Great performance, sound and picture - lousy MTV editing
K. Chun | Ashburnham, MA | 12/29/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The performance is incredible, the sound fantastic and the picture quality is great. James Taylor - Live at the Beacon Theater has all the elements to make it one of the more outstanding musical events released on DVD. However it falls short, not because of the performer or the sound quality but because of the video editing.
Producer Carol Donovan and director Beth McCarthy subject us not to a video of a James Taylor concert but to a "music video" produced in MTV's ADD editing style. Filled with 2 and 3 second cuts and shots from moving cameras we are never given the opportunity to concentrate on James Taylor's performance. Apparently Donovan and McCarthy didn't take into account the audience that would be watching this video nor the performer. James Taylor is a man of enough talent that videos of his performances don't need to be packaged in the MTV style of quick cuts and constant motion. I don't think his fans want to watch him that way either.
The way things are edited in this DVD actually detracts from the experience. You won't see Taylor long enough in any one shot to visually appreciate his guitar playing nor will you see the expressions on his face long enough in a shot to truly convey the "soul" of this concert. Many times the camera isn't even on him or the shot is so long (far away) that you can't see him singing. What you will be treated to lots of "slick" shots. Shots from boom cameras moving from side to side, wide shots of the theater where you can't see Taylor (but you can see the folks walking down the aisle), useless audience shots and "artistic" shots through the drum kit or from behind the piano. If you ever wondered what the back of Taylor's head looks like you'll get the chance to find out - several times. You're never allowed to concentrate on Taylor and enjoy all the nuances of his performance, instead your eye is constantly being pulled in different directions. This producer / director team is the same one that brought us the Eagles - Hell Freezes Over concert DVD and I have to say they did a better job on that one simply by slowing everything down. ( Watch both and you recognize the camera angles and shots - it's put together using the same formula) If you're looking for something that's an intimate James Taylor performance you won't find it on this DVD. More likely you'll feel like you've just watched the MTV Video Awards. More isn't always better. I hope they re-edit this DVD one of these days.
Should you buy it? Yes, if your a JT fan it truly is a fantastic sounding DVD of a wonderful concert. If you can get past some of the visual things it's not bad to look at. Or do what I ended up doing - turning up the stereo and turning off the television. I think I'll look for that HBO special he did....
Some stats... One 3 minute song - 46 separate shots. Average shot length 3.9 seconds. 15 shots are from moving cameras. In 27 of them you can't see James Taylor's face. Only in 19 shots (41%) can you see him singing."
What an amazing concert!
K. Chun | 01/13/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As a longtime JT fan I was thrilled to find this great concert, which I first saw on PBS, on DVD. The sound and picture are great, but of course the best thing about this DVD is the artist himself. JT gives us a fresh take on many of his hits, treats us to some of the more obscure songs that only die-hard fans will recognize, and includes some of the songs from the beautiful "Hourglass" CD. (Also highly recommended!) The band and backup singers are the best and James is in great voice and great spirits.The bonus stuff is a nice surprise -- an interview with JT, and 2 vidoes -- "Copperline" and "Enough to Be on Your Way" (heartbreakingly gorgeous!)If you like James Taylor your money will be well spent on this DVD. It's a bargain at any price. I know I'll watch it over and over for years to come."
The FIRST concert DVD you should buy......
Jeff R. Clow | Corinth, TX United States | 01/26/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Okay - you've got a new DVD system, with surround sound.Okay - you like music - especially music that shows off your new system.Okay - hit the buy this now button and wait five days for the absolutely BEST musical concert DVD on the market today.James Taylor sings all his hits in crystal clear Dolby Digital 5.1, and the audio engineering on this DVD is SUPERB. If you want to show off a system's surround capabilities - this IS the DVD to do so.It makes you feel like you're sitting in the fourth row, center for this Beacon Theater concert, and everything is working perfectly. The artist, his backup singers, the band, and the audience all participating like this was THE concert of their lives.And I bet you'll find yourself standing up and applauding your television screen when Track 11 - Shower the People - is finished. James Taylor allows legendary backup singer Arnold McCuller to shine with his overlay during the last third of the song, and the crowd goes absolutely WILD at the talent of this man who has made a career of singing behind the scenes.Is this DVD worth spending under $20 on?Absolutely. You'll watch it again and again....and AGAIN!"
Sweet Baby James!
Jeff R. Clow | 02/04/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I had The Doors, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and James Taylors DVD's in my hands and had to make a choice - which one to buy? I was getting tired of listening to The Moody Blues, Hall of Fame DVD (buy this one it is a masterpiece!) and needed something fresh to listen to on my new Sony HOme Theater System. James Taylor- Live at the Beacon was my choice, a wise choice indeed. The audio is near perfect, you can hear every snap of James' acoustic guitar and his voice was pleasant and strong in the mix. Using DTS, I could not hear much output from the rear speakers but it still sounded fantastic from the Center/Fronts. If you like James Taylor you will satisfied with this great sounding and looking DVD."
If There Was A Show In Heaven...
firstname.lastname@example.org | Scotland, UK | 03/26/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"...It would probably sound like this. "James Taylor Live at The Beacon Theatre": This DVD is a true delight. Over twenty classic songs delivered by a voice that has never sounded so good. The atmosphere is incredible, and only a true musician like James Taylor can create this kind of ambience, derived from his songs and stories alike. One gets the feeling that many of his "ex-hippie" fans are part of the audience, as strong and as loyal as ever, which really adds to the pleasure. Unlike most, there is absolutely nothing pretentious about James Taylor and his show. This is as real as it gets, and James Taylors hearty personality shines through continuously. It's an evening of story through song that is endlessly captivating. "Mexico" and surprises such as a superb version of "Everyday". As an eighteen year old, Im proud to realise that its from showmen like this and the musicians that accompany, that I can hear and see timeless music with value and heart. Sadly, I had to take away one star because "Carolina In My Mind" and "Sweet Baby James" are two songs that are shamefully absent from this title - why?"