Tuesday, November 25, 2014
MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: BIG STAR - LIVE IN MEMPHIS (DVD)
A lot happened in the twenty years between Big Star's formation and this live concert. The previously-unheralded band had gone from unknowns to semi-knowns, at least, certainly cult status. The general public still didn't have a clue who they were, but there was at least a bunch of music heads who worshiped their legacy. But there was no indication a reformation could happen.
These days, somebody would throw a million-dollar tour offer at them, especially after the theme song success of In The Street from That 70's Show. But back in 1993, it was a faint-hope request from a University carnival organizer that got Alex Chilton to reform the group, with original drummer Jody Stephens, and super fans Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer (The Posies) deputizing for the late Chris Bell and Andy Hummel. That first reunion was released as a live CD at the time, and now comes this unseen video from a year later, out for the first time. It comes from a club show in Memphis, the band's home town, after the new version of Big Star had some further shows and a little more practice under their collective belt.
There are lots of smiles from Chilton and Stephens, playing before friends and family, now seeing that the band meant something after all. The Big Star experience had been one of frustration and heartbreak for them, with so much great music gone to waste. Now they returned as heroes. The Posies boys seem a little nervous, knowing how significant the show is, but their playing is stellar, and it's a great night for two guitar power pop.
Chilton is helped out in the vocal department with Stephens handling a couple, and Auer chiming in as well, taking the lead on the Chris Bell solo favourite I Am The Cosmos. But really, it's Chilton's night, shining on gems such as September Gurls, The Ballad Of El Goodo and Feel. It's a tight, 90-minute set, padded only a little with The Kinks number Till The End Of The Day and Todd Rundgren's Slut. There's no sloppiness though; Chilton took the night seriously for sure, even if he was, reportedly, not really in love with the songs. He said words to that effect often, but I have my doubts. He looks pretty pleased and maybe even proud here. And he allowed the show to go on. Big Star would record a new album in 2005 (In Space) and stay an active touring outfit until Chilton's death in 2010.