Our rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars
“What’s your favorite guilty pleasure song?” Well…while I always have to spend some time thinking about which 10 albums I’m going to be stranded on a desert island with or which 25 had the most impact on my life, the numero uno guilty pleasure song question has always been an easy one for me to answer: “Sailing” by Christopher Cross. Sure, many may think all copies of the song should be permanently exiled to the jukebox of cheese, but there’s no denying that it’s a perfectly crafted and superbly produced pop gem. It’s lush orchestral strains in tandem with that gently-picked guitar line always help me to find tranquility for the entirety of its four-minute jaunt – as does much of music he’s produced over the past 30+ years.
So why is it that, barely 15 minutes into watching his latest live DVD, “A Night in Paris”, I found myself with an aching headache, desperately wanting to grab the remote so I could eject the disc? Is it because Cross’ voice sounds so weak and strained that he’s butchered all of vocal lines in all of the songs he’s performed up to that point? No. Is it because the concert lighting is so flashy and overdone that it in no way matches the musical content or demeanor of the performers? No. Is it because, despite the fact that the show was allegedly shot using nine HD cameras, the picture quality looks like a bad bootleg copy that was obtained at a local flea market? No. Ahhh…but it does have something to do with the visuals. Quite a lot, in fact.
“Paris” is easily one of the most poorly filmed and shoddily edited live concert DVDs I have ever seen. For starters, the small, non-descript, dimly-lit stage doesn’t allow for much movement of either the musicians themselves or the camera crew. As a result, the resulting individual shots – including ones from a camera that’s inexplicably mounted on a tripod that’s located directly behind the drummer – are fairly static and bland.
In an effort to make up for lack of kinetic energy in both the individual shots and the overall performance itself, director Sebastien Bonnet has to cut the film together using rapid fire editing techniques that make it impossible to focus on any one visual for more than just a few seconds. Many music videos employ this style – and, luckily, they end after 3 to 4 minutes. But “Paris” runs a full 97 minutes. Mon dieu.
For example, the third song of the show, “Leave it to Me” (from Cross’ most recent studio outing, 2011’s “Doctor Faith”), times in at 3:49 and is 125 beats per minute (think Sting’s “If You Love Somebody Set Them Free” or Suzanne Vega’s “Luka” and you’re right on the money). By the time the band had hit their final flourish, I had counted 115 video cuts. That averages out to a staggering one cut every two seconds. Sure, that won’t induce epilepsy, but, trust me, it will make you reach for the Advil.
The 2CDs that are included in this set contain all 17 tracks contained on the DVD with most of the in-between song banter omitted. While the recording is solid and the tracks do represent a fair cross-section of Chris’ body of work, the performance is so lackluster and the quality of Cross’ vocal delivery is so awful that one would be far better off listening to 1999’s “Greatest Hits Live” CD or watching the “An Evening With Christopher Cross” DVD also from that same year. Both are much better of examples of why Cross’ career has spanned far beyond that “Best New Artist” Grammy win in 1979.
Cross mentions at various points throughout “A Night in Paris” that the performance is being recorded for a DVD so he can document this particular point in his career. Clearly, it’s an important evening to him. Hopefully, he’s pleased with the end results – because, frankly, it’s hard to imagine that anyone else would be.