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Coheed and Cambria – Live at the Starland Ballroom

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Perhaps a year ago, I went to a concert co-headlined by Thrice and Thursday. I went to see Thursday primarily, but Coheed and Cambria were also the openers and I wanted to see them, as well. I had stumbled upon the band through a recommendation on a website and came to really enjoy their music. As it turned out, though, the entire band had basically become ill before the show and the only person who was even able to make it onto the stage was Claudio Sanchez, the lead singer. I have to give him credit for even giving the show an attempt, as he could easily just have canceled their set. But instead, he showed up, guitar in hand, and proceeded to put on a short, acoustic set, despite the fact that he was sick as well. It wasn’t brilliant, but it was a damn good effort all considering and it was clear the audience really appreciated and enjoyed it.

Well, now Coheed and Cambria has a DVD out of their live performance at the Starland Ballroom and I have to say that the performance is awesome, offering up the kind of full and complete performance that, unfortunately, the band was unable to put on that night I went to see them. The band clearly is healthy and enthused for this show and its filled with energy and effort, a real showcase for the band’s talent.

First, though, let’s talk a bit about Coheed and Cambria’s music for those who aren’t familiar with the band. They are a mix of punk and hardcore, of emo and a bit of metal, all twirled together in a strange and offbeat, yet impressive and entertaining package. The lead singer’s voice is quite distinct, very high pitched at times, although that aspect of his voice is somewhat muted in this recording. There’s plenty of the typical heavy guitar and drumwork that is so prevalent in this type of music, but it’s all done very well and the band clearly packs a lot of talent.

The best part of the music is the unique vocal talents of Sanchez and the solid lyrical work, while the instrumental part of the music serves as a very solid and workable backdrop—nothing overly unique but very competent and appealing, nonetheless.

Now, for this DVD in particular, the main concert alone—which is a ten song set and runs just under an hour—is probably enough to justify the price of the DVD for fans of the band, but there’s plenty more to be found on the discs. The DVD also has three Coheed and Cambria music videos, a making of featurette on the “Blood Red Summer” video, a second live performance from the 2004 Skate and Surf Festival that has four songs and runs about twenty minutes, an interview with two band members—Claudio Sanchez and Travis Stever—and “Mike and Josh in Blizzard ’05,” which is basically another (somewhat silly) interview with two of the band members. Best of all, it also comes with a separate audio CD of the Starland performance, for when you just want to listen to the music and not watch it at all. This is a very nice bonus as it is essentially a full-length live CD that could easily be packaged and sold separately but is instead included here.

The DVD is a full-featured package, well worth the price for those who enjoy the band.

Now, let’s take a closer look at the disc. First of all, the main concert at the Starland is very impressive. It comes in both stereo and Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound. The difference between the two is considerable and you’ll definitely want to partake in the Dolby 5.1 track if you have a surround sound system. The sound is much richer and encompassing, the bass resounding, and the overall mix much more satisfying. In surround sound, this concert sounds absolutely amazing. In stereo, it sounds decent, but you lose much of the richness of the sound. Playing the Dolby track gives it much more of a sense of being at an actual concert.

The camera work during the concert is decent, but nothing amazing. There are no fancy features here like multi-angle or anything like that, but the video is serviceable. It’s presented in widescreen and the picture is solid. You can see the energy of the band during the show and that’s the main thing. Indeed, they come to this show ready to put on one hell of a show, with raging instrumental work and emotive, at times screaming, lyrics. The band goes all out during the concert, never letting up.

Now for the rest of the extras. The music videos are solid, if far from perfect. First of all, they’re presented only in stereo sound, which is a disappointment. While the sound isn’t bad, it’s far from the quality of the main concert’s Dolby track. The videos themselves, as well, are a mixed bag. The “Favor House Atlantic” video is meant to be humorous and playful, but the tone didn’t work very well with me. For the most part, I just found it silly. “Devil in Jersey City” was a much more traditional video, with quick cuts and the vague outlines of a story in what appears to be a science fiction, outer space setting. It was decent and enjoyable, but very similar in its construction to a thousand other music videos out there. Finally, perhaps the best video is for “Blood Red Summer.” It’s low budget and a bit cheesy, but the story is somewhat interesting, with strains of 28 Days Later and the book I Am Legend. The lead singer, Sanchez, is seen holed up in a house in the woods, attempting to fortify the building so as to keep out his fellow bandmates, who we soon see have been turned into some kind of zombies or vampires. It’s a fun video and a bit more original than the other two.

The making of featurette on the “Blood Red Summer” video is short but interesting. It gives some insight into the band’s obsession with science fiction stories and shows some of the tricks used to film the video. Altogether, the music videos and the making of featurette run about seventeen minutes.

The other stubstantial extra is the live performance from the 2004 Skate and Surf Festival. The video is okay and, like the main concert, it includes a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound track. This isn’t as rich or enveloping an audio presentation as with the main concert, but it still sounds good with deep and heavy bass. The concert is short and sweet, cutting out after twenty minutes, but it’s still a great extra.

Finally, there are two short interviews: one with Claudio Sanchez and Travis Stever done in a studio and another, less formal, one with Michael Todd and Joshua Eppard, who appear to have been caught in a blizzard and unable to make the other interview, so they did a quick, makeshift taping of an interview that turned out to be pretty silly. Both run about five minutes.

Of course, the best extra in the package is the included audio CD. It’s the same main concert that is on the DVD and the sound is great. This band really shines live and this is a fun CD to listen to, combining tracks off both their album and presenting them in a fast and energetic live format. Altogether, considering the DVD you get with all the extras and the bonus CD—which could easily be sold as a separate, full concert CD—this is a great, valuable package that is well worth the reasonable price for any Coheed and Cambria fan. I wholeheartedly recommend it.

Starland Ballroom Set List:
In Keeping Secrets Of Silent Earth: 3
Delirium Trigger
A Favor House Atlantic
The Crowing
Devil In Jersey City

Blood Red Summer
Time Consumer
Three Evils (Embodied In Love And Shadow)
Everything Evil
The Light & The Glass

2004 Skate & Surf Festival Set List:
In Keeping Secrets Of Silent Earth: 3
Devil In Jersey City
A Favor House Atlantic
Blood Red Summer

Coheed and Cambria Media:
MP3s
Devil In Jersey City
Delirium Trigger
The Crowing
A Favor House Atlantic
Videos
A Favor House Atlantic (WMV)
Devil In Jersey City (Quicktime)

(Cross posted at my arts and culture blog, The Between)

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About Joel Caris