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Various Artists: Lightning in a Bottle

A One Night History of The Blues

[cover art]

March 2005 DVD release of Martin Scorse's 2004 documentary, recorded/filmed at the "Salute to the Blues" concert in NY in 2003 with a stellar cast of artists, including Levon Helm. There is also a soundtrack 2-CD set from the film.


by "Todd"
This review originally appeared in the "Little Pink Guestbook", March 2005.

I picked up the DVD Lightning In a Bottle. It's the concert film from the salute to the blues show at Radio City Music Hall from Feb 2003. I was at the show, about 25 rows from the stage, and it was a great show, but in many ways the DVD is just as good of an experience, and in some ways better. The production is fantastic. Great lighting, great sound, and great camera work. On the DVD you get a lot of good close-ups, facial expressions, and get to see the interaction between the musicians much better. My only complaint is that the DVD isn't long enough. The actual show was between 4 and 5 hours long. The DVD is just under two hours, so they had to cut some things out. I haven't watched the entire thing yet; I,ve just skipped around a bit. Here are some of my immediate impressions, and favorite moments: Buddy Guy and Vernon Reid burning through Red House. In between, they show some archival footage from a Buddy Guy show from 1968. Hendrix is in the audience-watching Buddy like a hawk. I think Jimi might have picked up a move or two from Buddy, and maybe a couple of guitar licks. Apparently Jimi was a fan of Buddy,s, and even asked if he could tape the show.

Steve Jordan who played a lot of drums, and was the musical director for the show, is almost as much fun to watch play as Levon. There were several times during the concert where Levon and Steve Jordan were playing at the same time. Two fantastic musicians.

Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown kicks seven layers of ass with his instrumental "Okie Dokie Stomp." Levon drums on that as well, and the horn section is killer.

Hubert Sumlin is featured on Killing Floor along with Levon on drums and David Johansen. Bonnie Raitt plays some nice slide on the Elmore James classic "Coming Home." Kim Wilson plays some nice harp alongside Bonnie.

Steven Tyler and Joe Perry come across really well on the DVD. Better than I remember them at the actual show. Joe Perry sings "Stop Messin' Around," while Steven Tyler plays harp. There's a great shot of Levon drumming on that cut. At one point, Steven Tyler turns around to look at Levon. Levon's got his full game face on, just whippin' those drums. It gave me chills. It's little bits like that that you don't always get to see during the show.

I'm looking forward too watching the whole thing. It was nice to see Levon, and so many of the blues greats playing on a big stage, in a big room like Radio City Music Hall, and seeing the blues get so much respect. As Ruth Brown said, "It was so nice to see everyone, and it wasn't at a funeral." Amen.

Various Artists - Lightning in a Bottle - 2005 - Columbia Tristar Home - 108 mins

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