Monday, July 10, 2006

Beastie Boys's new concert video

The Beastie Boys are officially the 'coolest band in the world' (who am I to disagree with that?) and the one that has aged most gracefully in the public eye - the boys are all in their early 40s now but have managed to keep their street cred intact along the years. Their mixture of old-school rap music, urban street wear and good taste in their visual presentation is a combination that has kept the NEW YORK band safely on their iconic pedestal since they rose to fame in the 1980s. The Beastie Boys don't seem to ever put a foot wrong.

The documentary of their Madison Square Garden concert on 09 October 2004, Awesome; I Fuckin' Shot That , will further consolidate the Boys' status and probably raise the coolness stakes for them. You can't not like this celebration of digital do-it-yourself ethos here employed to give the audience an omnipresent point of view. Director Nathanial Hörnblowér (an alias for Beastie Boy Adam Yauch) gave 50 members of the audience small digital cameras to shoot the concert from where they were. Three days before the concert, the band posted a notice on their website inviting fans to sign up as shooters. These were selected according to the locations of their seats in the venue. The instructions they were given were very simple: start shooting when the band steps on stage.

The edited result of the vast footage material collected by the amateur camera-people is a paean to spontaneity and music fandom. Long shots, zoom-ins, shots of friends dancing in the aisles, singing along etc... create a feeling of realism and immediacy that conventional live concert films often fail to capture for focusing too much on the band and reducing the audience to a sea of heads shown in sweeping tracking shots.

It's true that the energy that you get on balance is not quite there at the beginning of the concert: it takes a quarter of an hour for the film to rev up; but that is also a reflection of the way the Boys build up the excitement slowly. They come across as a very generous act that gives a lot to the audience: beautifully designed stage pieces, guest appearances, lots of bantering with the crowd and superb musical craftsmanship. Their concert feels like a celebration of music and youthful energy, delivered with the high-spirited irreverence that characterises the Beastie Boys universe.

Unsurprisingly, a lot of editing and effects application went into the final film to create, as one of the shooters said, "something greater than the parts we filmed." Some of the effects are charmingly old-fashioned, caricatures of crude effects from the early 1980s. Special attention went into the sound, which is as polished as you would expect from a superstar band. Whether a fan or not of the Beastie Boys, Awesome; I Fuckin' Shot That is as a worthwhile piece of filmmaking, not just a record of a performance.

Awesome; I Fuckin' Shot That is released theatrically in the UK on 07/07/06. A DVD release follows on 24/07/06.

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