Humphrey's By The Bay in San Diego has, over the years, built quite a reputation in the American music scene as a great venue offering shows (with or without dinner) in a variety of packages. The roster of artists that have played there is quite impressive, and this year alone has seen tickets on sale for artists as popular as Chris Isaak, The Corrs, Macy Gray and Jewel, who will make a return to Humphrey’s in June, echoing the acoustic shows from 2001 that form the basis of this DVD, Jewel - Live at Humphrey’s By the Bay.
The two shows were filmed to make this DVD and showcase songs from her early albums, and what was to be her next album, This Way. Having now sold 25 million albums, and riding high in the charts with her current release (and a real change of direction it must be pointed out), this DVD is a chance to see Jewel perform her earlier material in an intimate setting.
Playing solo acoustically for a little over half the show, her band join her to round out the gig. The cover boasts an 87-minute show, but the reality is that the featured performance lasts just under an hour. There is a decent selection of well-known hits, some rare gems and tracks that would soon be familiar to her fans.
The award-winning singer/songwriter is well respected for her insightful lyrics that read like poetry. Her delivery is passionate and heartfelt. Jewel's songs sound great when played just to acoustic guitar, and prove she is still down-to-earth enough to have a bit of a laugh at herself.
Per La Gloria D'Adorarvi
Hear You Always
Kiss the Flame
Rosy and Mick
Everything Breaks Sometimes
Sometimes it Be That Way
The New Wild West
You Were Meant For Me
Everybody Needs Someone Sometime
Who Will Save Your Soul
This full-frame presentation is not 16:9 enhanced, naturally, but in general looks pretty good. The opening shot is extremely grainy in an arty sort of way, but quickly segues into a clear and sharp picture with solid and natural colouring, even under the stage lighting. The shows were recorded on digital videotape and, as such, close-ups and long shots all look great. There is therefore no evidence of grain or annoying artefacts. Shimmer and aliasing is as good as to be non-existent, nor is there a layer change on this single sided, single-layer disc.
There is no shortage of audio choice with two Dolby Digital offerings of 2.0 and 5.1, as well as the audio of choice (for most), DTS 5.1. This is really where your excitement should end as the two 5.1 mixes, though clear and clean with great fidelity, have little or no rear channel offering. Even on DVDs where the music is planted firmly across the fronts, as this one is, there is still some noticeable placement of audience noise and some music spillover, but not on this one; it's as good as absent. Likewise, the centre channel and subwoofer are mostly silent.
The Dolby Digital stereo will no doubt be the choice for some in this instance and will more than suffice. All instrumentation and vocals sound clean, full, and there are no problems with synchronisation or dropouts.
Thankfully, this DVD has a few bonus performances from various shows leading up the Humphrey's gig. The audio, though live, seems at times not to be from the same performance. It is not a synchronisation issue, so it's possible the audio and video are from different performances. Be warned that the handheld camera footage is very, very shaky at times. The bonus songs are Love Me, Just Leave Me Alone, Do You Want to Play? and Jesus Loves You. There is also an ...on the road video for Standing Still that shows some behind the scenes footage and some shots of Jewel performing
The interview runs for over 11 minutes and sees Jewel answering a series of off-camera questions about writing, performing, the 'new' album and other matters professional and personal.
Want to design the song list for Jewel and hear her perform them in that order? Check out the jukebox where you can program the show as you would like it including any or all of the 13 tracks.
Rounding out the extras are the photo gallery that has but a few shots that self-navigate sweeping in and out of shot while Jewel's music plays, and a discography that includes all five albums and the tracks to be found on them.
Intimate acoustic performances are coming back in vogue and no longer termed Unplugged, which is usually quite misleading anyway. This DVD combines both rather well with a mix of acoustic guitar only and full band songs, in the 1350 seat venue of Humphrey's By the Bay. Fans will appreciate Jewel's passionate and heartfelt songs and delivery, and even non-fans should not find this too much of a chore.