OH what bounteous times for Joy Division fans. As if the wonderful dramatisation of lead singer Ian Curtis’s life in Control wasn’t enough, now comes a similarly wonderful documentary about the Manchester band that bridged punk and dance in the 1980s.
As DVD Letterbox has previously expressed enthusiasm about Anton Corbijn’s feature film, I’ll be brief about Joy Division: A Documentary . ( See also review below.)
As Grant Gee’s doco says — through the voice of television host, club promoter and record label boss Tony Wilson — in the ’ 80s Manchester spawned a crucial cultural outpouring in terms of contemporary music.
Yet in many respects the story of the music and bands that sprang forth in the so- called Madchester period — including the Fall, New Order, the Happy Mondays and the Stone Roses — is as much about individual personalities as it is about the music. Gee recognises this and dwells at length on personalities such as Wilson and Joy Division members Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook.
Their entertaining banter and recollections drive this very watchable documentary. Typical of its contents is the reaction of members of a band called Warsaw ( which became Joy Division) to a 1976 performance by the Sex Pistols in a small trade hall in Castlefield.
Improbably, members of the Buzzcocks, Wilson, Simply Red’s Mick Hucknall and the Smiths’ Morrissey were also among the audience of less than 40 people, years before any of them made it big.
‘‘ I thought it was shite!’’ Hook says, laughing. Sumner remembers thinking, ‘‘ F . . king hell, I could just about do that.’’
So they did, and the world was a better place, as it is with the release of this rollicking documentary.
Now, when are the Smiths going to get this sort of doco and feature film treatment?
Time for a key change. Or time travel. The Steve Miller Band has released a concert DVD, Live From Chicago , and a beautifully appointed package it is, too, complete with CD. It was sheer boredom that prompted me to investigate it, plus an embarrassing urge to sing along to Abracadabra.
The live concert segment of the DVD market intrigues me mainly because so many bad concert DVDs are released.
The primary motivation to go to a concert is to take in the live experience.
Trying to replicate it at home with a shiny disc is foolhardy. And to try to replicate an experience that had its moment more than 20 years ago, as Steve and his mates do here, is fraught with danger and the risk of dislocated vertebrae.
But what would I know? Steve Miller Band: Live From Chicago entered the US Billboard charts at No 1 a few weeks ago.
The DVD is harmless stuff; that becomes clear in the opening scenes when we see middle- aged groovers drinking wine on their picnic rugs before the amphitheatre show. Ah, nostalgia, it is just as it used to be.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say that what those 40- somethings then saw was a listless concert, but I sensed my TV speakers were struggling to push any soundwaves as far as my couch.
This wasn’t U2 in 3- D at IMAX, which was a bit of a shame, considering Miller has quite a recognisable repertoire of soft rock tunes from the ’ 70s.
But what are you going to do after you give your act the blandest name in show business?
* * * DISC WATCH: So I Married an Axe Murderer ( Sony Pictures, M, $ 39.99) ONE of Mike Myers’s forgotten comedies gets the Blu- ray treatment. Not half bad, it features Anthony LaPaglia and comedian Steven Wright and was directed, improbably, by Aaron Sorkin’s producing maestro on The West Wing, Thomas Schlamme.
bodeym@ theaustralian. com. au
Harmless: Steve Miller, second left, and his band