Published Dec 01, 2004This is a decent enough performance doc with just enough good bits to be worth a look. The subject is a February, 2003 concert in celebration of the blues; it amasses a sizable number of blues musicians and their fellow-travellers in an ambitious attempt to survey a century's worth of music.
Thus they begin with Angelique Kidjo invoking the blues's roots in slavery and work their way up from W.C. Handy to Jimi Hendrix, capping things off with a performance by B.B. King. The attempts to give a potted history of the form come off as a little strained they're sketchy enough to both bewilder novices and annoy experts and their residual effect of lending gravity to a music already based on sorrow seems a trifle redundant.
Nevertheless, there are a raft of big names here, ranging from blues luminaries (like David "Honeyboy" Edwards, Buddy Guy, Larry Johnson, Hubert Sumlin and Robert Cray) to admirers stretching across several genres. It's hit or miss with the latter category, with performances ranging from the sublime (Shemekia Copeland's "Something's Got a Hold on Me") to the bizarre (David Johansen singing "Killin' Floor") to the embarrassing (Chuck D. and the Fine Arts Militia massacring "Boom Boom"), but while there are few standout renditions, the quality level evens out to at least the middle of the bell curve.
This isn't in the league of the year's other musical omnibus, Festival Express, but if it keeps director Antoine Fuqua from cranking out stuff like Training Day, who am I to argue? (Mongrel Media)