Blu Ray Title: WAR Greatest Hits LIVE
Disk Release Date: 14 October, 2008
Rated: Not Rated
Screen format: Listed as 16x9 1080i
Studio: Avenue Records
First theatrical release: NA
Previous releases on disk: Day and date with DVD
Director: Not Listed
Sound Formats: Stereo and Dolby Digital 5.1
Length: 122 Minutes
Few bands have as storied a history (or as many members!) over the years since their formation as War. Formed in 1969 as the brainchild of Animals leader Eric Burdon, War has spanned countless genres from funk to soul to disco, and is currently nominated for entry in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, with a career that has seen over 50 million albums sold. This disk is a capture of what appears to be the entire lineup of a sold out show at an intimate venue in Anaheim California on December 30, 2007. The only member of the original band left is Lonnie Jordan, but he takes charge and soundly holds court all night. War fans might be interested to note that other surviving members are touring together as Lowrider Band however they are legally prohibited from using the War name.
As noted, the track list focuses mostly on those songs which gained the band the most fame, including Spill the Wine, Cisco Kid, Why Can’t We Be Friends, and of course, Lowrider. Lowrider however is tackled in a nearly 20 minute band introduction/cover mix that includes such hits as Shotgun, Iron Man, Sunshine of Your Love, and I Want To Take You Higher. It’s a bit too much and loses energy at the end, but its still a lot of fun.
As a celebration of the work of the band it works well, but there are several embarrassing slow parts and Jordan’s tendency to rant on about things which might not have universal appeal had me tempted to fast forward a bit, especially one sequence where he invited one lady to join him on stage and he was overwhelmed when several drunk listeners took over the show. Other than that however the music does the talking and I really enjoyed the live interpretation of several songs I know well and exploring the catalog of this band, finding some new choices to dig up on iTunes.
Sound Quality: 3.5/5
Sound balance might have been exactly what the band was going for but it did not work well for me. The guitar is muted quite a bit and sits under the percussion and especially Jordan’s keyboards way too much. The bass end of the percussion does not have a real driving low end either.
The band sounds great however, really tight and with obvious enthusiasm for the material which they have inherited. During their introductions they get a mini bio from Jordan and we get to see just how international and multicultural the band remains, and each member chose a song to reflect the influences they brought to the group.
Visual Quality: 3/5
The frenetic MTV style cutting does not work well for a band like War, so I found that a bit distracting, but otherwise the video was acceptable but not amazing looking. The day-glo hippy colors that the band chooses to use as a backdrop pop nicely but are not too saturated during this night time shoot. Detail is acceptable but again not remarkable and as this appears to have been shot in HD no apparent transfer issues would be involved.
Extra Features: 2/5
There are two extras here, both shot the day of the concert. One is a backstage interview with the band just after the show and the other is a photo gallery of the LowRider group that showed up to support the show as part of a local radio promotion.
Overall: 3/5 (not an average)
I’ve been a fan of many of the band’s songs for many years without knowing much about the band itself. This disk was a great introduction to that history and also served as a springboard to me investigating what happened to Burdon and to finding out about the Lowrider Band as well. This concert shows that the heart of War is still ticking, and while they haven’t had any recent hits that the music they have produced in 3 decades really does stand the test of time.