Directed By Michael Thelin
Starring Hayley Williams, Josh Farro, Jeremy Davis, Zac Farro and Taylor York
I should preface this review by mentioning that I’m an unabashed lover of Paramore, and have been since their first album, ‘All We Know is Falling’. Clearly I’m not the only one, though it wasn’t until the release of second album ‘Riot!’ though that the band managed to find the mainstream crossover success that evades most alternative rock bands – not a great many Warped Tour regulars get their own live Blu-ray (or enough merchandise to keep Hot Topic in business). Recorded live at Chicago’s Congress theatre, Paramore’s ‘The Final Riot’ is a concert performance filmed during the 2008 tour for their second album ‘Riot!’, covering 15 tracks cherry-picked from their backlog.
While they don’t include every track from the album, there’s a lovely mix of their mainstream hits like ‘For a Pessimist…’, ‘That’s What You Get’, and, naturally, ‘Misery Business’ with a selection of their slower, smaller tracks. And though the tour’s focused around the ‘Riot!’ album, the band throw out a couple of songs from their first album too as they break into ‘Pressure’, and later ‘Emergency’. Hayley also, in a cover choice that’s now long outstayed its welcome with other bands borrowing it incessantly, sings a few verses from Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ before opening their own song of the same name.
Hayley mentions briefly in one of the extras that the Chicago performance boasted the loudest and most responsive crowd of the tour, and it shows, with the audience incredibly excited and energetic, but most importantly the band themselves are just as lively, with Hayley bouncing around the stage like a caffeinated pixie and belting out vocals with gusto; it’s an infectiously fun show, and an immensely entertaining performance from a band who clearly love what they do and relish the chance to perform.
The full 1080p HD transfer, while not a Blu-ray that you’ll use to show off your system, is clear and a huge jump in quality from the DVD/CD set released a while ago. The visuals tend to be softer than the usual high-end transfer, while occasionally shots covering a large amount of coloured lighting have a slight haze to them, but close-up shots and crowd coverage angles carry much more clarity. It’s not a perfect transfer, but for the most part it looks pretty fantastic, and is a very worthwhile HD upgrade.
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The TrueHD 5.1 audio track sounds wonderful too, though it’s not as immersive as it could be, as the surround is largely unused when it comes to crowd ambience. Importantly though, the music and vocals themselves are delivered with perfect clarity and sound amazing.
Unfortunately, like a lazy music producer throwing brain-rapingly bad techno beats on a perfectly lovely acoustic track, the editors for the tour recording have seen fit to throw all manner of distracting edits, filters and 24-style split screen rather than just let the band’s performance be. Added faux grain, noise and scratches pop up every so often, presumably to give it that “old-fashioned documentary look”, while the video has an intentional awkward, jittery stutter any time a band member jumps around the stage. Clearly its intended purpose is to give it a flashy and exciting music video aesthetic, but it’s distracting and entirely unnecessary. Hayley Williams is already as energetic as they come, while the band are aided by enough colourful stage lighting to make Stevie Wonder wince; there’s no need for added gimmicky effects, and they irritate more than anything, looking like someone with a new camcorder playing around with all the built-in effect buttons. Thankfully they get more infrequent as the concert moves on, and they’re not enough to ruin the energy and experience of the band’s performance, but it’s an odd, pointless and irritating choice.
It won’t convert any naysayers into loving the band, but for those who already love Paramore, The Final Riot will be an essential purchase. A great, energetic performance presented with a mostly fantastic HD transfer and a clear, high-quality audio track. Minor quibbles aside, it’s an incredible experience, and the closest thing to a real Paramore show without being there. Well, until we get a Brand New Eyes concert in 3D Blu-ray with Jeremy Davis’s guitar poking out at your eyeballs.
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On the Blu-ray:
While the cover only lists the Twilight soundtrack-centric extras – the Decode music video and the I Caught Myself audio bonus – the Blu-ray also houses the 40 minute documentary ’40 Days of Riot!’, with all extras in 720p HD.
The Twilight tie-in music video for Decode, though technically 720p resolution, looks surprisingly horrific; filled with blocky pixelation, it looks like it was ripped from a low-resolution YouTube video, then upscaled to HD using the encoding power of an Amiga, then hung from a line and beaten like a dusty rug for good measure. It’s a minor problem in that it’s only a 4 minute bonus feature, but it’s strange considering the Blu-ray’s put out by Summit – the studio behind Twilight – who presumably have easy access to the Decode video’s original masters and the means to encode a crystal clear version for the Blu-ray.
The ’40 Days of Riot!’ documentary, however, is a marvellous surprise addition to the Blu-ray. Suitably lengthy and free from the usual fluff and filler that behind-the-scenes features are usually jam-packed with, it’s an entertaining and wide-ranging look at the band’s experiences on tour, from initial band practice, to rehearsal disagreements and stresses within the band, to life backstage during their various shows. The emphasis is on being a light and breezy glimpse behind the scenes rather than an in-depth, warts-and-all exposé, but for fans interested in seeing how Paramore spend their time after shows, their rehearsal process or just the guys hanging out on the tourbus or playing table-top football with fans, there’s a whole lot crammed in and a great deal to enjoy.
There’s also the option to skip to a particular song should you want to jump back for a quick listen of anything. And, importantly, the Blu-ray is completely region-free, so for those Paramore fans outside the US who weren’t lucky enough to score a release in their country, importing gives an easy option to experience this great set themselves.
Paramore: The Final Riot is available to buy now on Blu-ray in the US.
Click here to get the Blu-ray from Amazon.com, where it’s currently only $14.99 (around £14.50 delivered to the UK).