Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers

High Grass Dogs - Live From The Fillmore


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Details At A Glance

General
Extras
Category Music Video None
Rating g.gif (1187 bytes)
Year Released 1999
Running Time 90:12 Minutes 
RSDL/Flipper No/No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Movie
Region 2,3,4,5,6 Director Martyn Atkins
Studio
Distributor
WarnerVision.gif (3121 bytes)
Warner Vision
Starring Tom Petty
Mike Campbell
Benmont Tench
Howie Epstein
Scott Thurston
Steve Ferrone
Case Super Jewel
RPI $39.95 Music Tom Petty
Video
Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448 Kb/s)
English (Linear PCM 48/16 2.0, 1536 Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
Original Aspect Ratio ?1.37:1
Miscellaneous
Macrovision Yes Smoking No
Subtitles None Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    One amusing statement I read in Mad Magazine more than a decade ago was that one of the worst rock music-related things that could happen to you is having Tom Petty tell you that you look terrible. Indeed, all the promotional videos I have seen featuring this man have depicted a human being that looks rather wasted, more dead than alive. Of course, this often tends to translate into better music when one looks at it from the perspective afforded by my personal experience, but this is a rather esoteric way to look at anything, so I will simply say that Tom Petty is known for making some strange songs with some strange promotional videos. I am somewhat disappointed not to have a collection of these promotional videos, especially for songs like Don't Come Around Here No More, which features the most surreal promo video I have seen since David Bowie's immortal classic, Ashes To Ashes. However, if you happen to be a fan of Tom Petty, then this disc is well worth buying, at least until something more definitive comes along.

    For those who are curious, the tracklisting for this DVD is as follows:

1. Intro/California 10. Lay Down My Old Guitar
2. Jammin' Me 11. Even The Losers
3. Runnin' Down A Dream 12. Walls
4. Swingin' 13. Angel
5. Breakdown 14. Room At The Top
6. Listen To Her Heart 15. Country Farm
7. You Don't Know How It Feels 16. You Wreck Me
8. Mary Jane's Last Dance 17. I Don't Wanna Fight
9. Mona (Featuring Bo Diddley) 18. Free Fallin'
  19. Free Girl Now
    I'll admit to you right off the bat that I am not really that much of a Tom Petty fan, although there is no denying that the man can play and play well. Breakdown is pretty much the only song in this set that is familiar to me, and it is presented quite well on this particular DVD, although I still prefer the studio version because Tom Petty's vocals are somewhat more intelligible. If you are a fan of Petty's middle-of-the-road rock style that occasionally swings over into a more demented style such as in Don't Come Around Here No More, then this DVD is worth your viewing time.

Transfer Quality

Video

    I wasn't expecting much from this transfer, and that's pretty much what I got.

    The transfer is presented in variable aspect ratios, with the introduction footage being Full Frame, and the concert footage having been matted at 1.85:1, with some picture information appearing to be lost in the process. The transfer is not 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer is reasonably sharp, as long as the camera doesn't become too distant from the subject, which is unfortunate because a sizeable percentage of this programme consists of long, wider-angle shots. Some close-up shots also become more than a little diffuse, but this is primarily limited to shots of the audience. The shadow detail is poor, with the dark areas of the shots containing little in the way of discernible detail. Indeed, many shots of the bass player and one of the guitarists, who are entirely dressed in black, lose any serious separation of the performers from the background. Some film grain becomes apparent in parts of the transfer, with the entire shot taking on a noisy look that would indicate a less than ideal photographic device being used at the time. Low level noise, however, is not a problem with this transfer, which is just as well when you consider how much black there is in the picture.

    The colour saturation is reflective of the stage lighting, which shines a lot of false colour upon the performers in many shots. When the performers aren't being discoloured by the stage lighting, however, their skin tones look perfectly natural, so the colour saturation certainly cannot be faulted.

    MPEG artefacts were not especially noticeable during the band footage, although there is much blurring in the background that appears to have been caused by the photography, which in turn would be easy to mistake for overcompression. Film-to-video artefacts were not noticed, with none of the usual culprits that can normally be found on a programme of this nature showing any shimmer whatsoever. Film artefacts consisted of some black and white flecks during some of the footage that is used to fill gaps between songs, but they were not especially noticeable in the concert footage.

Audio

    The audio transfer is presented with two soundtracks, both of them in English: the first is a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, and the second one is a Linear PCM Stereo mix, which also happens to be the default. I listened to the first three songs in Dolby Digital 5.1, but the muffled and compressed feel imposed upon the music by the compression led me to switch to the Linear PCM mix and start from the beginning. It is worth noting that you cannot change audio mix on the fly, and must go to the menu in order to select your preferred mix, which would be rather annoying if it wasn't for the fact that the default had much greater life and fidelity. The vocals were clear and easy to make out at all times, and the rest of the music was well mixed together, with no instruments being drowned out or allowed to overly dominate either mix. There were no discernible problems with audio sync, although the only instruments that were focused upon enough to tell were the vocals.

    The music by Tom Petty can be described as being middle-of-the-road rock music with little to distinguish it from all the other offerings of this variety that I have sat down and watched. Indeed, this live collection does very little to convince me to buy any Tom Petty albums in lieu of bands such as Violent Femmes or Rollins Band. I think this may be more related to the limitations of the live setting, as even the best song in this set, Breakdown, sounded pretty flat and hard to distinguish from the other songs in comparison to its studio counterpart.

    The surround channels were used in the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix to create a wide soundstage with perfectly separated channels for the instruments, giving them plenty of room to breathe. The problem is that the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is so quiet and pedestrian as to thoroughly strip the performance of what little energy it actually has, making for a flat experience. The Linear PCM Stereo mix was, by comparison, much more vibrant and powerful, and it also seemed to have a greater overall presence. The subwoofer was consistently active to support the bass and drums in both mixes without calling any special attention to itself.

Extras

    None, nada, zilch.

Menu

    The menu is static, and lacks enhancement of any kind, including the 16x9 variety. It is very ugly to look at, with smeared backgrounds, and the graphics used for menu choices appear very poorly designed indeed.

R4 vs R1

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;     There's not much separating the two versions of this disc, but I would vastly prefer a Super Jewel Case to the dreaded Snapper any day.

Summary

    High Grass Dogs is a vaguely interesting presentation of Tom Petty. I have little doubt that his serious fans will eat this one up.

    The video quality is good.

    The audio quality is good, except for the lacklustre Dolby Digital 5.1 mix.

    The extras are non-existent.
 

Ratings (out of 5)

Video sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)
Audio sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes) (PCM)
sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sgh.gif (874 bytes)(Dolby)
Extras
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Overall sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sgh.gif (874 bytes)
© Dean McIntosh (my bio sucks... read it anyway)
October 6, 2000.
Review Equipment
   
DVD Toshiba SD-2109, using S-video output
Display Samsung CS-823AMF (80 cm), 16:9 mode/4:3 mode, using composite and S-video inputs
Audio Decoder Built In (Amplifier)
Amplification Sony STR-DE835
Speakers Panasonic S-J1500D Front Speakers, Philips PH931SSS Rear Speakers, Philips FB206WC Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer