Sound: For The Clash, a live concert can speak a thousand words. The makers of The Clash Live: Revolution Rock should be very, very thankful for the band's amazing stage presence because it salvages their project in the end. The new DVD is called a documentary, but it ends up being more of a chronicle of the band's career through various concert footage. The late Joe Strummer alone makes a fascinating centerpiece in pretty much every performance on the DVD, but there's just not enough information to be deemed a documentary. Sure, there are sentences here and there that might say what year it was or what album was released, but a hard-hitting expos Revolution Rock is not.
There is some incredible footage from throughout The Clash's career, and it is pretty raw at times. Even when the images are grainy and the angles used are pathetic, the band actually makes up for it. Don't get me wrong -- it's definitely not the fault of the videographers from back in 1977, and it's actually cool to see someone do that good of a job at capturing a live show (in a very intimate setting) back in the day. Some of the earlier songs featured are I Fought The Law, Police & Thieves, and What's My Name, and it is punk through and through. If you watch the first song and then compare it to, say, Should I Stay Or Should I Go, it makes for a pretty dramatic transition.
Most of the band's biggest hits are represented, but Rock The Casbah is surprisingly missing. Granted, it was one of the band's poppier numbers, but it still made a pretty substantial impression on the U.S. With that exception, the selection is diverse and you can't really complain about the great performances. The sound can be troubling at times because the recording gear wasn't top notch, but again, these were club recordings. If it would just have had a little more informative content to tell the story of it all, that would have taken Revolution Rock to an entirely different (more impressive) level. // 8
Content: In terms of the music, The Clash Live: Revolution Rock would be a decent acquisition for fans of the band. There is some rare footage from concerts across the world (everywhere from Munich to Glasgow), and 22 songs are featured throughout the course of the DVD. What is lacking the documentary element to it all. Every once in a while you might get a sentence or two about what The Clash was doing around the time of the performance seen, but it's brief and doesn't reveal too much new information. The interviews (which are few and far between) are usually overdubs during the documentary, and it ends up feeling just like a live concert DVD and nothing more.
For the extras, there are interviews from the Tomorrow Show With Tom Synder and NBC Live At Five, and they're definitely worth watching. Strummer discusses why he would rather be in a band that sings about the news, and he comes across as incredibly well spoken. If you get antsy with the main feature, definitely check out the bonuses. // 6
Production Quality: You're getting some gritty, raw footage of The Clash throughout the documentary, and in a way that lends to the experience. Sure, there are times in the earlier concert footage where the band members' heads are cut off from the screen for a good portion of the performance, but I'm sure the videographers just didn't have the means to get things perfect. As the band starts to obtain success, you'll see a noticeable difference in the production quality. Of course, the band put on a great show regardless of what the tape looks like. // 7
Overall Impression: As a Clash fan, you'd like to see a documentary about the legendary band done correctly. With the exception of the excellent rare footage, the rest of Revolution Rock seems like it was tossed together. The music takes the spotlight, and that's the saving grace of the DVD. Let's hope that there is someone out there who will take a little more care in putting together a documentary about The Clash. This is a band that deserves better than an amateurish editing job. // 6