There are no bonus features on the DVD/Blu-Ray of Graham Parker & The Rumour’s This Is Live, but there don’t really need to be. Their performance says all that needs to be said. It would be purely redundant if the musicians, or Judd Apatow, producer/director of the concert film embellished upon the idea at the heart of the video as it relates to the movie, This Is 40, in which the band appears and this title refers.
The leading man of that film, Paul Rudd, offers an introduction with genuine enthusiasm, his reference to the first live performance in thirty years sounding only a bit histrionic as Parker and The Rumour begin to play. There’s a delicate restraint in their musicianship, grounded not just in shared experience, but a confident sense the group have nothing to prove. “Fool’s Gold” ever so strongly suggests these musicians know they fulfilled their promise, not to mention their ambition, decades ago (even if not perfectly), so culls from their best work, Squeezing Out Sparks, don’t carry the near-desperate edge of the original recordings. But then they don’t have to because songs such as “Protection” now take on new meaning in lines like “…after all the urges, some kind of truth emerges…”
Gleaming sound and sight of the video and audio recording for This Is Live suits the polished interaction of the ensemble, its detail supplied by players who know the material well enough to not worry about playing it ‘correctly.’ Rather, Parker and co. play the songs loosely enough to render material like “Local Girls” fresh for followers who know them by heart, yet remain sufficiently true to the originals so novice observers will be fulfilled in hearing this performance. Mirroring the band’s interplay, Judd Apatow’s editing has the ultra smooth transitions of the veteran filmmaker he is, but that doesn’t render the selection of shots any less illuminating; rather, his love of this band and its music is apparent in shots such as the close-up of Brinsley Schwartz’ guitar captured in mid-solo.
From the sophisticated-looking stage of LA’s Belasco Theatre, Graham Parker’s own presence evinces the passage of time in an honorable way as well. The acerbic sense of humor that’s grown to be such a major component of his persona over the course of his solo work comes through not just in the intros to various tunes, but the wry delivery of its lyrics. And the jaunty feel that permeates performances of the vintage likes of “Soul Shoes” carries over into selections from the 2012 studio album Three Chords Good, most effectively on “Long Emotional Ride,” but not much less so on “Stop Crying About the Rain.”
The outstanding tracks on last year’s reunion recording were actually those that spoke directly to twists and turns of relationships over the course of time, so it’s little surprise “She Rocks Me” and “Three Chords Good” remain of lesser stature even in this updated context. Still, those compositions are already beginning to gain depth, a process that may well progress if Graham Parker and The Rumour continue to offer them in concert. This Is Live makes a case for the continuation of their partnership, even if only based the spontaneous looks of pleasure on the faces of these men through the course of this near-hour concert and especially as they receive the wholly justified acclamation the audience offers them at its conclusion.