2005 has been a very nice year for Erasure and their fans. For the band, it has seen their twentieth anniversary as a group. In an age of disposable American Idols and record company shakeouts, that’s the kind of legacy that we’ll unfortunately begin to see less and less. But not only have they stuck around all this while, they’ve continued to provide the same thing they always have: quality albums filled with the catchiest electro-pop this side of the Pet Shop Boys. Granted, some albums have been better than others (Loveboat sounds like it was mixed on the train in a hurry, while going to work), but even a bad Erasure album is still a good day.
For the fans of Erasure, 2005 started off bright and early with the release of arguably the best album from their second decade as a group. Nightbird finds Andy and Vince showing just how practice makes perfect on tracks such as “No Doubt,” “Here I Go Impossible Again,” “Breathe” and “Don’t Say You Love Me,” with some of their most natural and tuneful writing to date. And now, to bookend 2005, we have the release of The Erasure Show: Live In Cologne on DVD.
This new video release serves as both a new tour release, and also an excellent best-of affair. With a catalog as deep as Erasure’s, you’re not at a lack for quality material to round out your concert. And although Nightbird is understandably the single most heavily represented album (with five songs), there are a lot of other albums of material to cover. Everything from “Oh L’amour” and non-single fan favorites like “Hideaway” are represented, all the way through their grandiose self-titled 1995 affair (their second decade is curiously empty during the main concert, although a couple tracks are picked up in the bonus features). This is the concert for the fans.
The show opens with a nicely done lullabye of “Rock-a-bye Baby,” before introducing the members on stage with the Nightbird album-opener “No Doubt.” From the start, the sound is very impressive. Andy is in top vocal form, and receives able help from his two female backups. Andy’s vocals tend to be hit-or-miss in live settings. He is an energetic and emotive stageman, but sometimes has suffered his share of pitch problems during a show (which could just be monitor problems, but all the same). But this night, however, thunderbirds are go. The vocals are very nice, including a great intermission-style rendition of “Ave Maria”, songs are arranged very much like the albums (per the intent of the tour, as explained in the interview section), and at twenty-five tracks the concert is a nice chance for the viewers at home to kick back and take it all in.
The visuals for the tour are grandiose in design, per typical Erasure fashion, but never intrusive. The set is comprised of an exotic backdrop making way for large inflatable trees (are they trees? giant leeches? colored pasta tubes?) and a sparse but complementary stage setup. The main visual thrust is carried out by lighting and elaborate costumes. Andy goes through multiple wardrobe changes, as do his backup singers. Vince is typically just along for the ride, but seems perfectly at home donning a gold lamay suit. For those only familiar with the band’s sound and not image, let’s just say that Andy’s openly gay lifestyle is reflected in his clothing as well. Hope you like short shorts, because he sure does…
The quality of the video is suitably nice, although isn’t going to win any awards. Camerawork is typical of most mid-size venues (low crowd sweeps to make the audience look bigger, no back of room shots, etc.) but is handled well. Editing is tasteful, not too many dizzying cuts; and colors are nice. The stereo mix of the sound is quite good, and leans toward a closer and warmer (more “studio”) mix, with crowd and hall noise saved more for between songs. Sadly, I still live in 1998 and do not have a proper surround sound setup, so I’ll refrain from critiquing that aspect.
Bonus features, however, are hit and miss. The music videos are a nice addition, including two proper videos, and one “live footage” video, all from Nightbird. There are some bonus live tracks, from their previous tour in support of Other People’s Songs that are decent, but fall flat in comparison to the newer tour. There are also two interview sections (one of which is a making-of spot) that are largely filler. Andy and Vince seem somewhat tired and detached (filmed at the end of the tour?), as responses are generally canned and brief. Overall, the bonus features are what bonus features pretty much always are: nice-to-haves, but not gotta-haves.
The Erasure Show: Live In Cologne is a great video companion to any Erasure fan’s collection. As the cap to a successful release year, as well as a trip down the last twenty years of a very electronic-pop memory lane… you gotta show “a little respect.”