[16 July 2008]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
Sundance Channel’s acclaimed Live from Abbey Road series airs the fifth episode of its second season this week (Thursday, July 17 at 10 p.m. Eastern and Pacific). The featured artists this time are all pretty big names and heavy hitters: Sheryl Crow, Hard-Fi and Diana Krall.
In Sheryl Crow’s segment, she discusses how fortunate she has been to have had a long career, talks about being in Abbey Road studios before on The Globe Sessions and feeling the weight of its history, and she reiterates many of the themes expressed on her latest record (maturity, how environmentalism becomes personal when one is a parent, calling for change), Detours. In fact, the songs in this episode are taken exclusively from that album, and it’s very clear why. The rehearsal and performance footage demonstrate that this is surely her strongest material to date (“Now That You’re Gone” is the showstopper here, in my opinion.), which is all the more impressive when you think about the fact that Detours is her sixth regular release.
Hard-Fi has only two full-length releases so far, but they’re still aware of the “vibe” in the most famous studio in the world (and quite keen to have a go at the piano used on “Lady Madonna!”). We only get two songs from them, “Tied Up Too Tight” from 2005’s CCTV and “We Need Love” from last year’s Once Upon a Time in the West, but both songs are so perfectly executed (and “We Need Love”, particularly, so suited to the surroundings!) that another might simply have sent viewers over the edge. Is it too obvious that I’m a bit of a Hard-Fi fan? Well, when you see and hear these performances, you’ll understand why.
Diana Krall’s segment takes the energy back down a notch, but it’s no less compelling. She speaks of her passion for her life and lifestyle and her eclectic enthusiasm, but her laid back, almost understated manner seems at odds with her words at first. That is, until she starts swinging at the piano. “Exactly Like You” is infectiously energetic and “I’ll String Along with You” is all the more sublime within the resonance of the room. It’s truly amazing to notice—especially while watching it on a television—how much of a contribution the environment really makes! It’s not just superficial ambience, it’s like Studio One is another instrument in the mix.
Though this week’s episode seems to focus more on the final performances than the rehearsals or interviews, it certainly doesn’t suffer for it. I meant what I wrote last week, and if Live from Abbey Road keeps coming up with shows of this caliber, Sundance Channel is going to have to expand its production schedule.