Various Artists: Rock Relief: Live in Concert [DVD]

When Michael Bolton turns in the most restrained performance of the program, something has gone dreadfully wrong.

Various Artists

Rock Relief: Live in Concert

MPAA rating: N/A
Label: VSC
US Release Date: 2007-02-20
UK Release Date: 2007-02-20

It feels wrong to rag on a charity concert DVD, but I'm gonna do it anyway. Rock Relief is the pits, and should never have been preserved on commercial video. It's a cliche-ridden, awkwardly edited display of fat old farts well past their already dubious prime. The music, which could've been humorously enjoyable, is instead an almost unmitigated embarrassment. Some of these guys are actually sad to watch. And when Michael Bolton turns in the most restrained performance of the program, something has gone dreadfully wrong.

A bit of history: Rock Relief is the product of Musicians for Disaster Relief, a loose organization fronted by former boy-wonder Rick Derringer, who wanted to raise money to help hurricane victims in Florida in 2005. He enlisted Canadian rockers Loverboy, Dee Snider, Grand Funk Railroad's Mark Farner, Allman Brothers guitarist Dickey Betts, Bolton, and Eddie Money, and put on a concert at Universal Studios in Orlando.

According to the back cover of the DVD, the aforementioned performed "fiery renditions of legendary hits". Not so! You can't start a fire without a spark, as someone once said, and Rock Relief proves that truism as definitively as any science experiment. For ninety minutes, these musicians search in vain for a match. Maybe they should've checked Dickey Betts' pockets.

Loverboy are the first to take the stage, and they provide the template followed by the rest of their comrades in relief: crowd participation, bad clothing decisions, and hits hits hits. They open with an interminable "Turn Me Loose", their plump, leather-pantsed lead singer making his way around the stage and not doing an entirely bad job. As voices go, his will not be the evening's worst. "Hot Girls in Love" and especially "Workin' for the Weekend" are crowd-pleasers, but where is "Lovin' Every Minute of It"? It's listed on the back cover--there's no suspense to this packaging, and in fact there's not even an insert, but I guess keeping production costs down equals more money for hurricane victims--but they sure don't play it. Loverboy will turn out to be a highlight of Rock Relief.

Dee Snider--"of Twisted Sister", according to the oh-so-informative cover--is up next, and he points out that all five original members of Twisted Sister are now on stage together, which is apparently some kind of minor miracle. "The Price" is a bland power ballad, accorded importance by virtue of being dedicated to the people of Florida. "We're Not Gonna Take It" would've been a hell of a statement--take that, hurricane!--but sadly Twisted Sister only get one song. It's a missed opportunity.

Rick Derringer himself does his old McCoys hit "Hang On Sloopy", complete with a verse that the record company excised from the recording. Derringer points this out after the first verse, builds up the closest thing to suspense as this concert achieves... and then sings this totally innocuous "lost" verse. Between that and his mid-chorus questioning of the crowd ("Do you remember it?"), it's a real eye-roller, but even this leaden performance can't totally destroy "Sloopy". Just as crucial to the collective memory of this crowd is "Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo", which affords Derringer the opportunity to indulge in some guitar wankery. His first solo, however, gets literally pushed aside by the sudden appearance of an interview clip of Derringer plugging the Red Cross, which intrudes in box form on roughly a third of the screen. It's a very strange editing choice, especially considering the Musicians for Disaster Relief logo takes up space in the lower right-hand corner of the screen for the duration of the program. The other pesky problem with Derringer's segment is that the camera angle most favored by the filmmakers results in the recurring obstruction of Derringer's mouth by an unused microphone.

Derringer's shirt is pretty ugly, but at least he's not Mark Farner, who sports nothing on top but a glittery purple vest. "Bad Time" and "Some Kind of Wonderful" seem mercifully short, but I also spent his screen time debating with myself--as no one would watch this with me--whether his haircut constitutes a mullet. It's certainly a party-in-the-back sort of 'do, which flows and swings as Farner sashays across the stage, but the more conservative top of the haircut seems to be influenced more by male-pattern baldness than by the barber's blades. So the mullet-or-not debate comes down to the sides, which look intentionally close-cropped and slowly morph into a glorious mane. Congratulations, Mullet Mark!

All joking aside, Dickey Betts sounds like a craggy old codger as he destroys "Ramblin' Man" and "Southbound". Anyone who says Bob Dylan sounds awful is not only wrong, but they have also not heard Dickey Betts sing recently. Absolutely awful. His guitar playing is considerably better than his croaking vocals, but its backwoods flavor is compromised, particularly on "Southbound", by some horribly out-of-place keyboards.

With the appearance of Michael Bolton, we go from one lousy voice to probably the best voice in the whole show. Seriously. I never thought I'd hear Michael Bolton alongside half a dozen other singers and give him the award for Most Convincing Performance. Although his "When a Man Loves a Woman" is a travesty under any other circumstances, in Rock Relief it's unquestionably the musical highlight of the show. For the first time, the band plays with something approaching subtlety. There are no ridiculous solos, nothing gets in Bolton's way, and the song just plain works. "Dock of the Bay" brings the whole thing back to the pits of hell, and "Rock Me Baby"--featuring Bolton on guitar, doing his best Carlos Santana agonized-face impression--goes on much too long, but it's good to know that Bolton screwed with his recording schedule (according to Derringer) to be present at this event and made three minutes of it worthwhile. But why is he all bundled up?

This just leaves Eddie Money, and what a sad, sad note to go out on. The lovable lug sounds out of breath the whole time, and generally butchers his four songs. "Two Tickets to Paradise", "Take Me Home Tonight", "Wanna Go Back" and "Baby Hold On" all fall under Money's sagging jowls, flop around like the singer's loose necktie, and bring Rock Relief to an unbelievably disappointing close. And it's not that Money's band sucks--they don't. They actually do a mostly decent job, but even they can't carry their washed-up waste of a singer. I dreaded the moment Money would go "unhh... hold on" in his final number, and it turns out I was right to be scared. He just sounds like he's totally out of energy and unable to summon up any more. What a depressing finale.

Thank god there are no extras.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

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

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