Teddy Pendergrass: Teddy! Live in '79 [DVD]

Dan MacIntosh

Teddy Pendergrass in concert is also Teddy Pendergrass at his best, because he's a performer who simply thrives on audience interaction.

Teddy Pendergrass

Teddy! Live in '79 [DVD]

Label: Shout! Factory
US Release Date: 2006-03-21
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon affiliate

It makes sense to capture Teddy Pendergrass performing live at a Lake Tahoe, NV casino, because his concerts back in the '70s were obviously 'adults only' affairs. This rearview mirror video disc glance gives viewers another chance to experience Pendergrass getting all soulful in front of a swooning, mostly female audience.

Indeed, you cannot analyze a Teddy Pendergrass performance without also factoring in the sexual component. Granted, Pendergrass is a fine singer who's recorded some memorable records both as a solo act and with Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes over the years. But watching Pendergrass live, the way he's captured here, is like looking in on a mating ritual of some sort: Pendergrass, the male, calls; and all the ladies respond immediately, smitten. Even though he's recorded some quality songs over his career, he might just as well have been singing the praises of Dick Cheney's hunting skills during this show for all these ladies cared -- he'd still have gotten the same rabid, submissive response.

Unlike so much in the rap realm today, however, Pendergrass' old school come-ons were never verbally explicit. This DVD is not for the kids, it's true, but there's also no naughty sex talk or foul language on it. Nevertheless, when Pendergrass sings about love, everybody in the house knows exactly what he's talking about. (Uh, it's the physical kind, ya know).

As sexy as this performance is, it sure doesn't last very long. (And no, that was not meant as a Viagra pun) Its running time is a chintzy 80 minutes. There are only eight selections — medley included — contained on the whole DVD! Its best moments are contained in that medley, however, because Pendergrass takes a few moments to relive snippets of "If You Don't Know Me by Now", "The Love I Lost", "Bad Luck", and "Wake up Everybody", which were all hits for Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes. The strangest musical moment of all, by the way, is Pendergrass' cover of Eric Carmen's "All By Myself". It may possible for a man to be lonely, even with many other people around him, but it's impossible to picture this singing love machine (Pendergrass, that is) completely alone. In this case, the song just doesn't fit the singer.

Unfortunately, too much of this material is forgettable. For instance, the show opens with "Life Is a Song worth Singing", which expresses one of those 'everything is always alright' sentiments that always go over well at casino shows. Nobody ever wants to bring anybody down when wallets are not yet emptied of their content. Much later, the show closes with "Get Up, Get Down, Get Funky, Get Loose", which is a generic, funky dance tune. In other words, it sends the audience on their way out of the venue tapping their feet. Perhaps it's foolish to expect a transcendent experience at a freakin' casino. These are, after all, places where everybody lives under the illusion that they're lucky winners.

"Close the Door" is the musical moment where the performance/audience foreplay hits its highpoint. As the song's intro plays, Pendergrass throws off his shirt, revealing all of his many gold chains hanging over a white tank top. A couple of times when performing it he walks away from the microphone while still singing. This might have been a cool and intimate move for the folks sitting right down front, but for home viewers, it's an annoying and uncomfortable vocal silence. During this seductive song he sings, "Let me do what I want to do", and his audience screams back it's willingness to follow his buff body anywhere it leads.

As a bonus, this DVD includes an interview with Pendergrass, which was recorded at his home in 2002. Pendergrass is now wheelchair bound, which prevents him from having the same sort of erotic affect on his audience anymore. It's uneasy to see and hear him talking about making a comeback, when such a plan seems hardly plausible. It's now been 20 years since Pendergrass was tragically paralyzed from the waist down. If he hasn't won back his audience by now, he'll probably never get them back.

On a lighter note, this interview segment reveals some valuable background information about Pendergrass' musical history. For example, he started as the drummer in Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes before he became the group's lead singer. Strangely enough, Marvin Gaye began at Motown as a pianist prior to becoming one of the greatest ever soul singers. It makes you wonder about the shy personalities of such sex symbols: How do they ever get the courage to step out into the spotlight and melt women's hearts? One supposes that beneath all of that extroverted sexuality, there's a bashful boy inside Pendergrass somewhere. Same with Marvin.

This DVD offers a small taste of Pendergrass' work. It would have been a much more fulfilling offer if it had also included the standout track like "Love TKO," and if it were measured in hours rather than minutes. But as it is, it's a good, but not great, portrait of the charismatic performer Teddy Pendergrass once was.


Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.