Blu-Ray Review: Concert Releases From The Pixies, Black Label Society

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CHICAGO – The great Eagle Rock Entertainment released a pair of concert Blu-rays this week that deserve your attention, especially for serious fans of either of the bands involved. Frank Black, Kim Deal and the rest of The Pixies rock in a pair of shows on “Pixies Live: Acoustic and Electric” and Zakk Wylde (don’t miss our exclusive portrait) proves his guitar-god prowess on “Black Label Society: The European Invasion Doom Troopin’” Blu-Ray Rating: 3.5/5.0
Blu-Ray Rating: 3.5/5.0

The best music discs don’t just replicate the concert experience but give you a view of the band doing what they do best. Ideally, it’s not just “any show,” but one that could convert the non-believers as well as preach to the choir. Such is the case with “Acoustic and Electric” and “The European Doom Troopin’,” although the former is more effective at illustrating its artist’s ability than the latter, but we’ll get to that. These collections offer hours of live music for fans of The Pixies and Zakk Wylde and even those who don’t know yet how talented these musicians are.

The Pixies: Acoustic and Electric was released on Blu-ray on August 24th, 2010.
The Pixies: Acoustic and Electric was released on Blu-ray on August 24th, 2010.
Photo credit: Eagle Rock Entertainment

Personally, I’m a much bigger fan of The Pixies than Black Label Society, so I know more about the band in question. Having said that, I can still judge presentation, audio, and the music on display, but my knowledge of it comes from a much deeper well when it comes to one of the most important bands in the history of alternative music.

The Pixies release compiles two previously available releases into one set — “Club Date: Live at the Paradise in Boston” and “Acoustic: Live in Newport” — both shows from 2005. The former features the band in a very intimate setting at one of the clubs that made them a star. Playing in front of only about 200 fans, it’s an intense set. The acoustic set is billed as the band’s only completely unplugged performance from the Newport Jazz Festival. The alternate takes on some of their most electric songs are must-hears for fans of the band.

Black Label Society: The European Invasion Doom Troopin' was released on Blu-ray on August 24th, 2010.
Black Label Society: The European Invasion Doom Troopin’ was released on Blu-ray on August 24th, 2010.
Photo credit: Eagle Rock Entertainment

As for set-lists, they include pretty much what you’d expect with a mix of greatest hits and some more obscure catalog tracks. Both shows are pretty lengthy at about two dozen tracks. At the Paradise, the band sounds good but Frank Black is a bit off, seeming more tired after the halfway point than one would expect from one of the most interesting singers of his era. He’s got the energy but misses a few of the big notes. Deal and Santiago are spectacular however and just seeing this great band play songs that most of us never thought we’d hear again is worth the Blu-ray price. Overall, the Newport show is more interesting and consistent, although not all of the songs work that well acoustically. It’s more often a curiosity than something you’d choose over the electric version.

The video on the Pixies release is predictably standard but the audio mix is far more important for a title like this and it rocks. Turn up the electric version loud and make sure your surround system is on the right setting and it’s not far from what it would be like to be at the show. The DTS-HD Master Audio track perfectly mixes the instruments and the vocals.

Bonus material on “Acoustic and Electric” includes a bit of behind-the-scenes material at Newport and a very grainy recording from October 1986 from TT Bear’s in Boston. It’s amazing to see a young Pixies sing “Caribou” nearly 25 years ago but the quality is shockingly horrible. It looks like a bootleg camcord with incredibly low audio and video mastering. It’s fun but hard to watch or listen to for too long given the HD quality of the rest of the release.

“The European Invasion Doom Troopin’” opens with an intense, lengthy guitar solo from axe legend Zakk Wylde that would normally serve as the closing number for most guitarists. The fact is that the dude is insanely talented. Having said that, the Blu-ray release that captures one of his Paris shows and includes a few numbers from London as well doesn’t quite document his live presence enough due to an overwhelming amount of video effects. The producers must assume that metal fans need quick cuts, odd angles, and zooms every few seconds to keep watching. Honestly, I just wanted to see Wylde do his thing, not feel like I was stuck in one of his music videos.

Speaking of videos, three are included on the Blu-ray — “Suicide Messiah” (with a making-of), “In This River,” and “Fire It Up” — along with a 50-minute “Backstage Pass” featurette.

‘Pixies: Acoustic and Electric’ and ‘Black Label Society: The European Invasion Doom Troopin’ were released by Eagle Rock Entertainment. They were released on August 24th, 2010. The Pixies disc runs 220 minutes and Black Label Society plays for 228 minutes. content director Brian Tallerico

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