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Velvet Revolver: Live in Houston

(US DVD: 16 Nov 2010)

Velvet Revolver has never attracted a fanatical fan base, despite their ability to sell a metric ton of records. Some critics have charged that they are primarily a nostalgia band for G&R and Stone Temple Pilot fans, and maybe for all the disaffected denizens of cock-rock land who aren’t listening to Queens of the Stone Age.


If there are hardcore Revolver heads still out there, already downcast by the band’s possibly permanent hiatus, the recent DVD release of a 2005 Houston concert will do nothing to cheer them up. In fact, its as if the producers of the film (its more of a recording than a film) intended to prove the band’s worst critics right.


Velvet Revolver is, of course, primarily composed of Guns N’ Roses band mates Slash, Duff McCagan and Matt Sorum (all members of the “Axl drives us fucking crazy” club), with Wasted Youth guitarist Dave Kushner and Stone Temple Pilots’ vocalist Scott Weiland. Their 2003 album Contraband sold 2 million copies. A 2007 album, Libertad, proved successful, as well.


There is a bit of pathos in this concert (OK, maybe its more like bathos). Soon after the release of Libertad, the band took a break, largely because of Weiland’s continuing difficulties with substance abuse. Kicked out of Velvet Revolver, Weiland quickly launched a reunion tour with Stone Temple Pilots. According to a recent announcement, Velvet Revolver is auditioning new vocalists as of 6 December 2010.


These circumstances make the release of Velvet Revolver: Live in Houston a bit odd. This concert has been on the shelf for five years, a performance in support of Contraband. It feels like a nostalgia performance for a nostalgia band, a “greatest hits” concert for a band that never got to have much of a list of greatest hits.


Its unclear why this was released and certainly why this particular concert was chosen. While it obviously includes some of the best cuts from Contraband, including Big Machine and Slither, it also features a few Guns N’ Roses and STP covers. The band looks, frankly, tired and Weiland is not at his best, at points seeming to work very hard to pull some energy from the crowd and even from himself.  Do it for the Kids rocks as does their mega-hit Slither. Much of the rest feels strained. At one point, Weiland screams that the concert is being recorded and he wants the crowd “on their worst fucking behavior.” Everyone, Weiland included, just looks exhausted.


The editing of the concert is appalling. Songs are intercut with footage of band interviews and, inexplicably, a blonde woman wearing what appears to be a Waffen-SS cap who says things that are supposed to be clever, funny and odd. It should be noted that Weiland is wearing the same stupid and borderline offensive cap at the beginning of the concert, making him look like a young Colonel Klink with tats or maybe just some scary Nazi reenactor. This was maybe not the best fashion choice.


The band interview footage spliced into the concert is especially hard to watch, knowing what has happened since 2005. Interviews with band members stress the almost mystical experience of the group coming together and Weiland seems to suggest that his new band mates are largely responsible for getting him off drugs (Duff McCagan took him to a kung fu ranch of some kind in the Pacific Northwest). There are shots of Weiland meditating in the desert and an inspirational sunset. For a few minutes, it looks as if the reality show The Biggest Loser and the Karate Kid had some sort of misshapen mutant baby. The camera cuts back to the concert and suddenly, we are supposed to rock again.


Even worse, the DVD is what seems to have been given bargain-basement production values. The camera angles are exactly what you would expect with plenty of hand shots of Slash and close-ups on Scott Weiland with occasional glances at the crowd (though maybe more time on the security guards). Cheesy effects abound. At times, you will think your TV is losing the receiver’s signal when the DVD employs various squiggle screen and mirror-image effects that give this the look of a not-very-interesting music video from 25 years ago.


There are absolutely no extras to be had on the DVD. I would argue that this makes this release more or less worthless since concert releases should be packed with extras, including extra performance and interview footage. This would have also been an opportunity to include some retrospective material since you would never know from this DVD that the band has broken up but may, at some undetermined date, tour and record again.


The concert makes me wonder if Velvet Revolver shouldn’t just stay on hiatus. They have already created a body of pretty impressive work and most of the band now has successful solo projects. What they were trying to do with Velvet Revolver is really being done better by Them Crooked Vultures. Whatever happens with them, lets hope they stay away from the amateurs who made this concert video.  A band with so much talent that has made such good music deserves better than this.

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W. Scott Poole is a writer and an associate professor of history at the College of Charleston. He's the author of Vampira: Dark Goddess of Horror, a book about the life and strange times of America's first horror host out in September 2014 from Counterpoint/Soft Skull. He is also the author of the award-winning Monsters in America (2011). Follow him on twitter @monstersamerica.


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