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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

The DVD Experience (Summer 2007)

  • Andree Farias and Andy Argyrakis Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2007 1 Jan
  • COMMENTS
The DVD Experience (Summer 2007)

A veteran rock band bids farewell, while a classic gospel-pop quartet reunites. Plus, a red-hot hard rock act offers their first concert/documentary video. There's also a pair of live worship experiences, as well as a pair of American Idol-styled productions among the latest crop of DVD releases to the Christian market.

Audio Adrenaline | The Clark Sisters | Fred Hammond
Hillsong Live | Underoath | Gifted | Gospel Dream

Audio Adrenaline
Live From Hawaii: The Farewell Concert (Forefront/EMI)


The Good:
Sorry, Audio Adrenaline fans, this is indeed the final show. But at least it's a generally solid documentation of the event for those who couldn't make the trip to Hawaii (i.e. most people). The outdoor amphitheatre provides a brightly lit and lush setting for the career-spanning set list, touching on oldies like the rap infused "We're a Band" (featuring a fiery cameo by T-Bone) alongside newer guitar-driven rockers like "Clap Your Hands" and "Worldwide." Multiple cameras add to the excitement, covering just about every corner of the venue, yet capturing the intimacy during ballads like "Ocean's Floor." The "Aloha Adventure" documentary reflects on the band's farewell outing and hopeful causes, and the "Band Stories" segment is loaded with comical tales about past travels.

The Bad:
It's the final show! A primary reason for Audio A's disbandment is Mark Stuart's strained vocal chords, especially noticeable on signature hits "Big House" and "Hands and Feet," among others. He valiantly tries to compensate with an explosive stage presence, but these renditions just don't live up to previous videos and recordings.

The Bottom Line:
It's not a perfect swan song, but Live From Hawaii still generally serves as a worthwhile souvenir for fans, marking the end of Audio Adrenaline's impressive run.
—Andy Argyrakis

The Clark SistersLive—One Last Time (EMI Gospel)


The Good:
It's the legendary Clark Sisters, which means dazzling harmonies, semi-matching outfits, and classic gospel songwriting. The girls are having a blast, bopping to the beat, trading leads, and giving it all they got. And the backing band is tight, maintaining their poise at all times (even during moments when it sounds like a pre-recorded track is doing the playing).

The Bad:
Make no mistake—this is not the same reunion gala that was caught live on the near-perfect CD version of Live—One Last Time. Instead, it's a concert that first aired on the Gospel Music Channel's Front Row Live series. The video has a very low budget look, with lighting and camera transitions no different from those of a mini concert that would air on TBN or a simple morning talk show. Worse, some common television pitfalls are too noticeable: the sisters appear to be lip-synching on more than a few occasions, the channel logo is splashed in nearly every single shot, and (get this) the whole show is neatly wrapped up in exactly 60 minutes. No encores, no show-stopping performances, no special features.

The Bottom Line:
It's a delight to see the Sisters sharing the stage after more than a decade, but they're not given the royal treatment they deserve with this disappointing video production.
—Andree Farias

Fred Hammond
Free to Worship: Live at the Potter's House (Verity/Zomba Gospel)


The Good:
This is classic Fred, which means loads of stage energy, dynamic performances, and production values second-to-none. A lot of it is gospel praise at its finest. The band is in top form, the singers are on-point, and Hammond commands the proceedings like any temple worshipper would. Usually concerts captured in a church setting tend to look like, well, church services. Nevertheless, the producers did a good job editing the show and making this look like a concert film. Viewers will actually feel like part of the worship experience, rather than watching from the sidelines (or the living room couch).

The Bad:
The DVD menu looks rather cheap and simplistic. A couple of post-production tactics (like the sporadic stop-motion effect) tend to distract rather than enhance.

The Bottom Line:
Free to Worship is another winner in Hammond's long line of beloved concert recordings.
—Andree Farias

Hillsong LiveSaviour King (Hillsong/Integrity)


The Good:
After sixteen live recordings, viewers pretty much know what to expect here from Darlene Zschech and company: another well-produced, generally satisfying worship experience that corresponds with the CD of the same title. Filmed at Sydney's massive Acer Arena before 13,000 worshippers, the DVD showcases a massive corporate spectacle. Yet even with the mammoth space to fill, the worship leaders (and camera crew) do a faithful job capturing the energetic rockers while translating the ballads into personal time of prayer. For those wanting further insight into the messages behind the music, a special "Songwriting Blogs" segment interviews the writers of each tune.

