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Bad Religion | Live at the Palladium | review | dvd | Lollipop
Live at the Palladium (Epitaph)
by Tim Den
Gonna just go right into it, since it's pretty much pointless to talk about how influential and beloved Bad Religion are after their two decades of melodic punk goodness. So: Live at the Palladium, the band's first DVD in god knows how long (the only one that comes to mind is Along the Way, originally released in '89). It promises over two hours of music, and it delivers. Capturing the three-guitar line-up (including Mr. Brett, whose absence from years of touring means that his former solos/main parts are now handled by Brian Baker) over two nights at Hollywood Palladium, there are more hits here than a Barry Bonds steroid streak. Pretty much all the bases are covered with burning enthusiasm. The band clearly know that these moments are going down in history, thus giving their all the entire time. Guitarist Greg Hetson and bassist/backup vocalist Jay Bentley run around like madmen, Baker pulls out all the flashy histrionics (albeit too much sometimes), and vocalist Greg Graffin commands the stage with equal parts wit and ferocity. Kudos for not overdubbing mistakes/extra parts, for Live at the Palladium is a honest documentation of what Bad Religion sound like in the flesh. There are occasional absent harmonies, out of tune yells (not from Graffin, though: That man's pitch is perpetually perfect), and little bits of guitar smudges from the players running around... all essential ingredients to a worthy live recording (if only other bands were as truthful... Fuck that: If other bands were as tight and efficient as Bad Religion, they wouldn't need to overdub shit later). The sound is crisp and clear, the picture digitally flawless, and the electricity magnetic.
But, of course, I've got silly fanboy complaints.
1) The camera angles. I understand that the shows were shot with 10 cameras, but did the editor really need to switch camera angles every millisecond? No joke, it takes five, six songs before your eyes adjust to the speed of the camera switches. Sure, it creates the illusion of a real live show's chaotic atmosphere, but it also doesn't allow you to fully watch the band. I want to see Mr. Brett playing guitar for TWO SECONDS before another eight camera angles invade my field of vision! Not to mention the rapid jump cuts are often totally out of synch with the music. There are a busload of mismatches between what the musicians are doing and the song being played. Backups are being sung where there are none, solos are being shredded during drum fills, etc. Annoying! I thought only early '80s videos had bad synching...
2) The song choices. Though I can hardly fault them for sticking with favorites, I'm saddened to see that the band still favor throwaways like "Come Join Us" and "10 in 2010" over fantastic songs from the Brett-less era ("In So Many Ways," "Strange Denial," "New America," "Don't Sell Me Short"). Okay, so those were Bad Religion's "dark years" (as described by Graffin), but come on, there are still five years' worth of effort and perseverance in there that deserve some sort of recognition, especially since a few songs are indeed great. I'd be happy with just "Believe It" added into the set!
3) The interview segments. Far from being "in-depth," they offer little more than what we already know about the band. As a long-time fan, I wanted more dirt on past recording sessions, specific song inspirations, ex-members, etc., not just blanket statements that overview a 20-year career in one fell swoop. Granted, that might've taken an additional disc, but who would complain? This is Bad Religion, after all: They've got a rich history and, I'm sure, more than enough stories to tell.
4) Drummer Brooks Wackerman's handling of the older material. Infamous for overplaying the likes of "Generator" and "Anesthesia," he reins himself in more than usual here, but still not enough. You don't need to fill 'til the end of the earth all the time!
Otherwise, Live at the Palladium is an absolute joy. What's great is that it also includes short interviews with fans old and young, seasoned and new. It's obvious that Bad Religion are becoming a timeless institution whose powers know no boundaries of age, and deservedly so, cuz the band have penned some of the best folk songs of our time. These are our anthems, these are our voices set to music. And with Live at the Palladium, you get to celebrate with the masters gloriously.
Also included are two TV performances from the early '80s and six music videos. Hilarious how stereotypically, obliviously "punk" these guys were in their youth. For some reason, I always imagined Brett and Graffin as hyper-intelligent mohawks, even as kids. Apparently, they were just like the rest of us as teenagers!