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review added: 1/19/01



The Cranberries: Beneath the Skin
Live in Paris

1999 (2001) - Island Records/Timeless Music Management (Image)

review by Greg Suarez of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

The Cranberries: Beneath the Skin - Live in Paris Film Rating: A-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/A/A+

Specs and Features

84 mins, NR, letterboxed widescreen (1.78:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, dual-layered (no layer switch), Amaray keep case packaging, band documentary, technicians documentary, MTV Unplugged performance of Yesterday's Gone, 1996 live performance of Not Hollywood, 1999 live performance of Saving Grace, rare 1993 live performance of How, 3 music videos (for Promises, Animal Instinct and Just My Imagination), photo gallery, Bury the Hatchet morphing album cover, concert song lyrics, listing of tour equipment, listing of the band's instruments, sound test, animated program-themed menus with sound, song access (22 songs - see song listing below), languages: English (DD 5.1 and 2.0), subtitles: none


It's been my experience with music lovers that The Cranberries have a love 'em or hate 'em sort of reputation. There's no middle ground. Some find lead singer/guitarist Dolores O'Riordan's vocals annoying, and the songs irritating. I don't share this view. To me, Ms. O'Riordan's charming Irish vocals are as sweet as honey, while the cadence of her accent is oddly soothing, even during more robust numbers. And no one else in the world of pop/rock sounds anything like her. Yes... if there is one fact that both fans and critics of The Cranberries can agree upon, it's that the band has carved out a very unique sound in the almost eight years that they have been in the spotlight. Mostly a pop/rock sound, The 'berries inject their songs with a folksy charm found in O'Riordan's accented voice, and woven in as subtle musical undertones. As the band's principle songwriter, O'Riordan has grown to be a very mature musician both in performing and writing. The band's catalog is replete with dozens of numbers that are very simple songs, yet written so that each instrument (including O'Riordan's voice) is every bit as important as the next. This results in uncomplicated, yet richly layered and very addictive, melodic tunes painted on a sprawling canvas. Their songs are pure music, without self-consciously intrusive guitar solos or overly long interludes. In today's world of rock music, carbon copy alternative bands and one hit wonders rule the day. The Cranberries continue to stand out as unique.

Beneath the Skin was filmed in December of 1999 to support their latest CD, Bury the Hatchet (their best work to date, and an album that received far, far less love than it deserved in America). Subsequently, a majority of the play list from this concert is from Bury the Hatchet. However Beneath the Skin stands as a very inclusive tribute to The Cranberries' career so far, highlighting all of their radio hits and more. The band sounds great live, and the songs are performed just as they are presented on album. That's a bit disappointing, as I was looking forward to hearing a few new derivations of their older tunes. A majority of the concert was shot on film, and the camera work is well done, however the concert is presented with way too much fast cutting from camera to camera. This method works to keep the excitement level high, but it does not allow the audience to get a good look at the band members performing up close. It was almost as if Michael Bay were directing it. With that little bit of nitpicking aside, Beneath the Skin is a highly enjoyable and highly energetic concert experience. But it doesn't end there. While not officially called a "special edition", Image has not only given the audio/video on this disc the royal treatment, but they've loaded it up with more extras than Cranberries fans could ever hope for. Read on…

Filmed in widescreen, Beneath the Skin on DVD is able to boast something that very few other concert DVDs can - anamorphic widescreen. Framed at 1.78:1, the 16x9 enhanced picture is very solid, with well-defined images and detail. The video can sometimes appear a bit grainy and soft, but this is due to the film stock used. Very minor compression artifacting is present, but nowhere near enough to detract from the experience. Colors are fairly accurate, but are slightly washed out, again probably due to choice of film stock. Overall, there is very little to gripe about here. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack perfectly conveys the concert atmosphere. The entire soundstage is rich and spacious, with the rear channels used for ambient music fill and audience cheering. This soundtrack drops you front row, center into the concert, by reproducing the music with the up-front immediacy and presence of the "live" sound. The most noticeable aspect of this soundtrack is that it made my listening space sound about 100 times bigger than what it really is. If the 5.1 track has a fault, it's that louder passages (such as Salvation - track 8) contain a harsh, slightly grating high end. It's not overpowering, but just enough to notice. The Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track that's also included is completely flaccid compared to the powerhouse 5.1 mix. If you've ever wanted to hear the sheer drama of a live concert in your living room, this is your DVD.

Before discussing the extras, a major flaw with the disc must be pointed out. The menus - designed by Storm Thorgerson - are a lesson in how not to design DVD menus. Looking beyond the fact that they're unattractive and uninspired, they're burdened by a clunky interface that takes entirely too much time to transition from screen to screen. And if you find yourself two levels into a submenu, you have to back step through two long transitions to get back to the main menu screen.

Okay, with that out of the way let's discuss the bevy of interesting features included on Beneath the Skin. A documentary about the band (unnecessarily split into two parts) is included which, in total, runs about 17 minutes. The four main band members chat about their instruments, life on the road and stage fright, among other topics. While seemingly short, the documentary packs a lot of interesting information into a small amount of time, and you get a nice look into the personalities of the four Cranberries. A second, 13-minute documentary about the band's technicians is an interesting look at the duties of a roadie. Shot on location in the band's rehearsal hall, the documentary gives the viewer a pretty good understanding of what goes on backstage, and also includes footage of the band rehearsing. Both of these documentaries are presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Thanks, Image!

A quartet of separate live performances also appears on this DVD, with varying levels of audio/video quality. Look for a 1999 live edition of Saving Grace, a 1996 live performance of Not Hollywood, a 1995 acoustic performance of Yesterday's Gone from MTV Unplugged and a rare 1993 live version of How. Audio/video quality is passable for all tracks except How, which appears to be transferred from consumer-grade video (but it's still a nice treat for 'berries fans). A trio of music videos is also included for Animal Instinct, Promises and Just My Imagination. Animal Instinct - shot as a mini-movie in 2.35:1 widescreen - is quite a dramatic little piece about the strength of a mother's love. Promises is a very bizarre concept video set in the old west of all places, and Just My Imagination is a creative and artful segment that sums up the playfulness of the song almost perfectly.

Rounding out the supplemental section are several text and pictorial based features. The "morphing" album cover is a quick animated version of the artwork on their latest CD, Bury the Hatchet. A listing of the lyrics for the concert songs is included, as well as a still gallery of photos of the band performing, the band prepping for a show and the crew working behind the scenes. A listing of the sound and lighting equipment used for touring is also available, along with a listing of the brand, make and models of instruments used by the band. This feature is unadvertised on the packaging, but is interesting to glance through. Finally, a simple sound test can be found on the disc that explains how a 5.1 system should be set up, and gives the user the option of running pink noise test signals through their speakers.

I don't think fans of The Cranberries will need much convincing to plunk down their hard-earned money for Beneath the Skin. This disc contains a wonderful concert full of the band's best work, presented with a powerful Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and a solid anamorphic widescreen transfer. And the disc contains more extras than Cranberries fans could ever hope for. If you're merely a fan of concert DVDs, you'll want to make it a point check out this disc just to witness how they should be done on DVD. Highly recommended!

Song Listing

Promises
Animal Instinct
Loud and Clear
Ode to My Family
The Icicle Melts
Linger
Wanted
Salvation
Desperate Andy
Go Your Own Way
Pretty
When You're Gone
I Can't Be With You
Waltzing Back
Free to Decide
Zombie
Ridiculous Thoughts
Dying in the Sun
You and Me
Just My Imagination
Delilah
Dreams


Greg Suarez
gregsuarez@thedigitalbits.com




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