Alice in Chains: Unplugged review by Matt Fuerst


If you follow my column, and if your last name isn't Fuerst you probably don't, but if you did, you would know in a ">recent column I did the equivalent to a 60's hippie chick burning her bra, I digitally erased the existence of Blockbuster from my memory and signed up with NetFlix. Overjoyed with the range of selection, I spent an hour bumbling through their Musical DVD selection. While I wouldn't consider myself a fan of the Music DVD, much preferring movies and even TV shows, I was searching for something to tweak my fancy. Loe and behold I come across the gem amongst gems, Alice in Chains: Unplugged on DVD. Now, my DVD review is going to be biased, and I am going to admit it upfront: I consider the Alice in Chains: Unplugged CD to be the best CD in my rather miniscule collection. I was a pretty decent AIC fan pre-Unplugged, but their Unplugged performance really caught me off guard with it's quality.

I remembered watching the original showing of AIC Unplugged on MTV, but I also know that it was many moons ago. I was curious if the video would hold up as well as I remembered. The most important thing for a DVD of this type is the setlist, so let's get that out of the way... That said, it's the same setlist as the AIC: Unplugged CD, in the same order. However, the video is slightly under 80 minutes long. The CD is 70 some minutes, so on the DVD you're getting a few extra minutes of more candid between songs activity. Layne messes up the beginning of Sludge Factory, lets an F bomb fly, and the group has to start over. A few extra minutes of chatter surrounding the big controversy at the time, Metallica cutting their hair in the Load days, is hinted at. But for the most part, you're getting a very similar package to that of the CD. Which again, is a good thing since the DVD owns you, you don't own it. The DVD includes 3 songs that were not shown on the 60 minute television broadcast of Unplugged, so if the last time you saw or heard the show was during the original broadcast you will be in for a nice surprise with Frogs, Angry Chair and The Killer is Me (Angry Chair being the best of the new bunch).

All this being said, the producers and director of the show sure did enjoy a few too many lessons in the idea that quick cuts and swooping crane shots are good things. I would understand constant quick cuts if this was a DVD of "Americas Greatest Spaz Dance Hits" and I would understand swooping crane shot after crane shot if this was "Forrest Gump" but Alice in Chains Unplugged is neither. The band sits down and acoustically, their music can be described as melodic and harmonizing. Almost peaceful is not for the hard lyrical elements. That being said, the concert was filmed in 1996, so I chalk the video stylings to half due to it likely being en vogue at the time, and half due to the fact the same group of people probably filmed Kiss Unplugged or LL Cool J Unplugged the previous week. What probably would work fine there doesn't exactly fit in well enough here. We're never given enough time to really investigate and enjoy one particular performer before we are cut off to the next.

Being a DVD of an acoustical performance, the audio is an important feature. The disc includes a regular Stereo Dolby Digital track as well as a 5.1 Dolby Surround track. I used the 5.1 Dolby track on my home surround system and thought the sound was superb. I imagine some nerds out there hope for DTS tracks on Musical DVD's, but I have no complaints on the sound processing on the disc. The bass player in AIC plays a prominent role in their songs, especially so in their Unplugged performance, so make sure your woofer is turned on.

The DVD extras are pretty slim. There is a discography with some of the CD's including photos of the covers. There is a timeline that plays out like a Powerpoint presentation. You don't buy a DVD like this for the extras. The content itself is king in this circumstance, and I would consider it pretty lucky that this DVD was ever produced in general. Performers who I would think would draw bigger audiences have not have an Unplugged DVD of their performance produced, so I suggest we all cherish this gem.

9 out of 10 Jackasses
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