Collective Soul is one of the few shining lights on the post-grunge, radio-friendly rock scene, which also includes such contemporaries as Live, Train, and Our Lady Peace. Collective Soul‘s music is driven by hook-laden guitar anthems and heavily orchestrated power-ballads that can satisfy both the hard-rockers and Top 40-pop fans alike. They are essentially the bastard child of Bon Jovi and The Beatles. I am not such a fan of the band as to run out and buy every album they release, as their music can be a little too derivative and inconsistent at times. Then again, whose isn’t? One thing is for sure, you wont be disappointed picking up a "best of", or live collection from these guys, because when they are on, they can churn out some of the catchiest rock & roll in the business.
I recently re-assessed my opinion of Collective Soul, after I gave their Music In High Places video a second look last year. I had only skimmed through it once when it was first released in 2001, and then it got buried away amongst the rest of my collection. One day I was looking for something a little mellow and acoustic-based to chill out to, and I decided to gave the thing another chance. It is now one of my favorite videos of its kind. Music In High Places featured the band performing completely acoustic arrangements of their songs in exotic Moroccan locals, but you still got a good sense of how great these guys must be in a true live concert setting. The Home video answers that question in spades.
Home was recorded over a two night stand in April of 2005, in the band’s hometown of Atlanta, Georgia. Hence the title. These shows were performed with the Atlanta Symphony Asian, err, I mean, Youth Orchestra. Just got a little confused there, seeing that about 75 percent of this "Atlanta" orchestra is made up of Asian-American kids. I guess scoring that cello scholarship to Berkeley or Julliard is not as enticing to most other ethnicities, as scoring the next big Def Jam record deal is. Then again, I wanted to be Ace Frehley when I was that age.
All kidding aside, these high school kids sounded as good as any professional orchestra I have heard recently. More importantly, they sounded good with Collective Soul. Obviously, an orchestra-backed Collective Soul is much easier to swallow than, say, an orchestra-backed Metallica. Much of their music is already heavily orchestrated, or is backed by orchestra-like keyboard arrangements. Surprisingly, the grittier rockers such as "Precious Declaration" and "Gel" did not lose any of their punch as the symphonic arrangements provided just the right amount of accompaniment without smoothing out the rough edges too much. The already orchestra-dominated epics like "December" and "The World I Know" sounded that much more majestic with a real 100-person orchestra propelling them.
Several acoustic ballads, such as "Needs", "Run", "Youth", and "Satellite" were dug up for this show and had the potential to drag things down a bit, but in this case, the orchestra was given their chance to really shine, often steeling your focus away from Roland strumming his guitar. The band had no problem sharing the spotlight with these talented kids, and no more so than during the Hints Allegations And Things Left Unsaid instrumental "Pretty Donna", where a string quartet was positioned at the front of the stage to perform the song while the band took a much deserved short break.
The band performed brilliantly throughout this show especially Ed Roland. He has become one of the most dynamic frontmen in the business. His vocals were strong and dripping with passion and soul on every single song. New lead guitarist, Joel Kosche, who came on board just in time for 2004’s Youth album, played admirably and looks to become this band’s very own Ritchie Sambora. Steady as a rock, and with just enough flash to keep you coming back for more.
Speaking of Youth, this most recent album by the band featured the most songs in the set with six. They kicked off the show with the hit single "Counting The Days" and then heavily stacked the second half of the show with five more of its songs. The absolute highlight of the show came from the rousing performance of the album’s other hit single, "Better Days", which had the entire crowd, orchestra, and orchestra conductor, on their feet, dancing, clapping, and chanting the chorus "the world’s done shaking, the world’s done shaking, the world’s done shaking me down". The band leaves the stage, as the chanting continues, and when they return for their encore, the chanting picks back up again even louder. The band seemed genuinely moved by this overwhelming show of appreciation.
The encore begins with the new ballad, "Satellite", which the single-dad, Roland, explains is a song he wrote for his then three year old son. It is one of his best ballads. Of course the final song of the night had to be the surprise smash hit from their first album, "Shine". If you thought that the original album cut of this song sounded a little thin, like myself, then hold on to your hats when you hear this awesome version. With the string section matching every power chord radiating from Kosch and Roland’s guitars, and Roland singing his frigging heart out, this version simply embarrassed the original. It was an incredible end to an incredible show.
As much as I have praised the performance on this DVD, the production quality deserves even more praise. Quite simply, it is possibly the finest overall production quality for a rock concert DVD that I have seen to date. The widescreen video presentation is flawless, and easily handles the intensely bright and colorful stage show. Two outstanding audio options are provided; the first is a powerful PCM stereo mix that gives me high hopes for the CD version of this concert. The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix is the definite option of choice if you have the setup. If you close your eyes and turn it up loud, on a decent surround sound system, you are literally transported into the middle of the theater. The camera work was perfect, providing every possible angle, but never jumping around too quickly. You got a wonderful sense of being there.
The extra features were substantial including plenty of behind-the-scenes footage, the making of the "Better Now" video, Ed Roland singing "Georgia Girl" in his dressing room while playing acoustic guitar, and a short documentary called "Home". This is all packaged in a thick plastic DVD case, appropriately called a "super jewel box", which includes a 25-page color booklet. This is the first I’ve purchased of this type of DVD case, and I hope it is not a new trend. It seems like it might break too easily, just like half of my damn CD cases.
I can only imagine how incredible it was to be at this Atlanta performance, and to actually FEEL the energy of this performance. This outstanding DVD gives you the next best thing, and with a decent enough home theater system, you, and your neighbors, will be able to feel it too. Although it is still only February, Collective Soul‘s Home is going to be a bitch to bump off the top of my best of 2006 list.
Counting The Days
The World I Know
Under Heaven Skies
How Do You Love
Read all of my DVD concert reviews at Roy’s Reviews