The Bad:
It's very much a typical Hillsong DVD, and not much of a resource without any extras beyond the "Songwriting Blogs" segment (and the concert itself). How about fleshing out the worship team with behind-the-scenes footage and providing additional worship leader tools? And as with most worship videos, several screen shots zero in on clusters of worshippers, or more awkwardly, a single attendee with arms raised high, eyes closed, and mouth wide open. Considering the deeply personal nature of these moments, such extreme close-ups seem rather inappropriate, and definitely overused.

The Bottom Line:
Though rather skimpy and unremarkable, the latest Hillsong production captures the group's consistent worship experience to help bring viewers into an immediate place of praise.
— Andy Argyrakis

Underoath
777 (Solid State/Tooth & Nail)


The Good:
A band diary and concert recording all rolled into one, Underoath's first-ever DVD contains the band's much touted MySpace Secret Show, in which only a few hundred fans had the privilege of attending live the day Define the Great Line released. The show is brief but intense—an exciting testament to the group's rising star in emo-rock. As a bonus, viewers get a peek at the band's travels across the globe—not much to glean from this section, other than the boys' silliness, a few expressions of faith, and their fans' adoring appreciation for Underoath's everyday accessibility and down-to-earth attitude.

The Bad:
Not so much a con as much as a caution against those who prefer more civilized Christian rock: the band's fans can get quite rowdy, so some viewers might be put off by all the crowd-surfing and mosh-pit antics. As for the fans, more music would've made this short DVD much more satisfying.

The Bottom Line:
Equal parts documentary and concert DVD, 777 is a sobering and meaningful look at the life and times of one of the biggest bands in Christian rock.
—Andree Farias

Various ArtistsGifted: Season One (Sparrow/EMI)


The Good:
An amiable Brian Littrell hosts this small-time alternative to American Idol. The performances are the essence of this DVD, and for the most part, they're delivered convincingly. Particularly noteworthy is Nathan Wise's soulful take on "How Great Is Our God" and Brandon Kizer's lively reading of "Take You Back"—these guys are entertainers. The house band isn't remarkable, but it works just fine for the song selections, most of which are CCM staples and worship favorites.

The Bad:
The intro to the show's season finale is too overlong and chatty to warrant repeated listens. Even more tedious, there aren't many outtakes from the actual show (other hopeful contestants, rehearsals, bloopers)—just a lot of talking and interviews. And the actual viewing experience lacks the drama and pageantry of Idol. Even from an audience standpoint, people at the taping see, to go through the motions, never really rallying contestants to the finish line. Additionally, a few of the Christian pop songs seem out of character for some of the more soulful singers.

The Bottom Line:
If you absolutely need a wholesome substitute for Idol, spring for Gifted. Otherwise, just stick to the original.
—Andree Farias

Various ArtistsGospel Dream (Verity/Zomba Gospel)


The Good:
It's not actually the season finale for Gospel Dream, another Christian version of Idol, but rather a post-season concert recorded live at the About My Father's Business Conference in Indianapolis. The nine finalists all hold their own with their song selections—an assorted palette of gospel and Christian pop, given a fresh interpretation by Israel & New Breed producer Aaron Lindsey and his talented band. What's particularly nice about the recording is the interactions between the vocalists. Some of them sing alone, but all of them sing backup for each other—in groups or as part of duos/trios. When a singer is put on the spot and expected to harmonize like that, you know they've got what it takes.

The Bad:
Some contestants aren't given a lot of coaching in terms of stage presence, so they appear a little wooden while performing. A more celebratory, season-finale feel would've pushed the excitement level up a notch. Aside from a small feature on winner Brian Smith, there isn't much in terms of how the finalists got there. (An overview of the process would have been worthwhile. Plus, our own Andy Argyrakis served as one of the season's judges!)

The Bottom Line:
Christian pop and gospel come together on this extremely well-sung collection featuring some most promising new singers.
—Andree Farias

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