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Image Entertainment presents
"The reason I like what I'm doing is that I never know what's coming next."
DVD ReviewThe first thing you probably need to realize is that this is not a solo concert disc featuring former Squeeze frontman Glenn Tilbrook, who toured the states in an RV with an acoustic guitar, crooning hits like Tempted and Black Coffee in Bed. Yes, there are chunks of Tilbrook performing live—strumming madly like a crazed troubador—but those moments are not the main attraction here, and if you get over that initial hurdle then the fun of this documentary will be instantly more accessible. This is a documentary, almost a fanumentary, shot by Ohio native and self-professed rabid Squeeze fan Amy Pickard in 2002 as Tilbrook made his quirky one-man trek from Maryland to California.
Pickard, whose early public access music show in Dayton originally hooked her up with Tilbrook, is understandably giddy (almost too much so in spots) as she gets to follow along with one of her rock idols. I can certainly relate to the coolness that Pickard must have felt to go all inner circle with a musician she was a huge fan of, but there is a balancing act early on of whether this was going to be about her filming Tilbrook, or about Tilbrook on tour. Her effusive presence does get moved to the periphery, and she gives us a look at a rock star facing middle age looking for a novel way to connect with his fanbase.
There are Tilbrook live solo acoustic songs captured here, but again, this isn't a concert disc, and it's rare when a song is played in its entirety. It's really a case of up-close-and-personal time, with Pickard tagging along with Tilbrook from coast to coast. Tilbrook experiences a batch of logistical headaches along the way, including some constant motor home repairs and cell phone problems, but we also see him shopping at Target for the first time. A friendly chat with some fans (who understandably didn't recognize him at first) at an RV park is one of those connecting moments that it seems he was shooting for with the one-man tour idea, and during one of his concerts he leads the audience outside and into the nearby home of a fan to play a few songs. That spontaneous living room concert is a very neat rock moment, the rare kind of intimate encounter between musician and fans, and Tilbrook seems to be enjoying every minute of it as much as the audience.
And as a marketing tool for subsequent Tilbrook solo acoustic tours, this is actually a great piece of work, The concerts look like a hell of a lot of fun, very casual affairs with sing-alongs and audience participation that match the well-crafted pop friendliness of songs like Is That Love, Another Nail in My Heart and Goodbye Girl. Tilbrook plays an open, affable host, and he seems to understand the necessary evolutionary passage from international rock star to 40-something songwriter without a band (Squeeze dissolved in 1998) looking to reestablish those deep roots in a different, but personal way. Amy Pickard gets up close, and shows us the softspoken Tilbrook doing just that.
Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B
Image Transfer Review: Image quality looks like what you would anticipate from a doc shot with a handheld, but the transfer is in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen so that somehow seems to weaken the bad parts a bit. Yes, it is an on-location documentary, so the rough spots where an opportune moment appeared play alongside segments shot under more controlled situations. Clarity varies from setting to setting, with outdoor night scenes looking least pleasant and most grainy, but these limitations are not wholly unexpected. The transfer is never exceptionally sharp at any time, but there is a vague consistency of sorts here.
Image Transfer Grade: B-
Audio Transfer Review: If you get past any preconceptions that you may have had that this is a music DVD, then the 2.0 stereo track won't seem so initially lackluster. It's a documentary about a musician, largely shot on shaky handheld cameras with recording quality varying by location, and the voice clarity is generally discernible throughout. There is some clipping in spots, and the snippets of Tilbrook performances are unfortunately not always clean or distortion free.
Audio Transfer Grade: B-
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Scene Access with 35 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by Amy Pickard, Glenn Tilbrook
Extras Review: The extras here should no doubt warm the flashback cockles of Difford/Tilbrook fans, as Image has included Amy's 1991 Squeeze Interview for Dayton, OH Public Access Show (25m:16s), in which Amy Pickard chats with the songwriting team of Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford. The video quality is pretty fuzzy, but the two Squeeze-sters chat it up nicely, and it's interesting listening to Tilbrook knowing in reality he's ten years from touring solo in an RV.
Also included is a lengthy 2001 Chris Difford Interview (48m:03s), with Pickard corralling a slightly bored-looking Difford who talks of the changes when everyone has turned "fatter, balder and older", and still manages to lay out some telling tales amidst Pickard's shaky camera work. The Tokyo Screening Q&A August 2005 (12m:55s) segment has a shaggy-haired Tilbrook fielding genial questions from an excited Japanese audience; sound quality here leaves a little to be desired, but it's workable.
There are two commentary tracks, and while one probably would have sufficed, we get a pair. The first is a solo track with Amy Pickard, and has her delving in more detail into the origins of the project. She talks about IM'ing Tilbrook, and thinking his RV tour idea reeked of "white trash," and essentially spends most of the time filling in some of the logistical cracks in documenting the tour. Hardly essential listening, but Pickard seems genuinely excited about working with one of her rock idols, so there's an envy factor there that makes me a bit jealous. A second commentary hooks up Pickard as the moderator for Tilbrook, who admits to needing some prodding here and there. I prefer this over the solo Pickard commentary, and this track more or less serves as a semi-companion to the feature, with Tilbrook addressing the middle-age evolution of a musician. The downside is that both tracks have sketchy audio quality, and it sounds as if it were recorded standing seven feet away from a Mr. Microphone.
The disc is cut into a hefty 35 chapters, with optional English subtitles.
Extras Grade: B
Final CommentsFormer Squeeze frontman Glenn Tilbrook goes minimalist as witnessed by this solo acoustic RV tour of the States, and from the looks of things he had a fun time doing it.
Here's a somewhat different look at rock touring, interesting on its own, but certianly worth a look for Squeeze fans.
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