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Koch Vision presents
Soundstage Presents Michael McDonald: Live in Concert (2004)

"Soundstage is a show that we did 25 years ago with The Doobie Brothers, and for us to come back all these years later and still be continent is a big plus for us."
- Michael McDonald

Review By: Jeff Rosado  
Published: October 04, 2004

Stars: Michael McDonald (lead vocals, electric and grand pianos), Patrick Simmons (lead guitar, vocals), Tom Johnston (rhythm guitar, vocals), Nikolas Ashford (vocals), Valerie Simpson (vocals)
Other Stars: Bernie Chiaravalle (lead guitar, vocals), Vince Denham (sax, keyboards), Yvette "Baby Girl" Preyer (drums, percussion, vocals), Pat Coil (keyboards), Lanice Morrison (bass, vocals), Francine Smith, Simbryl Whittington, Yvonne Gage (backing vocals)
Director: Joe Thomas

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 00h:54m:42s
Release Date: October 05, 2004
UPC: 741952624592
Genre: rock

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

For those of you wide-ranging music lovers that came of age in the 1970s like myself, what an exciting time it was when your favorite artist or band showcased their tunes on the myriad of performance shows that graced the tube back then. Supplementing old standbys like American Bandstand and Souuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuullllll Train were Burt Sugarman's Midnight Special, Don Kirshner's Rock Concert and ABC's In Concert; all three of the latter were godsends for, unlike the lip sync routines of Don and Dick's dance party shows, most of the acts were 100% live.

In the middle of the decade came PBS's contribution to the genre, Soundstage, which to me was the absolute best of the lot (although their often country-flavored Austin City Limits ranks as a very close second). No commercials, no annoying hosts, just 58 minutes of pure performance. It was here that I discovered how Cheap Trick's colorful stage persona complimented their music. On another installment, Barry Manilow received a showcase that proved there was more to this pop craftsman than AM radio-ready hits (I heard I Am Your Child years before it made Murphy Brown viewers weep in one memorable sequence). But my all-time favorite edition of the show thrust the spotlight on my favorite rock band at the time—The Doobie Brothers—and during a very pivotal period in that group's existence, too.

A short time before they took to the Chicago stage (where Soundtage was produced), original rhythm guitarist Tom Johnston had to take a leave of absence due to health-related issues. Usher in Michael McDonald, a soft-spoken, musically brilliant 24-year-old kid from St. Louis who had slowly been building a reputation as one of L.A.'s most talented session/concert sideman performers with recent stints with Steely Dan amongst his impressive credentials. Upon the completion of the Brothers' Stampede tour, the band initiated their new recruit on tape during sessions for their sixth album, and one of his first contributions was so impressive, it became the title track: Takin' It to the Streets.

A Top 20 hit (achieving Top 10 status in many local markets), it kicked off a seven-year tour of duty with the San Jose rockers that resulted in some of their biggest successes to date including the Grammy-nominated Minute by Minute in which McDonald's jazz and soul influences received their best showcase. (Although as many long time fans know, traces of these styles had long been evident in the band's musical make-up before he arrived, along with dashes of folk and bluegrass, a key factor in why their back catalog has continued to endure through the years).

Following the Doobs un-jointing, McDonald's solo career got off to a grand start with the dual triumphs of If That's What It Takes and I Keep Forgettin' (Every Time You're Near), the album's first single. In years to come, other memorable singles (Sweet Freedom, No Lookin' Back) including classic duets with Patti LaBelle and James Ingram (On My Own and Yah Mo B There, respectively) and impressive side projects (The New York Rock and Soul Review for one, reuniting him with old Steely Dan bandmate Donald Fagen).

In 2003, McDonald went back to his musical roots releasing Motown, a collection of his favorite classic soul songs that emerged from Berry Gordyis Detroit-based label. Happily, the albumis debut coincided with PBSi revival of Soundstage, and once more a perfect marriage of artist and television transpires in Michael McDonald in Concert, another 50-plus minutes of commercial free magic.

Although grayer than Charlie Rich at his peak, McDonald's voice is blessed with the fountain of youth; he sounds arguably better than his salad days with that same yearning cry to his voice completely intact and put to good use in memorable takes of Doobie-era faves (a funky It Keeps You Runnin'), the best of his solo smashes (Forgettin' whose extended coda showcases great solos from organist Pat Coil hammering away like MG Booker T. and guitarist Bernie Chiaravalle's rocking riffs that recall McDonald's Doobie Brothers collaborator Pat Simmons), a memorable mid-set guest appearance from Motown songwriting legends Nikolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson (who must possess his and her matching Dorian Gray portraits in their basement... and they sound great, too) and a mini-Doobie reunion that brings together Simmons, Johnston, and McDonald for a half-hour of stone solid classics including Black Water, Take Me in Your Arms (Rock Me a Little While) (one of the best Motown covers ever) and the rousing ensemble finale that brings McDonald's career full circle, Takin' It to the Streets.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.66:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The visual whiz kids at the new and improved Soundstage put the definition in hi-def. After some 100-plus reviews, I don't know if I can find the verbage to justify how incredible this transfer appears to the naked eye. TV or stereo store folk reading along here? Slap this in for your next demo display and watch the gawkers materialize.

Image Transfer Grade: A+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Now, for the slight letdown part of our otherwise flawless overview. Though a pleasant enough mix in 5.1 form, the overall effect comes off as bland to my ears. Separation isn't as good as I'd hoped and there seemed to be more emphasis on highs rather than lows (although the 2.0 option fares better in this department). Also, I was disappointed in the lack of vibrancy during songs that feature an accompanying string section mixed to the point of near inaudibility (where's Motown production great Norman Whitfield when you need him?). Still, I feel most folks will be just fine with what's here, but as a line in the undeservedly obscure Doobie tune Nothin' But a Heartache goes, it's "something I'll get over."

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 11 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 12 cues and remote access
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Bonus Song (You Belong To Me)
  2. Text Interview/Meet The Band
  3. Discography/Backstage Pass
  4. Biography/Photo Gallery
  5. Soundstage Presents Chicago Sneak Preview (Hard Habit To Break, Saturday in the Park)
Extras Review: Mostly fluff, but the inclusion of a musical outtake from the special (McDonald's solo version of You Belong to Me; 03m:57s) is a keeper (although it's almost an easter egg hidden in the track list option menu) and the inclusion of two complete songs to plug Chicago's DVD incarnation of their recent Soundstage visit is a very nice plus. The only other extra worth noting is the well-designed Backstage Pass feature . It's a self-guided tour that shows you all the technical aspects of the revamped Soundstage set from stage measurements to the type of cameras utilized. Something you'll probably visit just once, but at least it's interesting reading/looking for those so inclined.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

One heck of a musical nostalgic tale, Soundstage Presents Michael McDonald-Live in Concert is more than worthy of a place in your life, or at least your DVD shelf.


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