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  • Full Frame
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • English: Linear PCM 2.0 Mono
  • Additional footage - Spare Reels film
  • Cast/crew biographies
Ben Folds Five - Sessions
Sony BMG/Sony BMG . R4 . COLOR . 115 mins . M . PAL


Ben Folds Five were darlings of the alternative rock scene in the mid-'90s, releasing a plethora of songs that would be familiar to anyone who's ever tuned their radios to Triple J. Their more popular tunes, like Brick and One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces, are probably even recognisable to listeners of those nasty commercial stations.

The American trio (!) formed in 1993, released their first album (self-titled) in 1995, and then really hit the big time with Whatever and Ever Amen two years later. Hits like Underground and Song for the Dumped saw their trademark piano-based rock stylings embraced by huge audiences, particularly in their homeland and Australia.

Their final album, The Unauthorised Biography of Reinhold Messner, came out in 1999 just before the band split. Ben Folds, the singer/pianist/songwriter, has since released two very decent albums.

Sessions at West 54th is a televised concert taken from the US show of the same name. It's a 15 song collection culled from their first two albums, along with one cut from their at-the-time forthcoming third album.

It's a fine performance, but the nature of the show - cramped stage, no real visual stimulation in the way of sets, lighting or pyrotechnics, and a subdued audience - doesn't particularly lend itself to extended viewing. Perhaps Live at Sessions at West 54th is best watched a few songs at a time.


The best and biggest extra is additional footage in the form of Spare Reels, a forty-five minute compilation of songs, interviews and other assorted weirdness. There are eight songs, most of which are also in the main feature, performed at various venues around the world. Of particular note to Aussie viewers are an interview from the now-defunct Recovery, and a Triple J Live at the Wireless rendition of Brick.

There's also a text biography, which is really just two press releases for the second and third albums.

The video quality is, as you'd expect, somewhat variable... the main feature is decent (if a bit soft), but some of Spare Reels is quite grainy. Still, that's not a real niggle (it is shot mostly on video), just an observation...

Audio fares better with a sweet Dolby 5.1 mix that, whilst not straining your system to the limit (these performances are low on technical trickery), works just fine.

All up, this is a decent concert performance bundled with an entertaining road film that is actually more interesting then the main feature. Fans will get a kick out of this disc, although it won't convert anyone else. A good effort from the folks at Sony.

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  •   And I quote...
    "...a decent concert performance bundled with an entertaining road film that is actually more interesting then the main feature. Fans will get a kick out of this disc..."
    - Terry Oberg
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Palsonic DVD3000
    • Receiver:
    • Speakers:
    • Centre Speaker:
    • Surrounds:
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    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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