Pepsi Silver Clef Concert Review
British pop has certainly lost the influential position it once enjoyed. Never mind the British invasion of the sixties, even the success of Duran Duran in the early eighties is now but a distant memory. Placed alongside the sleekly sophisticated sounds of an act such as Destiny's Child or the punk-pop of Avril Lavigne, the low-rent thrills of Liberty X seem rather threadbare, as though one were comparing the Bollinger of the former to the Asti Spumante of the latter.
How safe is the company kept by Liberty X, therefore, when looking at the list of acts on this DVD. Girls Aloud? Big Brovaz? Emma Bunton? Heaven help us if this is the best the UK can muster.
Featuring an audience of thousands within Manchester's Nynex arena and ten acts, all of whom are performing in aid of the Brit Trust and the Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy charity, this DVD release by Sanctuary Visual Entertainment will see 50% of all profits going towards the same good causes. This money will provide music therapy for those who will benefit from such treatment as well as funding further training for those who work to assist people through music.
Beginning with Busted, who come on like a version of Green Day who have yet to listen to their dad's Clash albums, the DVD gets off to a thoroughly radio-friendly start with You Said No, the lyrics of which tell some tale of school discos and classrooms that must relate perfectly to the twelve-year-olds in strappy tops who litter the audience. The band, who strum their Paul Reed Smiths in a wholly unconvincing manner - although one of them has a Flying V! RAWK! - carry on gamely until their playing of what one assumes is their best known song, Year 3000, which even has a mum and dad in the audience singing along in footage that will surely be replayed a few years from now every time their daughter feels like embarrassing them once again.
Next up is Mis-Teeq, who suffer the same fate as every other female R&B trio when playing live - the booty-shifting, bass-heavy music utterly swamps the weak female vocals. The enthusiasm that Busted brought to the party is seen leaving the Nynex Arena as Mis-Teeq teeter down the steps. To remind the audience that they ought to clap occasionally, the one with the roughest voice - sounding as though the Sylvia Young Drama School was skipped on the path between Croydon and this concert - bellows, "Manchester!" at regular intervals.
Voted out of Pop Idol and thereby avoiding the easy-listening road to geriatric acceptance through cover versions that is favoured by the Devil's agents - Simons Cowell and Fuller - Javine's Real Things is a fine song indeed, mixing a brass sample with an infectious chorus. She only has the one song here but her strong vocals do better against the noise of the Nynex Arena than the three voices of Mis-Teeq. Big Brovaz appear next, mixing the call-and-response of a large R&B troupe with the pop sensibilities of the rest of the acts on the bill and are thus an easier proposition than a group like So Solid Crew. As a result, there is little sense of the unknown here and Big Brovaz - note that kiddie-friendly spelling - drag through their two songs with little that is surprising.
Kicking off with a riff that's no more than an update of The Knack's My Sharona, Girls Aloud open with No Good Advice and close with their debut single, Sounds Of The Underground. Despite their months of battling to be the winning female group on Popstars - The Rivals, Girls Aloud still appear as though five checkout girls wandered backstage, took a left instead of a right and ended up performing a karaoke favourite. Nadine, in particular, looks as comfortable as a nun in a midnight line up of streetwalkers. The songs themselves aren't bad but manager Louis Walsh's history in Irish show bands mean there is little that is either unpredictable or memorable.
Popstars rejects, Liberty X, are next on the stage, opening with 'official bootleg' Being Nobody, which is a mix of Ain't Nobody by Rufus and Chaka Khan and Being Boiled by the Human League. The second song is the slow Got To Have Your Love and they end with their best-known song, Just A Little Bit. Looking at them here, there is but little star quality and certainly not a lot more than the actual winners, being Hearsay, of the contest out of which they emerged. Similarly, Emma Bunton, once of the Spice Girls but now looking as though she's been hitting the Sunny D a little too much, too often, delivers a bland little song that will do her no favours as the calls from the dumper grow increasingly louder.
Atomic Kitten, appearing as though Simon Fuller's 19 Management held a raffle at the Birkenhead job centre and these three girls got lucky, pull three dreadful tracks out of their bag of equally awful songs with each one sung with much the same feeling as the renditions of I Will Survive this reviewer is forced to endure at his local come the Tuesday-night karaoke show. That they finish with a cover of Blondie's The Tide Is High is a mistake given that it shows how poor the rest of their songs are, even their best-known song, Whole Again.
