I still remember seeing Seal for the first time around 1991 when his video for "Crazy" was all the rage on MTV. That infectious groove, throbbing bass lines, and smooth, soulful voice of his made you want to take to the dance floor – even if you hate to dance, like myself. Hearing "Future Love Paradise" was what put me over the top and forced me to buy Seal‘s self-titled debut album though. The next year I picked up the little-known VHS video Seal released in 1992, which contained all of his videos as well as some outstanding acoustic performances of many of the songs from his debut album. This is what really showed me that Seal was much more than just a great singer hiding behind a brilliant Trevor Horn production. He effectively strips down some of those thick productions to their bare essence with only his acoustic guitar and unique voice.
Seal sure seems to be living the good life these days. Not only is he enjoying the success of his new Live In Paris DVD and CD, but he is also newly wed to the once insanely hot, German supermodel Heidi Klum, whom he wasted no time knocking up with a little Seal junior. Maybe all of this good fortune is God’s retribution for giving him those trademark facial scars, the product of his childhood struggle with Lupus, and also making him endure that dreaded European house music scene throughout the 80′s.
Live In Paris was recorded at the Olympia Bruno Coquatrix on July 6, 2004, during the Seal IV tour. The DVD begins with footage of Seal being driven around Paris as he talks about the current tour. This continues inside the venue and backstage before the show begins. It was all wonderfully shot, and gives you a brief glimpse of life on tour in Europe. Sounds pretty rough huh? The concert kicks off with the song that originally got me into Seal, and is still one of my favorites, "Crazy". As with most of the concert, the performance of this song easily outshined the studio version. Seal‘s excellent four member backing band impressively pulls off the elaborate arrangements of these songs, while injecting more warmth into the sometimes sterile nature of the studio versions. I was half expecting Seal‘s band to be a bunch of synthesizer players and a drum machine, to pull off Horn‘s ambitious productions, but it was great to see a real rock band performing this stuff, and adding a genuine live rock vibe to the mix.
The setlist was a good mix of the four Seal albums, with the exception of 1998′s Human Beings getting only one selection. Seal IV got the most play with six songs, and the first two albums each had five. Although I am intimately familiar with the first two self-titled Seal albums – lets call them The Dreadlocks Album and The Bald Album – I was hearing most of the newer stuff for the first time. After the fantastic lead in with "Crazy", Seal gets right into some of the Seal IV material with that album’s first track "Get It Together", a funky, r&b number that sounded more like some prime Isley Brothers or Marvin Gay than the typical Seal number. Most of Seal IV ballads, like "Love’s Divine", "Don’t Make Me Wait", and "Heavenly…(Good Feeling)", are a little less bombastic than some of his earlier hits like "Kiss From A Rose" and "Don’t Cry". There is also plenty of dance-pop, r&b numbers like "My Vision", and the fantastic, horn-drenched hit "Waiting for You". Missing is a lot of the rock riffs, acoustic guitar flourishes and unexpected time changes, which is what I always loved about Seal‘s music. Seal IV is a more even, low-key affair that focuses on Seal‘s vocals more than the music and production.
For some reason I always figured that a live Seal show would either be really bad, or really great. Fortunately this one was the later. His style of music doesn’t always carry over well live, especially in a large arena show, but Seal‘s vocals sound just as powerful live, and his band, although sticking fairly close to the original versions, added just enough energy to make the songs sound superior live. I would have liked to see the guitarist get a little more attention, but then again this is Seal, not Satriani. Highlights of the performance were many, so I’ll only include a few of my favorites. "Prayer For The Dying" was even more majestic than the studio hit, and the soulful "Whirlpool" sounded warmer than ever as Seal, guitarist Eric Schermerhorn, and bassist Chris Bruce all strapped on acoustic guitars to produce THE version of this great song. The first set ended with a loose and powerful "Future Love Paradise" which always upgrades my mood, and gets you thinking that there may actually be such a place.
The encore begins with Schermerhorn gently strumming his electric guitar, as he and Seal turn Hendrix’s "Hey Joe" into a soulful, blues number. The last song, "Deep Water", one of my favorites off The Dreadlocks Album, begins with Seal lightly strumming an acoustic guitar as Schermerhorn adds some bluesy slide-guitar accompaniment. When the heavy bass grooves and ringing acoustic guitar chords kick in to transform the second half of the song, you can’t help but get a warm adrenalin rush as Seal brings it to a powerful close.
The audio tracks on this DVD all sounded stellar. For the stereo purists, you get a powerful PCM stereo mix, and for those with surround setups, both the DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks were exceptional. The crowd noise and various instruments are given the perfect amount of emphasis in the rear surround speakers to provide a magnificent live concert atmosphere right in your living room. The video quality didn’t quite rise to the level of the audio, thanks to an abundance of out of focus shots. Many of the close-ups were also very shaky, and blurry, especially when the occasional guitar solo was shot. This widescreen presentation generally looked outstanding during the medium distance shots of the stage and musicians, that is when the producer would occasionally settle on one camera angle for more than two seconds. There were no bonus features.
Seal – Live In Paris is one of my favorite concert DVDs of the year, so far. It is one of the few that I anxiously wanted to watch again the next day…and the next day. Don’t miss this gem.
Get It Together
Just Like You Said
Dreaming in Metaphors
Prayer for the Dying
Don’t Make Me Wait
Waiting for You
Kiss From A Rose
Bring It On
Future Love Paradise
Read all of my DVD concert reviews at Roy’s Reviews