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Anchor Bay presents
Michael Nesmith: Live at the Britt (1992)

"What I'd like to sing for you tonight are a bunch of these bizarrely-titled tunes that I wrote post-Monkees, actually..."
- Michael Nesmith

Review By: Dale Dobson   
Published: April 01, 2001

Stars: Michael Nesmith
Other Stars: John Jorgenson, Red Rhodes, Joe Chemay, John Hobbs, Luis Conte
Director: Joshua White

Manufacturer: Crest National
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mild language)
Run Time: 01h:22m:58s
Release Date: March 13, 2001
UPC: 013131127096
Genre: music

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
D+ C+DB+ D-

DVD Review

Michael Nesmith: Live at the Britt captures ex-Monkee Michael Nesmith's 1992 performance on the concert stage at the 30th annual Britt Festival in Jacksonville, Oregon. Backed by a talented band featuring John Jorgenson on lead guitar, Red Rhodes on pedal steel, Joe Chemay on bass, John Hobbs on keyboards and Luis Conte on percussion, singer-songwriter Nesmith presents a collection of songs from his long career, including:

Two Different Roads
Papa Gene's Blues
Some of Shelly's Blues
Tomorrow and Me
The Upside of Good-bye
Harmony Constant
Silver Moon
5 Second Concerts
Yellow Butterfly
Moon Over the Rio Grande
Laugh Kills Lonesome
I Am Not That
Rising in Love
Different Drum

Michael Nesmith became known as an important film and video innovator after The Monkees went off the air—Elephant Parts, Repo Man, and Tapeheads all bear the Nesmith stamp to some degree. Nesmith's solo musical career fared less well—most of these tracks come from his recordings for RCA, which produced a number of albums but few strong sellers. Watching this concert DVD, it becomes apparent why this was the case.

First, let me say that there's no shame in a few bad songs. Nesmith is a talented guy, a genius in some respects. But talented people are often capable of doing just about anything passably well, and they have a hard time sorting out what they do best from the myriad things they can do. In this reviewer's opinion, Nesmith's songwriting is... mixed. His lyrics are often clever and intelligent, but they're a bit dry emotionally; worse, they don't always flow well to the ear, and the music and lyrics sometimes work at cross-purposes. His music is competent but derivative, with echoes of Harry Chapin, Gordon Lightfoot, Willie Nelson and Jimmy Buffett, and after a while it becomes difficult to distinguish one song from another. And there's a certain paucity of theme in evidence—most of Nesmith's tunes deal with lost loves and southwestern-themed visual moments, with little variety to distinguish Joanne from Juliana, or Moon Over the Rio Grande from Rio. It's not that there's anything really wrong with this material, but there's nothing really right with it, either. The music drifts through one's head, harmless but uninspired, and Nesmith's laid-back stage persona tends to reinforce that impression.

The staid video presentation is somehow even more disappointing, given Nesmith's creativity and background in the industry, but the approach certainly seems appropriate. Several cameras are in use at all times, and director Joshua White cuts predictably from one performer to another as necessary to catch solos and other highlights. I don't mean to suggest that MTV-style video gimmickry would have improved the situation, but the videotaped concert footage provides a conservative representation of the evening's events with little flair.

Michael Nesmith: Live at the Britt isn't all bad. Nesmith fans of any stripe will enjoy his casual comments to the audience, and those who come to this DVD with a liking for his music will certainly be pleased by this rare live performance. But I can't imagine it will bring many new converts to the fold.

Rating for Style: D+
Rating for Substance: C+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Michael Nesmith: Live at the Britt retains its original shot-on-video 1.33:1 full-frame aspect ratio, and the transfer exhibits most of the shortcomings of analog video. Edges are "enhanced" excessively, reds are blurry, scan-line "stairstepping" artifacts are abundant, and the entire presentation is soft and hazy. I'm sure Anchor Bay's DVD transfer is not at fault here, but the image quality is easily the weakest attribute of this disc.

Image Transfer Grade: D


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Anchor Bay presents this concert material in its original Dolby 2.0 Surround format as well as a new 5.1 mix engineered by the folks at Chace Digital. The crisp 5.1 mix actually sounds quite a bit better than the 2.0 mix, even though "gating" and other electronic enhancement and cleanup techniques were presumably employed in its creation. The rear surrounds are used primarily for "hall" ambience, with some nice split-surround audience effects between numbers, and the 5.1 mix sounds cleaner than the original 2.0 mix, which tends to collapse into the center channel and sounds better in simple stereo than in Dolby Surround mode. The 5.1 mix is noticeably brighter than the 2.0 mix, but I found myself preferring its broader soundstage and overall quality, no matter how artificial it may be. In any case, microphone placement and balance seem to have been handled well during the original recording, and the audio is easily the best element of this music disc.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 21 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 19 cues and remote access
Packaging: Alpha
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: This concert DVD is a rare bare-bones entry from Anchor Bay, with 21 text-menu chapter stops (of which 19 qualify as song stops), nicely designed full-motion menus and no real "extras" to speak of. Michael Nesmith has contributed to Anchor Bay commentary tracks as executive producer of Tapeheads and Repo Man, and it's surprising that this disc features no new interviews or other material. Perhaps he feels the material should stand on its own.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

Michael Nesmith: Live at the Britt presents the ex-Monkee in a casual concert environment, presenting a number of competent but uninspired songs from his long recording career. The video-mastered DVD suffers from poor image quality, though the remastered audio sounds just great. For "Nez" fans only.


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