Most music lovers will know that Ronnie Wood (AKA Ron Wood) is Keith Richards' guitar slinging sidekick (and hair apparent - pun intended) in The Rolling Stones, but few, if any, would have heard the man sing a lead vocal, and now I know why - he can't. But, the guy is a mighty fine guitarist and knows how to have a good time playing to others and what he lacks in vocal ability, he makes up for with an entertaining, musically pleasing show.
Recorded at London's Shepherd's Bush Empire in November 2001, it is a recent show, but the track selection covers his career from The Small Faces, a Stones song or two, and a handful of new songs from his fourth (!) solo album, Not For Beginners. This is the band's second ever gig, and while at times it shows, the potential is there for this group to become a very tight and funky bunch indeed. It is also quite a family affair, with the band boasting Wood's son, Jessie, on guitar, his daughter Leah on vocals, and his brother in law on vocals. Augmented by Jessie's mates, the average age of the band must be quite low, but all are competent musos.
The relatively large and noisy crowd seems to be having a good time, and the band certainly is. They are joined by special guests Andrea Corr and Slash (having another bad hair day - and what's with that hat?) and although no Corrs songs get a working over, they do run through a rather raucous Paradise City though mostly without vocals. The Stones Hey Negrita gets things underway, and the Small Faces' Stay With Me brings things to a rather jaunty end. Along the way, we are treated mostly to Wood originals and a few selected covers, but to hear the track Testify as listed on the back cover, well you'll need to go looking as it is hidden, and pressing 'Play' from the main menu is not enough to hear this track. Don't fret though, we have an easter egg page for those that need a little hint.
This DVD performance is only 62 minutes long, though the show itself almost certainly ran longer (even the back cover says 100 minutes, but alas...) as there is some evidence of editing, and the Stones' Miss You is offered as an audio only extra. Other numbers are featured and mentioned in the extras that are not included in the show, and Wood himself talks about the 140 minute first show in Dublin, so it's fairly likely a lot has been edited out. Perhaps they weren't up to standard or something?
While the whole thing has a family jam night feel and look, it is still musically enjoyable, and with enough familiar tunes to help you get involved. Wood is no singer (as I'm sure he'll tell you himself) but this should merely serve to encourage all us other vocal nobodies into having a go, or at least singing along. I have certainly heard worse from far more successful artists, and with the rest of the band all seeming to have some vocal ability, potential viewers can be sure that it is a good, fun show.
Rock and Roll Star
This Little Heart
What D’you Think?
Ohh La La
Am I Groovin’ You?
Testify (hidden track)
Far East Man
Stay With Me
This is a rather a good looking DVD that is generally clear and sharp, except when the stage is bathed under blue light, which is a lot of the time. Fortunately, there is also a lot of white light as well so the fuzziness of blue light is generally restricted to the very opening of the show.
The presented aspect ratio of 1.33:1 (full frame) is quite common for music DVDs, although that is changing. Colours are generally good and natural, and there is no evidence of noise of colour bleeding, except when the blue light floods the stage. There are some minor horizontal bands that can be seen during What D'you Think?, but they're brief and not distracting.
Black levels are fine but you won't see many of them, and shadow detail varies greatly depending on the stage lighting. Most action takes place under bright light so lack of detail in the shadows and backstage is not greatly missed. Neither are there artefacts to contend with and this is another spotless and clean transfer.
There is no layer change to disrupt proceedings.
Inexplicably, the front cover boasts a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack in white letters on a black-backed banner, and in smaller print on the back cover, yet the disc has no such soundtrack and only a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track is offered. It is quite good, with solid and supportive low-level sounds, and clean, clear trebles. All instruments are clearly audible, as are all vocals, as rough as they sometimes are.
There is noticeable separation of vocals and instruments, especially guitars. Ron Wood's crowd banter and vocals are almost always placed across the front speakers, with backing vocals placed left and right. Rear speakers are mainly used for the appreciative crowd and for some slight music spillage, but there are no audio tricks on offer. This is not a window rattler by any means, but the subwoofer makes infrequent appearances, and the sound is well mixed and balanced.
There are no problems with audio synchronisation.
There are one or two nice little extras on offer, the most interesting being a 21:26 minute pre- and post-gig backstage documentary called Not For Beginners. There is some fly-on-the-wall stuff a-la The Osbournes, and there is interview footage with Ron and the band, and some almost Spinal Tap moments. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. There is some music from the show and rehearsals included, but the camera microphone is in no way built to cope with such sound levels and the music in this extra is extremely distorted.
A clue that not all the gig is included comes in the form of Miss You Audio Track which as the title suggests is the band's version of the Stones classic, but accompanied by a cartoon like sketch and no other images. It too is only in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo.
This must be the first DVD I've ever seen where the end credits are included as an extra, but that's what the 1:32 minute Ron Wood Credits is, and nothing more.
Slightly different also is the Photo Gallery for it is 11 of Ron Wood's paintings displayed one at a time for your perusal.
Lastly there is the obligatory Umbrella Propaganda which is a text screen of four other Umbrella titles, Sunbury which may just have the worst audio and video ever released on DVD, Hendrix: Rainbow Bridge, Screaming Jay Hawkins: I Put A Spell On Me and Bill Wyman's Blues Odyssey, the review of which can be found here.
Oh, the inside of the slick (that's industry talk for the paper cover) mentions a Hidden Tracks but like me, you may have trouble finding it. See our easter egg page for tips on this and other hidden extras.
The biggest disappointment with this disc is the lack of a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio option as promised on the cover. Aside from that, it is still a DVD for fans only, and even Rolling Stones devotees are unlikely to wet themselves over this. However, it is not a bad show in itself, and lots of fun is being had by the band which is always important. Musically it is pretty good, the special guests are a nice touch, and there are just enough familiar tunes to maintain interest. You could do worse.