The Moody Blues

The Lost Performance: Live In Paris '70 [DVD]

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What a rip-off! The initial hype about this release made for some excitement -- that anticipation made the sheer (and very obvious) worthlessness of the DVD, when it arrived, all the more frustrating. This is one pathetic release, which should be avoided by all but the most serious completists -- its packaging is so dishonest, in fact, that it may well violate various truth-in-packaging laws around the country, and would certainly run into trouble in England (where they're much stricter) on that count. The idea of a 1970-vintage Moody Blues performance turning up on video was highly intriguing, to say the least -- the problem is that, as this performance (from the Paris Olympia, which is really, and tantalizingly, almost a club-sized venue) was intended for broadcast over the air, the French television producers and the band contrived to use the pre-recorded tracks rather than any actual live playing; additionally, although some of the vocals are live, others -- both lead and backing -- are not (and, in case of the opening song "Lovely to See You," the complete pre-recorded song off of On the Threshold of a Dream is very obviously being mimed to).

It becomes clear without having to look too closely that neither Justin Hayward's electric guitar nor John Lodge's electric bass are even plugged into anything, and Graeme Edge's drums are totally un-miked; and Lodge and Edge are especially obvious at going through the motions of playing. The lead vocals on most songs seem to be genuinely live, although one could argue that Ray Thomas' voice on "Legend of a Mind" is pre-recorded, and the choruses are all embellished with pre-recorded overdubs, there and elsewhere in this "performance." Thomas even misses a cue on which he was supposed to be "playing" his flute on one number, and it's also clear that the audience present for this travesty quickly picked up on what was going on -- they look plain bored and uncomfortable under the lights and their applause is never more than half-hearted; and why not -- they were applauding virtually nothing. Indeed, most of the crowd reaction is embellished with pre-recorded extra applause (which is as unconvincing as the fades on the songs), and the transitions between the pre-recorded audio and live stage ambience manage to make such previously awkward-seeming faked live performances as, say, the original Got Live if You Want It! LP by the Rolling Stones seem skillful by comparison. Even more bizarre, the producers of the TV show appear to have had only a limited range of camera placements and angles available, as though a mimed performance like this had any purpose other than to be photographed optimally -- there are a lot of side views, long and medium shots, and awkward shots of the backs of the bandmembers' heads while they're "singing," but nothing close up and full on from the front of the stage. On the technical side, for those who care, each of the 13 songs represented gets a chapter marker, and there is the choice of basic stereo or Dolby Surround. And the full-screen (1.33-to-1) image looks great, worthless though it all is musically.

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