|Pat Benatar - Live From the Front Row|
|Music Disc Reviews DVD-Audio|
|Written by Tim Hart|
|Tuesday, 25 March 2003|
Pat Benatar’s From The Front Row Live was captured in 1981 for the infamous King Biscuit Flower Hour. The recording was previously released by King Biscuit on CD in 2001 and, with King Biscuit’s permission, Silverline was able to license and use these same tapes for the 5.1 96kHz/24-bit surround mixes on this DVD-Audio disc. Whoever did the recording had the sense to use multi-track gear to capture this jewel of a performance, which made it easier to separate out the tracks for this 5.1 disc.
Recorded at the University of Texas’ Frank Erwin Center in Austin, this performance has great energy. Benatar’s voice never misses a beat, and that’s saying a lot, as her vocal style is loud and intense. To maintain that level of singing, you would expect her to waver from time to time during extreme notes, but I never heard her falter. “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” opens the set with instrument placement in the front three speakers, with guitar towards the left, Benatar’s vocals in the center and slightly back along with bass and drums, and rhythm guitar to the right. Crowd noise is relegated to the front speakers as well, leaving only ambience and some crowd noise for the rear channels. The sound is stripped down to the basics, but feels right with this approach.
Benatar belts out her version of “I Need A Lover” with every ounce of her small stature. The sound definitely benefits from the larger bandwidth, but it is not pristine and not all that the format can provide. What it does do is give the listener a better sound quality than you would get from CD, and the performance is the best part of this DVD-A. The band is tight and on the money.
“Helter Skelter” is blistering. Neil Geraldo’s guitar work is over the top, and Benatar’s voice hits a few notes I didn’t know she was capable of reaching. This tune has a good low-end driving rhythm that typifies most of the tune’s impact on the listener.
Benatar amply demonstrates her range on “We Live For Love,” accurately hitting all of the high notes without any noticeable strain, maintaining the same high levels she gives most of her other lyrics.
The opening jam prior to “In The Heat Of The Night” segues perfectly into the tune, and deftly achieves the mood transition from the previous song to this one. The bass and drumming on this tune sound very good, and the guitar work has the audience captured 100%, as you don’t hear any crowd noise in the quiet parts of the song. This is one of my favorites on this disc.
“You Better Run” highlights Geraldo’s guitar prowess, not so much in how many notes he can hit, but rather in the deftness and sure-handedness of his playing, accompanying Benatar’s voice with Scott St. Clair Sheet’s slide rhythm. The tune “Promises In The Dark” is belted out in Benatar’s sometimes gravelly voice with authority, hitting some really high notes along the way. The band plays this then-new live tune as if it had been on their repertoire for a long time.
After listening to Benatar crank out “Hell Is For Children,” I felt like she should take a break to give her voice a rest, but she then tears into “Heartbreaker” and seems none the worse for wear, hitting the high notes with control and then easily screaming out the other vocals with equal aplomb.
I love the opening to “Precious Time.” The ambience comes through really well, capturing the nuance of the venue, along with the hushed crowd seemingly hanging on every note (at least I was, and I don’t think I was the only one).
While the disc will play on standard DVD payers, the sound quality suffers. The differences I heard were not trivial. The packaging, as mentioned before, is minimal and doesn’t include much besides the track list, with no liner notes to be found. I couldn’t even find info on the event or the venue name. The trusty Internet came to my rescue in discovering where the band played this performance. The onscreen text credits highlight the songwriting and copyright info for each track, as well as listing the folks behind the DVD-Audio release, each track is accompanied by a photo of a band member, and that’s about it. But I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised by the performance and, while the sound is not top of the game, it is still very good, and does a good job capturing all of the energy of the performance. This album is a must-own for true fans and a good choice as a way to truly see what a great band Benatar and Co. are.