DVD Review: Gentleman - MTV Unplugged
by Gardy Stein
"See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?" (Isaiah 43:19)
Seeing is believing, they say. And even though most of us certainly don't need any more conviction after laying ears on the album, the freshly released DVD Gentleman MTV Unplugged is a treat you shouldn't withhold from your eyes! As the CD-review (read it here) informs you explicitly about the music included, this one will concentrate on the more visual facts.
The beautiful organic artwork of the whole release is a good starting point. In proper style with the unplugged theme, the Hamburg-based Rocket & Wink (who already worked the complete New Day Dawn album) created a down-to-earth natural design that even permeates the DVD menu.
Arriving here, you can choose between "start", "songs", "options" (Dolby Digital Power!), "credits" (recommendable because of the joint obeisance to the fans depicted there) and "making of". Let's start with the latter: it's a personal highlight because it sheds some light on the enormous achievement this production is, making us aware what was happening behind the curtains. Roger Robinson a.k.a. Robbo Ranx, in his unique way, catches a few statements of all the singers and many musicians involved and takes us places that are normally reserved to artists and staff alone.
But back to the main stage. Entering the movie, you'll be instantly captured by the upside-down stage situation – the musicians play in the room normally reserved for the public, while the selected audience inhabits the re-adjusted stage. From lush carpets to lit candles and the pictures on the walls, great care has been taken to create an atmosphere in which Gentleman's songs feel utmost comfortable. In fact, it's hard to imagine any other scenery! And then the first notes start and again I'm lost in 144 minutes of emotions set to music. Only that this time, the experience is not only hearable but viewable as well!
To see what is hidden, engrained in the audio is a true blessing – the smiling faces, the hugs exchanged, the intensity of the musical experience reflected on the faces of the musicians... We see Gentleman and Shaggy celebrating their contagious Warn Dem along with the spectators. We see Dean Fraser (in the rare moments he is not in physical union with his saxophone) play the timbals or the triangle in Homesick. We see the audience rise as one to dance along with Gentleman in Leave Us Alone. We even see his mum whom he dedicates the song Send A Prayer to. We see the passion with which Pierre-Henri Dutron orchestrates the string section so skilfully arranged by him and David Menke. We see how the poignancy of the moment brings listeners to the verge of tears in Another Melody. We see the camera crew working hard to capture every single instant, but most of all we see a room full of people creating musical history.
And, finally, also the secret of the Interlude is revealed: Tilo Wachter, a percussionist, singer and trainer from the south-westernmost corner of Germany takes us on an impressing trip with his voice and his Hang, a very rare percussive instrument with a strikingly rich sound.
A special delight is Denver Smith (can I please get a custom DVD with a superimposed steady take on him?). He is not only an extremely valuable part of the musical ensemble, this young man pushes spirits high as well, radiating such a profound joy of life and creation that you just can't resist smiling along with him. Here is what he has to say about MTV Unplugged: "Being a part of this project was a great joy as it allowed me to play to my full potential as a musician, not just a percussionist. I'm looking forward to the shows I'm going to do with Gentleman next year!"
Oh yes, the upcoming shows... make sure you don't miss the tour that's running throughout Germany in April 2015 to catch some vibes!
This album definitely is a new thing springing up, and the biblical quote in the beginning poses a question I'd like to pass on to the German Reggae community: Do you not perceive it? The paradox is, even though the release is celebrated by general and reggae-specific media alike, the feedback of the German Reggae community is relatively restrained. Would that be the same if a Jamaican artist had done MTV Unplugged? Probably not. We'll hopefully get the chance to check that out soon, now that the ban is broken and Reggae has made yet another step forward. Who would you like to see next on MTV Unplugged?
Maybe this release can be seen as a pledge for more. More appreciation for the achievements of others would be a good start: it's so much more fun to find things to praise and uplift someone than to nag and ningi-ningi and bring others down. Also, more attention to this rich and creative genre worldwide is certainly needed. Finally, more senses involved in our daily businesses – eyes, ears, brain and heart – could make the change our world is in dire need of. Behold!
Gentleman - MTV Unplugged
DVD / BLU-RAY [Universal]
Release date: 12/05/2014
04. The Journey
05. Road of Life
07. Different Places
08. Send a Prayer
09. It No Pretty
11. To the Top feat. Christopher Martin
12. Warn Dem feat. Shaggy
13. New Day Dawn
15. In My Arms
16. You Remember
17. Heart of Rub-A-Dub
18. Rainy Days feat. Tamika & Martin Jondo
19. Dem Gone
22. Homesick feat. Milky Chance
23. No Solidarity feat. Ky-Mani Marley
24. Big City Life feat. Marlon Roudette
25. Walk Away
26. Leave Us Alone
27. Another Melody feat. Tanya Stephens
28. Redemption Song feat. Ky-Mani Marley & Campino