Best suited to the space of a large arena, where his 'interesting' features are unlikely to scare even those game souls who find themselves closest to the front, this concert sees Craig David putting away the clacking garage drum machine for an acoustic accompaniment. That he continues playing the same songs as before, including 7 Days, in which Craig meets a girl on a Monday, goes for a drink on Tuesday, to bed on the Wednesday and spends the rest of the week chillin', means that the whole act doesn't really come off, recalling the less suitable Unplugged sessions run by MTV in the early nineties. And then Emma Bunton comes back - roll on Blue, who bring the concert to a close with a run of five songs including their paean to shootings in Compton, Drive By...sorry, Fly By, and One Love. Sadly, there seems to be little mention or performance of the anti-war song first mentioned at the 2002 Brit Awards - one wonders what happened there - but the band do well enough with Duncan, Lee and the other two getting young female hearts a-flutter.
Finally, everyone gets back onstage for a run through Bob Marley's One Love, which has the teenagers mouthing, "Wha's this?" as the mums and dads finally get down to a song they know - cue much thirtysomething grooving.
The Pepsi Silver Clef Concert has been anamorphically transferred in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and looks very good indeed with a crisp and colourful image sourced from the original DV recording. Sanctuary Visual Entertainment appear to have had a substantial number of cameras at the event and rather than stick one on either side of the stage and a further one on the audience, this hasn't been filmed at all badly with visual flair one would not have expected of a direct-to-DVD/video/television production.
Once again, Sanctuary Visual Entertainment have put a bit of work into this, offering both stereo and a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround soundtracks. Where the first is capable, the second is shows some sensitive sound direction, using the front speakers to carry the sound of the acts on stage and the rears for the surround sound of the audience. As expected, the subwoofer gets a hefty workout on some of the low-end, bass-rippling R&B.
The Pepsi Silver Clef Concert has a fair range of extras but, being a concert DVD, nothing that really surprises. The full list is as follows:
The bonus features on Disc One are broken into the following:
Backstage (1.78:1 Anamorphic, 2.0 Stereo): Don't be put off by the opening interview with Vernon Kay for this soon picks up a little to present four separate sub-sections, including 12 Hours To Showtime (3m05s, which features Craig David talking about himself in the third person as seen on Bo Selecta!), Backstage Malarky (4m37s), Press Call (1m46s) and Finale (3m15s).
Artist Interviews (1.78:1 Anamorphic, 2.0 Stereo): As one would expect from the title, this features a number of interviews, missing only Big Brovaz and Liberty X. The full list of interviews is as follows:
- Girls Aloud (3m15s)
- Javine (1m06s)
- Busted (2m18s)
- Mis-Teeq (2m55s)
- Emma Bunton (3m35s)
- Craig David (2m33s)
- Atomic Kitten (2m11s)
- Blue (2m22s)
Preparations (1.78:1 Anamorphic, 2.0 Stereo): This is divided into two sections, both of which only feature Blue - 48 Hours To Showtime (3m27s) and How The Concert Came About (2m38s).
Nordoff-Robbins Short Film (3m02s, 1.33:1 Non-Anamorphic, 2.0 Stereo): This film features the work of the Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy group, including interviews with a number of parents whose children have greatly benefited as a result of the group's work.
Pepsi And Nordoff-Robbins (1m00s, 1.33:1 Non-Anamorphic, 2.0 Stereo): This features two adverts, one for Pepsi and the other for Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy, both of which are fairly witty little features.
Featuring Blue's full set and two songs from Atomic Kitten - Whole Again and The Tide Is High - the second disc offers the opportunity to view each act with one camera focused on each member of both acts. Whilst one can see the appeal of this - how many twelve-year-olds will be watching Blue's act with the Duncan-Cam selected - Atomic Kitten can be a fearsome sight close-up. A fair few adults will bear the odd acne scar somewhere but who holds them in such fascination to activate the Lil-Cam during Atomic Kitten's set.
Personally, I lost interest in pop a long time ago, permitting the odd exception to a band like S Club but a number of those acts here aren't bad. Of course, I could never attend a concert such as this without feeling like a paedophile but Javine, Liberty X, Blue and Busted weren't at all bad. Interestingly, there appears to be the same mix of the credible and the granny-chasing in UK pop that there always was. Think back but a few years and the Spice Girls were directly up against All Saints, one cornered as slight pop and the other as street-smart R&B. Before that, it was Take That against East 17. In fact, you can trace this back beyond The Beatles versus The Rolling Stones but this concert demonstrates this recurring split all too well. Compare the cooler sounds of Liberty X to the band who were their direct competition, being the nanny'd Hearsay, and the former come up quite well indeed. Again, put Javine against the tested-on-geriatics-for-the-inability-to-raise-a-pulse sounds of Will Young or Gareth Gates and Real Things is a tremendous song. That's not to say that this concert is stuffed with sounds that will be loved by Mojo magazine but it's a lot better than it could have been...really!
Oh yeah, it will raise a lot of money for a good cause so if you have a young relative who would enjoy any of the acts here, particularly Blue who are a favourite of the pubescent female, I'm told, you could do much, much worse than this.