Glass Hammer - Live At Belmont


Year of Release: 2006
Label: Arion Records/Sound Resources
Catalog Number: SR-1726
Format: DVD
Total Time: 175:00:00

Glass Hammer's new DVD documents their performance at the "Past Watchful Dragons": Fantasy and Faith in the World of C. S. Lewis convention held on November 5, 2005 at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. Included in the day's activities was also a performance by Salem Hill - Salem Hill's vocalist Carl Groves did singing duties for Glass Hammer as well. The set includes 9 tracks, mostly from the then upcoming release The Inconsolable Secret, but also including "Run Lissette" and "Farewell To Shadowlands" from Shadowlands and "One King" from Lex Rex. Joining Glass Hammer -- Steve Babb (bass, vocals), Fred Schendel (keys, vocals), Michael Mendians (drums, percussion), David Wallimann (electric guitar), Eric Parker (acoustic and steel guitars), Flo Paris, Bethany Warren and Susie Bogdanowicz (vocals) -- on stage are the Adonia String Trio (Rebecca James, violin; Susan Hawkins - viola; and Rachel Hackenberger, cello) and, for the last part of the performance, the 150 members of Belmont University choir.

The band are in fine form; Groves, as stand-in for Walter Moore, does an excellent job with the material. You can see that both Babb and Schendel are enjoying themselves being up there. Though it isn't said - or I missed it being said (somewhere in the bonus features), I gather that Babb and/or Schendel and/or Warren attended Belmont. During the bonus feature "Slide Show With Commentary," Warren makes a comment about the choirmaster that suggests she (Warren) had been a student of the choirmaster's Anyway, this segment is amusing, sometimes for the comments about the pictures, but more often about the verbal interplay between the three. We'll get to the other bonus material later.

So, the attendees of this convention were treated to a very good Glass Hammer show, which, because GH are mainly a studio band, are few and far between. This performance was also the live debut for new guitarist Wallimann. I won't review the songs themselves, as I'll save that for my review of ICS (and you can read my opinions already on the other two represented albums), but the performance of these are solid.

However. Yes, I'm afraid there are some "howevers" here. Firstly, sometimes it is hard to make out what Groves and the gals are singing, and since this is new material (both for me and the audience) ... well, I guess the audio needed to be clearer. But fine tuning your TV audio and/or your ears, should fix that. Overall, the sound quality is good (though even better would be better).

What is most distracting is the cinematography. I don't know if DV8, the company that filmed the show, are college students learning the trade or well-trained professionals, but the result suggests the former. In fact, if this were broadcast on local access, you'd think it was from your local college or high school and filmed by film students (again, maybe it was); it has that kind of "home-made" feel. There are way too many quick and dizzying zooms; shots aren't steady, as you would expect from a seasoned crew. Now, if the goal was to give you the feel that you were there, filming this concert yourself on a consumer handheld vidcam, then you do get that - if you could be in several places at once - with high-quality resolution. The blurb at the GH website for this DVD release reads: "Live at Belmont delivers an experience that transports the viewer right to the front row of a magical live performance...." Magical, yes; as I said, the performance is quite good. Front row? Well, not quite. Sometimes, yes, sometimes way at the back, sometimes upper left... so on and so on. Though multiple angles are great; you do get great coverage of the whole stage and everyone is featured.

However... yes, that word again... I?m not sure who assembled the pieces together - whether that was also DV8 and Babb mixed the sound or what, but there are far too many quick cuts. Combine that with the zooming and it makes for a very disconcerting experience... Not exactly like you are jacked up on caffeine (or whatever), but still, no shot lingers as long as it should (although things get smoother towards the end of the DVD). Plus, sometimes, when someone is soloing, the cut to that person is a second or two delayed. If this were a live broadcast that were watching, that would make some sense, especially if there was no direction given to the camera director. But, with something assembled in post-production, you'd know when that guitar or keyboard solo was going to begin and the shot would begin within split seconds of the start...

We also get some shots that start out of focus and then resolve... and it's not done as a special effect. In fact, there are no special effects but once, when Groves and Bogdanowicz duet. Then we get an interesting split screen effect with a soft-focus bleed. Special effects aren't needed, mind, but just don't expect any. And, there are a few occasions where the sound is out of sync, most noticeable on the vocals.

Bonus features: in addition to that mentioned above, there are two slide shows that are accompanied by 5.1 mixes of two songs: "Tales Of The Great Wars" (this includes a lot from their NEARfest 2003 performance, among others) and "Lirazel"; plus there's behind the scenes video, video of the rehearsal with the choir, a short video taking three of Glass Hammer's 2003 performances and blending them together, starting in a small, crammed coffee house (or even someone's house) and finishing up at NEARfest 2003. Plus, there's the trailer for this very DVD.

So... if you are a devoted Glass Hammer fan, you probably already pre-ordered this and are now watching, forming your own assessment. If you are a fan, but not sure if you want to buy it, I'd say go ahead. The performance itself is great and once you've watched the DVD once, you can always just listen to the audio after that (there's not a separate audio disk, you'll just have to close your eyes). If you are new to Glass Hammer, I still recommend it with the caveat that the proof of the band is in how they sound and play together, not how someone films them. And yes, you do get the feeling of being there, more as disembodied sprite than front row fan.

Speaking of fans, in a quick shot of the audience (and I do mean quick), you'll catch a glimpse of prog fan extraordinaire Stephen Ellis (sans kilt) giving the performance the applause it deserved...

The overall performance is 4.25/5; the overall DVD production is 2.75/5, for a combined rating of: 3.5/5


Tracklisting:
Disc One: Long And Long Ago / One King / Run Lissette / Farewell To Shadowlands / Through The Glass Darkly / Knight Of The North / When We Were Young / Having Caught A Glimpse / Heroes And Dragons

Disc Two: Tales Of The Great Wars - 5.1 Surroundsound Remix / Lirazel - 5.1 Surroundsound Remix / Slide Show With Commentary / Behind The Scenes Video / Rehearsal Video / 2003 Concert Appearances Video / Live At Belmont Trailer

Musicians:
Steve Babb - bass, vocals
Fred Schendel -?keyboards, vocals
Matt Mendians -?drums
David Wallimann -?electric guitar
Carl Groves -?vocals
Susie Bogdanowicz -?vocals
Bethany Warren -?vocals
Flo Paris -?vocals
Eric Parker - acoustic guitar and steel guitar

Guests:

The Adonia String Trio: Rebecca James - violin; Susan Hawkins - viola; and Rachel Hackenberger - cello
Belmont University Choir

Discography:
Journey To The Dunadan (1994)
Perelandra (1996)
Live And Revived (1997)
On To Evermore (1997)
Chronometree (2000)
The Middle Earth Album (2001)
Lex Rex (2002)
Shadowlands (2004)
Live At NEARFest (2004)
The Inconsolable Secret (2005)
Culture Of Ascent (2007)
Three Cheers For The Broken-hearted (2009)
If (2010)
One (via GH only) (2010)
Cor Cordium (2011)
Perilous (2012)
The Inconsolable Secret (Deluxe Edition) (2013)
Ode To Echo (2014)
Breaking Of The World (2015)
Double Live (2015)
Valkyrie (2016)

Lex Live (DVD) (2004)
Live At Belmont (DVD) (2006)
Live At The Tivoli (DVD) (2008)

Genre: Symphonic Prog

Origin US

Added: May 29th 2006
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Score:
Artist website: www.glasshammer.com
Hits: 928
Language: english

  

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