Black Country Communion – ‘Live Over Europe’ DVD Review

One of the biggest questions to raise its head as you watch the exciting, cinematic opening of ‘live over Europe’, is whether there is, in fact, a home sound system big enough to match Glenn Hughes’ ever-burning ambition. Put together rather like a film than your standard music DVD, this double disc affair captures the intensity, excitement and raw power of Black Country Communion as they steamroller a path across Europe in the wake of their second album, and excitement is certainly at a premium. Each song here is captured in its best version, with the band members contributing nothing but solid gold and Kevin Shirley capturing the raw mix with just enough clarity to give the music a live edge without compromising in the bolstering power of a band in full flow on stage.

Opening with a brutal, ecstasy-inducing ‘Black Country’, the band’s anthem, Glenn’s instantly recognisable bass run soon takes second place to that spine-tingling cry of ‘I am a messenger… This is my prophecy…” unleashed with all the power and commitment of a berserker with his blood up. It’s a moment of incendiary power and, as anyone who saw BCC over the summer will testify, that power doesn’t ebb away until the last amp has been switched off and the band led far from the stage they’ve just laid waste to. An epic rendition of the melodic ‘one last soul’ is next with Glenn providing a restrained vocal allowing fellow band member Joe Bonamassa’s astounding guitar playing to take centre stage instead. A brief moment of calm then follows before the band unleash the funky, furious ‘crossfire’, a highlight from the second album and one in which you can see the passion and fire Glenn as for the music he is making in the here and now, the lithe bassist taking every opportunity to engage the crowd as he launches himself from one side of the stage to the other. Ever the consummate showman, there’s always the element of stagecraft in his effort but there’s also the close ups which allow for anyone interested to see the light and fire burning in the man’s eyes even from behind his tinted glasses and there’s no question that Glenn is having the time of his life in front of audiences whose enthusiasm borders on the rabid.

Another highlight of ‘2’ appears in the form of ‘save me’, a song that initially beguiles with its keyboard and vocal intro before a churning riff is unveiled and the band are on a collision course with the song’s devastatingly melodic and memorable chorus . Glenn’s voice, meanwhile, is still a thing of beauty. Raw, gritty, powerful and soulful the man captures hard rock, soul and the blues like few others can manage and as he belts out the high notes, resplendent in a stunning velvet jacket, you’re reminded exactly why he is one of rock’s finest front men. Not that this is just the Glenn Hughes show, Joe Bonamassa takes a gorgeous detour through the song’s instrumental latter stages, his solo fluid and engaging, whilst Jason Bonham’s driving rhythms and Derek Sherinian’s keyboard washes tie the whole thing together to perfection. Further re-enforcing the egalitarian nature of the band is ‘the battle for Hadrian’s wall’ a searing epic that gives Joe the chance to strap on a twin-necked guitar and take to the mic stand to deliver a lead vocal that carries a smoky bluesy quality to it that carries a lighter tone than Glenn’s oaky timbre. A highlight on ‘2’, the song is no less astonishing here, and as Derek’s organ stabs add light and colour to the Led Zeppelin III vibe on offer its hard not to be struck dumb by the sheer creativity of a band that has only been active since 2009. It is like a glorious return to the heady days of music where band’s would write and record albums atop a wave of creativity rather than responding to the dictates of a rapidly fading business and the result is that BCC feel fresh, unforced and exciting – all adjectives that could be used to describe the driving ‘beggarman’.

And so it goes, the DVD allowing for a generous 17 tracks representing the very cream of the band’s studio output as well as a cover of Deep Purple’s ‘burn’ thrown in for good measure. We’re soon at the mid-point, the mellow, gorgeous ‘song of yesterday’, once again featuring Joe on lead vocals for a moment of sublime calm (well, comparatively) amidst all the chaos they unleash on the other tracks here, particularly songs such as ”when the levee breaks’-referencing ‘the ballad of John Henry’, ‘the outsider’ and the overwhelming might of second album single ‘the man in the middle’ which is even heavier in its live incarnation than the already overwhelming album version.  That it leads straight into the classic ‘burn’ and yet sounds none-the-weaker is evidence enough of the power of BCC’s song-writing, and while it’s a fine rendition of a well-worn song, BCC’s material is so utterly powerful that it’d take a tidal wave to dislodge it.

Of course with Glenn Hughes taking great care to make sure his band is presented in the best possible light at all times, ‘live over Europe’ was always going to be a belter. Not only have the very best songs been chosen but the picture and audio quality is good enough for it to be considered as a reference title by which to judge others. On both DVD and Blu-ray the picture quality is pin-sharp whilst the audio options (stereo/DD 5.1 and DTS 5.1) offer the perfect listening experience. For this review we checked the DVD on both a 22” TV hooked up to a Philips stereo and a 32” with full DD 5.1 decoder and in both instances we failed to find a single fault with picture or sound with colour good and the camera work smooth and unpretentious. The sound mix is perfectly balanced and captures the band with admirable clarity and the DVD goes a fair way to representing the BCC live experience, although it doesn’t quite come close to the rapture of actually seeing the band, in the flesh, with the cheers of the audience surrounding you and the tidal wave of sound enveloping you as the band sweat and scream in front of you. Nonetheless, as a memento of the tour or as a trailer for the band’s next trip to these shores this is an unmissable event and a sterling reminder of the band’s awesome rock ‘n’ roll power. When you throw in the second disc which offers a making of and photo galleries of the band on tour and behind the scenes, you really do have a complete experience to indulge in. It seems a new standard in rock DVDs has been set.

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