. The menus are all handwritten by Owen and are all accompanied by Thomas' Jimmy Page acoustic impression. This is one of the most impressively crafted DVD's I've ever seen and I hope that they still have many years of music ahead of them. I hope they get the recognition they deserve. Above all, check out Burn The Fields: The Elms Live In Indiana and help support throwback rock and roll.- Review date: 9/21/05, written by Kevin Chamberlin
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