War’s Greatest Hits Live DVD is two hours of solid, War fun. And it’s quite evident that the audience is not having any more of a good time than the musicians. Lonnie Jordan, the only remaining original member of the group, admitted in an interview to stage fright which still bugs him, and I think it was evident in the first 10-15 minutes of their performance. Understood, since this performance was with the still-getting-broken-in, new members of the band. This is exemplified by Jordan chattering nervously during the breaks, but he quickly settles down into some solid get-down music. The transformation is clearly visible in Jordan’s change in attitude, posture, and looseness.
When you’re a new band and you have a glitch or two in your performance, the audience can be forgiving. When you’ve rocked their socks off numerous times in the past, even though only one of the original members is returning, you’re expected to have that old black magic you weave so well. (Thanks to Johnny Mercer, the writer of these lyrics I just used.)
A sold out crowd at a venue like the Grove in Anaheim can disconcert anybody. But it didn’t take long for War to have this eager audience eating out of their hands. This crowd was so eager to be mightily, funkily rocked that they reminded me of seagulls, swooping in and grabbing even a lit cigarette out the air when a smoker flipped one across the rail at the beach. Anything that War would have thrown out at them was a slam-dunk. It was nearly as much a feeding frenzy as it was with the seagulls.
The show's opening selection is a nice easy lope, a hip, laidback version of “The World Is A Ghetto,” in a very soulful, slow cha-cha. Before the music segues into “Get Down” several minutes later, we get a good opportunity to see some of the magic that Mitch Kashmar does on harp, and Fernando Harkless does on sax. If neither of them played another lick, they’d have earned their pay for the entire performance.
Jordan’s keyboards loosened up here, and he became less metronomic, more improvisational. The change in him from the beginning of the performance through the next 15 minutes is noticeable. The rest of the performance is great, not that the beginning wasn’t good. It was. It’s just that Jordan and War started sounding better, more relaxed, wanting to play as opposed to having a contract to fill. But hey! That first 10-15 minutes is a small price to pay to see War back in action.
When the group segues into “Get Down,” you can safely kick back and do exactly that. This group ain’t missin’ a beat from here to the finish. There’s another exceptional playing off one another between Kashmar and Harkless, a very funky “City Country City,” with harp and sax trading hot licks. A veritable Battle of the Reeds. In between, the band invited a dozen or so women from the audience up on stage. They got right into the music, and one blonde honey got so carried away she was nearly climbing on Harkless.
Doesn’t matter that there’s only one of the original band members left. Who cares, so long as those who are playing on this DVD are the rightful inheritors of the War legacy.
War was recently nominated for the 2009 Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame. Think they’ll make it? Rhetorical question – of course they will. And this accolade has been earned.
Extras on this disc include Backstage, a slide show, and a link to War’s website. The DVD is 122 minutes of funky War, and it was recorded live at the Grove in Anaheim, California, on the 30th of December, 2007.