The Motels – Live at the Whiskey A Go Go (Live Concert Blu-ray Review)

The Motels - Live at the Whiskey A Go Go (Live Concert Blu-ray Review)This isn’t just a live concert for The Motels, it’s actually a celebration of the 50th anniversary for the historical LA rock club, “The Whiskey a Go-Go”.  The show opens with an introduction from Rosanna Arquette and Linda Perry.  Arquette gives a brief description of the history of the “Whiskey” followed by Linda offering up a cheeky tale of her fondness for Martha Davis and her music.  Most live concert home videos show the band ready and on stage with their Instruments set up and prepped.   But in this case they actually show the band gradually walk on stage minus Martha Davis.  I thought that was a really cool way to open the show as it really gives you the feeling that you’re in the crowd waiting with anticipation as the house lights dim, the stages lights come on, and the show begins. The band has settled into position while the crowd cheers insistently.  The keyboard player kicks in with the opening riff for “Party Professionals” and Moments later you see Martha Davis step up from stage right taking center stage to kick the tune off!


 The Motels - Live at the Whiskey A Go Go (Live Concert Blu-ray Review)
The filming of the concert is done in a somewhat unconventional way.  The editing and camerawork moves about the band in a sort of a random manner, but it also emulates the way someone would be looking around the stage if you were at a live show.  So there aren’t really any shots where the camera sweeps across the band or the crowd.  Normally the cameras would cut directly to the guitar player when the singer is adjusting their microphone.  But in this case they show the whole band from different angles regardless of the situation which really makes for a genuine live concert feel.  I think the goal here is to replicate the “rock club” experience for us watching at home, sticky floors and all!  They’ve definitely got a few fog machines going which initially I felt like they were distorting the image a bit.  But the fog really contributes to the overall ambiance and mystique.  If you were actually IN the crowd, you would be struggling to see the band through the fog, so it makes total sense for it to appear that way.


Martha’s voice still sounds strong and rich.  She also has great tone, which is refreshing to hear from someone who’s been around for as long as she has.  Often times when singers age their voices tend to decline.  But it’s clear that she’s kept her pipes in shape.  At one point between songs someone in the crowd actually yells for Martha to “take off her top!”.  She expertly handles this by asking, “do you know what birthday we’re celebrating today” eluding to her age.  It’s truly surprising that even an iconic figure of her status would still have to deal with such shenanigans.

The Motels - Live at the Whiskey A Go Go (Live Concert Blu-ray Review)

The whiskey is a fairly small venue.  The band, which consists of six members, is rather tightly packed on the stage.  However that doesn’t diminish the quality of the show.  The set up for the stage lights isn’t that elaborate.  But then again, this is an older style rock club so this isn’t the kind of “Arena Rock” experience that you might expect from the likes of AC/DC or Aerosmith.  It’s a much more intimate concert setting. And aside from the “douchey” comment the I mentioned earlier, the crowd is pretty pumped and in good spirits.

My one gripe is that the vocals are a little bit low in the mix.  There isn’t much low-end in the overall tone of the entire band, but I think if the vocals had a little more mid-range or bass, