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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.78:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL 50.22)
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • English: DTS 5.1 Surround
  • English: Dolby Digital Stereo
  Subtitles
  • None
  Extras
  • Photo gallery - magazine covers
  • Animated menus
  • Behind the scenes footage - 40 min
  • Booklet
  • Multiple angle - on 6 songs
  • Web access
  • Discography - with audio

Muse - Hullabaloo

Taste Media/Festival Mushroom Records . R4 . COLOR . 91 mins . M15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

Itís not usually done like this. There are supposed to be rules. You release at least four albums, preferably a half dozen, and with the release of each one you head out on tour, traversing first the suburbs, then the country, than the world. You do it so much you canít remember why youíre doing it any more. You live out of boxes, and your home life is a van, a bus, a hotel room and a utilitarian concrete-floored bunker at the back of a stadium. Each album takes longer, because the only songs that get written while youíre on tour are songs about being on tour, and nobody likes a travelogue. You start playing ďgreatest hitsĒ shows. And then, only after all this, do you contemplate filming a concert for posterity and putting it out as a DVD and a double album or, if youíre if youíre seriously in the midst of global appeal, a feature film.

Muse is a band that doesnít seem especially interested in rules. After all, they break enough of them on their records. Sometimes lazily compared to the likes of Jeff Buckley and Radiohead, they actually sound like nothing else. The songs draw on sonic and songwriting influences diverse enough to fill a small book: itís like listening to a Wagner opera being slowly carbonised by a white-hot fuse, cut apart by blades, shot into space and then sung about in nostalgic yet strangely bitter ballads two decades hence. Or something like that. Songwriter, singer and multi-instrumentalist Matthew Bellamy lets fly with a voice that has the gobsmacking range and raw emotion of the late Billy MacKenzie atop a searing blast of skyscraper-sized rock music thatís equal parts pure punk, semi-detached nostalgia and lush, melody-rich indie. In other words Muse is, to you, whatever they mean from where youíre standing. Try doing that with a Holly Valance record.

With only two studio albums behind them - 1999ís eye-opening debut Showbiz and, two years later, the remarkable Origin Of Symmetry (arguably the best record of its year) Muse has hardly come to a point where itís cash-in time. But this band has always been a force of nature on the live stage. When they last played in Melbourne, the innocuous-looking three-piece band threw so much pure energy at the crowd that had sardined themselves into the relatively tiny Evelyn Hotel you had to keep checking to make sure they hadnít shifted the building into a different suburb through sheer force of will. Songs that already sparked furiously on record were impossibly exciting in their live incarnations, as though they had taken the audienceís energy on board and spat that out the speakers along with everything else. Live performance has always been a vital part of what Muse is and who they are - the songs donít just sound ďdifferentĒ live, they sound transformed. In a small room itís electric to be in front of it all; that the band can pull it off just as well in a stadium is remarkable. And thatís where Hullabaloo comes in.

Recorded in Paris in late October 2001 in front of a huge, euphoric crowd at Le Zenith, this 90-minute live video captures the excitement of a Muse show incredibly well - to the point, in fact, where watching from the safety of your lounge room becomes a visceral experience, the tension and aggression thatís bubbling away just over there on the screen seeming almost palpable at times.

Make no mistake, though, this isnít your garden-variety angry-men-with-guitars screamfest. Thereís anger here, but itís woven inside the songs themselves and delivered, intact, in the performances of them. But the idea that conveying white-hot emotion means playing your instrument like a Ritalin-deprived schoolkid and shredding layers of flesh off the back of your throat from all the primal screaming has no place here. Thereís energy to spare - and sure, Bellamy trashes a couple of guitars and uses drummer Dominic Howard as bowling practice at the end of the show - but this band plays as well live as they would if it was the only chance they had to get it onto tape in the studio. They just arc it up a little more for the occasion. They play very, very, very loud, but then, thatís how youíve been playing the records, right?

Director Matt Askem obviously understands where all this is coming from. Using digital video cameras of all persuasions he makes sure nothingís left uncovered. The usual crane shots, front-of stage and on-stage views, back-of-room wide shots and extreme close-ups are augmented here by more unconventional things. Miniature cameras are mounted on guitar necks and mike stands to bring the audience literally within spitting distance of whatís going on. People with consumer cameras roam the audience and capture the scale, spirit and excitement of the event. And armed with a mountain of footage, Askem cuts the whole thing together with wild abandon, regularly cutting two or three shots into a second. Edited on computer, the video is constantly screwed with - zoomed, paused, frame-repeated, colour-altered, processed beyond recognition or split-screened Woodstock-style. The stage lighting is used as a tool for creating images as much as anything else, and the end result of it all is the feel of the exuberant chaos of standing right there in the front, crushed against the barrier and trying to take it all in.

The generous track listing is not surprisingly biased towards Origin Of Symmetry - all but one of that albumís songs are included here (everything except Darkshines), while only half of Showbizís dozen make an appearance (and yes, they do the singles!) Thereís also three non-album songs, including widescreen opener Dead Star (which is also being released as a single). Unlike the companion audio CD, the DVD gives you the full show and contains eight more songs (fans will probably still want the audio release as well, though, for the second disc of b-sides and rarities). In order, the songs included here are:

  1. Dead Star
  2. Micro Cuts
  3. Citizen Erased
  4. Sunburn
  5. Showbiz
  6. Megalomania
  7. Uno
  8. Screenager
  9. Feeling Good
  10. Space Dementia
  11. In Your World
  12. Muscle Museum
  13. Cave
  14. New Born
  15. Hyper Music
  16. Agitated
  17. Unintended
  18. Plug In Baby
  19. Bliss

  Video
Contract

If your idea of the reason for DVD existing is so that you can look at pretty, razor-sharp, high resolution images lovingly photographed on 65mm by a team of experts, youíve just bought the wrong disc. Live rock concerts are all too often photographed as though they were period costume dramas, but not this one. Much of the camerawork here is spontaneous and handheld, and as mentioned above a variety of formats have been used to capture the show, which itself frequently uses extremes of stage lighting. The whole thing has then been edited with reckless abandon and a ton of digital processing. Putting this onto DVD was always going to be a challenge; the finished production has hyper-speed edits, rapid pans, zooms, colour and contrast changes, grain, video noise and a bevy of other things that can bring a DVD undone in seconds. The fact that there are no unintended video problems is nothing short of remarkable; London-based authoring house Metropolis, who are rather good at this DVD caper, have excelled themselves here.

Naturally presented in 16:9 enhanced widescreen at a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, the show is encoded at a suitably high bitrate and is flawlessly transferred to disc. We would have expected to see all kinds of DVD gremlins with material like this, but thereís not a problem in sight. Complaints about things such as edge enhancement are moot; this one looks like itís supposed to look.

The show is stored on a dual-layered disc, with the layer change placed between In Your World and Muscle Museum; unfortunately, like with most live concert discs, this means the crowd noise will be interrupted briefly depending on how fast your player is.

There are no subtitles for lyrics, which may bother some people who would rather read a gig than experience it.

  Audio
Contract

If you have a 5.1 surround sound system, prepare to be impressed. Offered in both Dolby Digital and DTS, the multichannel mix of Hullabaloo seems to have been done with the mission of putting you in the venue - and it succeeds superbly. The band is spread out across the three front channels, though in common with many current live discs the centre channel is used very modestly, mainly to aid in localisation of sounds. Matt Bellamyís lead vocals, for example, appear in all three channels but are firmly anchored to the centre (incidentally, some may think the vocals sound quite low in the mix at times; this appears to have been intentional). The subwoofer is used extensively but is extremely well controlled - this is certainly not the usual low-pass-filter excuse to make the room shake every time somebody breathes. This LFE track has been designed to give the kind of kick to the kick drum and the kind of feel-it-in-your-whole-body warmth to the bass guitar that youíd experience if you were actually at the show.

The front channel configuration helps that you-are-there realism, but the surrounds take it even further. The audienceís cheers, screams, mass outbreaks of singing and general chatter are of course very prominent in the rear channels, but thereís separate crowd noise in the front channels as well, giving you the instant feeling of standing right in the middle of the venue. Adding even more realism is some natural-sounding reverb on vocals and instruments in the surrounds, but if you listen closely youíll also hear that some things - mostly keyboards and sampled effects - have been deliberately, subtly placed at the back as well, though never obnoxiously enough to make you look around and wonder whoís playing at the back of the room.

The half-bitrate DTS track is mastered typically louder than the Dolby Digital one, and sounds noticeably nicer - it seems less compressed dynamically and offers cleaner top end, as well as a more prominent subwoofer. Oddly, the DTS surrounds are several decibels louder than their Dolby counterparts, and we had to wind surround volume down by 3dB to restore realism.

Thereís a stereo mix provided as well, encoded as a Dolby Digital 2.0 track, but you wonít want this unless youíre restricted to listening in stereo (downmixing the default DD 5.1 track works fine, but sub-bass is of course dropped from the mix in that case). Thereís a small audio dropout during the crowd noise between the first two songs on the stereo track only; this dropout also appears on the audio CD, which was obviously edited from the same master.

  Extras
Contract

Graced by some nicely-done 3D animated menus with full (and very active) 5.1 sound, this two-disc set is a little light in the extras department. The first disc contains only the main feature and its multi-angle content, while the second, single-layered disc offers a handful of bonuses but sadly doesnít include any of the bandís excellent music videos.

Multi-Angle: Six of the songs offer extra video streams encoded as extra ďanglesĒ, either one or two depending on the song. In most cases they provide alternate close-up footage, usually split-screened and often including extended views from the miniature cameras mounted on instruments. Because of the frantic nature of the main show, and because these extra angles are also quite heavily edited, itís not always easy to tell how much extra content is offered at any given moment. Certainly itís one of the more unconventional uses of multi-angle that weíve seen.

Extra Footage: 38 and a half minutes of Muse on tour, as taped on DV and pasted together by Tom Kirk. If youíve ever felt nostalgic for the days when bands used to relieve the boredom of touring by breaking stuff, getting drunk and being silly, youíll be pleased to know itís still being done and all the evidence youíll ever need is here. You also get to see the band fishing. This is all going to seem rather disjointed and pointless to some, but it actually works really well as a kind of video artwork, and certainly conveys the chaos of Museís time on the road in 2001. Thereís lots of fly-on-the-wall footage, and some of itís of extremely low quality, as youíd expect. A bit of processingís also been done at times here. Presented full-screen with stereo sound (complete with distortion and dropouts - donít be alarmed, itís supposed to be this way) the whole thing is soundtracked by songs from the companion audio releaseís b-sides disc.

Discography: An interactive discography (albums only, no singles) offering simple track listings of Showbiz, Origin Of Symmetry and Hullabaloo Soundtrack, with each song title linked to a good-length preview of the song itself. Newcomers to Muse who want to sample the studio albums will be well pleased.

Front Covers: Magazine front covers that have featured Muse: eleven from the UK, nine from France and a half dozen from the rest of the world. And none from Australia.

DVD-ROM: Just a single web page offering a link to the official Muse web site, this appears on both discs. If you donít have a DVD-ROM drive, donít worry - just use the link weíve provided over on the right!

  Overall  
Contract

If youíre sick of being a passive listener and observer with live recordings of rock music, Hullabaloo is a fine antidote - itíll put you in the audience and proceed to play with your head in the nicest possible way. Muse, always a compelling live band, are in superb form for the shows captured here and seem to feed off the rampant enthusiasm of the huge audience.

Expertly produced and flawlessly authored, this unconventional and visually innovative DVD is high on technical quality and, while a little short on extras considering its double-disc status, is way better value than the similarly-priced audio CD version. Highly recommended.


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      And I quote...
    "Itíll put you in the audience and proceed to play with your head in the nicest possible way..."
    - Anthony Horan
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Sony DVP-NS300
    • TV:
          Panasonic - The One
    • Receiver:
          Sony STR-DB870
    • Speakers:
          Klipsch Tangent 500
    • Centre Speaker:
          Panasonic
    • Surrounds:
          Jamo
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          Monster s-video
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