DVD Review HTF REVIEW: The Bangles: Return to Bangleonia

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Cameron Yee, Aug 29, 2007.

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  1. Cameron Yee

    Cameron Yee Executive Producer
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    The Bangles: Return to Bangleonia
    Release Date: Available now (released August 14, 2007)
    Studio: Shout Factory
    Packaging/Materials: Standard single-disc DVD case
    Year: 2007
    Rating: NR
    Running Time: 1h11m
    Video (Feature): 4:3 matted to 16:9
    Audio (Feature): Dolby Digital: English 5.1, English 2.0
    Video (Special Features): 4:3
    Audio (Special Features): Stereo
    Subtitles: None
    MSRP: $14.98

    The Feature: 3/5
    I was only 12 when the Bangles entered into pop music consciousness in 1985, a time when an all-female rock band was still seen as mostly a novelty act. Though I was too young to get caught up in the sometimes sexist debate about the band members' actual talents, there was no denying the group's popularity, founded on chart-toppers "Manic Monday," "Walk Like An Egyptian" and "Hazy Shade of Winter." The final hit, the power ballad "Eternal Flame," came in 1988 and though the band would never top the charts again, its previous successes had guaranteed its inclusion on any future 80s pop music compilation.

    Ironically, the band broke up shortly after "Eternal Flame" became a hit. In the several years following, lead singer Susanna Hoffs released a couple solo albums, while guitarist Vicki Peterson, drummer Debbi Peterson and bassist Michael Steele joined up with other bands. About 10 years after they parted ways they decided to re-form and in 2000 announced several tour dates to support the reunion. "The Bangles: Return to Bangleonia" is one of three appearances the band made at the Los Angeles House of Blues that year.

    One of the supposed sources of friction that contributed to the band's "extended hiatus" was the not-unexpected focus on lead singer Hoffs. If they performed back in the day as they do in the reunion show - with each band member taking a turn at singing lead - the alleged frustration is understandable. Overall though, none of them is immune to being a bit off-key, the rough edges of their vocal performances lessened some by an obvious energy and enthusiasm. Unfortunately the group's new (at the time) material is mostly forgettable, made entertaining enough by the live setting, but - whether blessing or a curse - the bottom line is that the band is at its most enjoyable when performing the old hits. And really neither casual nor ardent fan would expect otherwise, making the release something only the latter contingent would truly appreciate. For anyone else, that 80s pop CD compilation will probably be sufficient.


    Video Quality: 3/5
    Though the picture quality of the shot-on-video concert is quite good - black levels, contrast range, color and sharpness all nicely rendered without any noticeable artifacts - it is unfortunately non-anamorphic and letterboxed at 1.78:1. This was a questionable practice five years ago and looks even more regressive today with 50% of the screen area relegated to black. An otherwise very good looking transfer gets diminished (literally).


    Audio Quality: 3/5
    The Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Stereo audio options are a mixed bag. While the 5.1 option has great dynamic range, satisfying bass extension and sparkly highs, the surround channels are sorely misused. They carry much of the backing vocals, Hoffs' guitar and the drum kit's cymbals, making it a disorienting and distracting experience in conjunction with the video footage. Though the stereo option does not have these problems, it lacks much of the punchiness and range of the other track. Choosing a preferred track was difficult, but I ultimately chose the 5.1 option for the more satisfying elements mentioned.


    Special Features: 4/5

    Band Commentary: Recently recorded (references to Hilary Duff are the giveaway), Hoffs and the Peterson sisters reflect on the concert and provide some interesting anecdotes from the 80s. There are some occasional lapses when the three seem to get caught up reviewing their performance, but overall it's a decent track and certainly a rarity for concert releases.

    Acoustic Performances: "Manic Monday" and "Ride the Ride" In some respects I found these bonus tracks more enjoyable than the concert. The vocal performances continue to be "pitchy" but the more intimate setting and stripped down instrumentation is overall more appealing.

    The Story of Bangleonia (16m21s): Hoffs and the Petersons cover topics like the early days of the band, their worst gigs, what it was like to work with Prince, and how things have changed since they started. The vignette is pretty interesting overall but I imagine for fans it is too short.

    Photos: Twenty-eight vintage and more recent photos.


    Recap

    The Feature: 3/5
    Video Quality: 3/5
    Audio Quality: 3/5
    Special Features: 4/5
    Overall Score (not an average): 3/5

    A reunion concert of a popular 80s band gets a so-so release with moderately frustrating audio and video transfers but a decent special features package. Ultimately it's a release only dedicated fans will appreciate.
     

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