1 of 2 thought this review was well written”Halloween Night. 2002. A very important show for alkaline trio – hometown on All Hallow’s eve – it couldn’t have been more perfect… the beautiful sight of children dressed as demons, jack o’ lanterns and skeletons and headstones adorning every other front yard, the crisp air of a Chicago autumn, and a film crew to capture what you’re about to witness… It’s just too bad we sucked that night.
Well, at least they’re honest.
Alkaline Trio are a band that are known to be a bit hit or miss
live, and this DVD is a perfect example of them on an off night. Even in front of an eager hometown crowd on what is probably their favourite night of the year, their performance still seems tired and a little lacklustre.
As the short introductory note on the inside of the DVD case explains, this was supposed to, and should have been a special night for both band and fans alike. For the first few minutes of the DVD you get the feeling that it will
be special. At first you are presented with a shot of the Metro venue in total darkness save for a few flashing lights from cameras. Several members of the audience scream out in excitement and anticipation, before some atmospheric choral music is played over the PA. Obviously, it is not your average choral music, as it sounds more unholy than holy. Given the date, and the three individuals that you’re dealing with here, it is probably meant to be a choir of fallen angels. It sure as hell sounds like it. To add to the atmosphere, an illuminated, inverted cross appears centre stage and stays there for the entire show. The band launch straight into ‘Hell Yes’
and all is good; the band show some rare energy on stage, musically they are tight (in particularly Derek Grant on drums, who is almost effortlessly perfect) and they even improvise towards the end of the song. It’s a shame that it’s as good as it gets on ‘Halloween At The Metro’.
It goes without saying that there are songs here that are better than others, for the most part the band start off strongly. It’s hard to say exactly what happened; because they definitely didn’t burn out or anything mid-set, as they are not a very energetic live band, as Skiba and Adriano pretty much remain rooted to the spot for the whole show and Grant just looks bored; but after a fairly strong opening they kind-of lose momentum and become a very boring band to watch and indeed at times, listen to.
There are plenty of songs when musically they start out well but are ruined vocally. You can’t help but sometimes think to yourself “Jesus Christ, doesn’t he sound bored?!?”
Many ALK3 songs are sung in a fairly deadpan manner anyways, but in songs like ‘Tuck Me In’
and ‘Queen Of Pain’
they manage to make the vocal performance boring, rather than deadpan. As mentioned before, the band are not the most energetic whilst on stage and this lack of activity while perhaps unnoticeable to those in attendance, is clear to see for those of us at home, and is often a chore to watch. The band do little to inspire, in the way of banter. For the most part it is just announcements acknowledging the cross and several, almost nervous
mutterings of “Happy Halloween”. Granted a lot of bands don’t rely on banter too heavily, some don’t even say anything to the crowd, but there is usually a reason for this – their music is so intense that speaking would ruin the experience; the crowd is all so unanimously pumped up that they need no encouragement, whatever. None of this applies to Alkaline Trio on this given night. Instead it just seems that they cannot be bothered to acknowledge an audience (that is pretty awesome!) as much as they deserve.
There are also elements of the DVD that through no fault of Alkaline Trio, are poor. With ‘Mr. Chainsaw’
being the prime example, the mixing is not all that great and sometimes the electric guitar is entirely inaudible. While the band can’t really be blamed for this, it drags the quality of the DVD even further down as it makes it even less exciting.
However, the DVD isn’t all bad. Alkaline Trio both start and finish strongly. ‘Radio’
(it almost goes without saying) is a highlight. With a huge amount of irony, it is a standout track because of all the reasons that made most of, if not all the other songs here poor. The band aren’t very energetic, and this matches the song’s sombre mood; the vocals for the most part sound tired and make the song relaxing when it needs to be, and alternately with perhaps a last push of energy the vocals are strong and impassioned, in spite of Matt’s cracking voice. Also, perhaps aware that they have just put in one of the best performances of the set Matt addresses the crowd, wishing them a good night. Closer ‘97’
is just as good. It is met with great cheers from the crowd and is not hard to see why. Musically it is brilliant, and Matt puts in an excellent vocal/lyrical performance improvising in the bridge. Often, Skiba’s lyrical improvisations are a nuisance as they confuse the crowd and the viewer at home, but here they work well as no one is meant to sing along and are in fact fairly humorous –“ I had a dream with Roy’s face in it, and it scared me awake”. It is a great end to what was largely a disappointingly poor show.
Okay, so the DVD isn’t actually very good, but people will still buy it. Alkaline Trio aren’t a very good live band, but people will pay to see them. There is a reason for this – Alkaline Trio have earned this kind of treatment from fans, and they have a certain charm about them that allows you to forgive them any weaknesses such as their live show. While you have to respect Alkaline Trio for coming through at the end, finishing well even with the thought at the back of the minds that they had sucked, you can’t help but be disappointed that the DVD catches the Trio on a bad night as opposed to a good one. This is indeed disappointing, but it may be (optimistically) thought of that it captures the nature of ALK3 very well. The show has both awful and great moments, and everything sounds better on the original albums. While this DVD isn’t very good because of the poor show that it captures, it is still a worthy purchase for any Trio fan.