James Brown

Live from the House of Blues

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James Brown's Live From the House of Blues includes an interview with the producers of the project that was unofficially called "JB in HD." They explain that the motivation for filming the Godfather of Soul in high-definition video was to capture something that had never been committed to tape or film. The visual quality of Live From the House of Blues is among the highest for a musical DVD, but what is captured with that quality is a mildly fun but average-quality late-era performance by James Brown. The backing musicians are as top-notch as ever, but JB has lost a lot of the physical agility that made him an icon, and his voice, while not shot, is devoid of the punctuated energy and powerful sex drive that made him a star. Live From the House of Blues is more likely to result in reflections like "I'm glad he is still around" than "that's JB at the top of his game." Much like Willie Mays playing for the Mets, James Brown doing just a few shuffle steps and admitting before the show that the only splits he can do are in the air (and they are a shadow of his previous efforts) presents a hero who should have retired earlier. One of the worst ways to capture a rockin' live performance is to record a concert in Las Vegas. The crowd for Live From the House of Blues is a typical aging Baby Boomer audience who reacts to Brown's music like they are up past their bedtime. This DVD is recommended for those who want to see James Brown perform. But for those who want to relive the magic, his Body Heat DVD is a better choice, as it was filmed at a much earlier age. One can tell a lot by the man's sweat. James Brown is sweating significantly as he takes the stage in the aptly titled Body Heat, while Live From the House of Blues feels like the venue was chilled to David Letterman levels. Choose the funk.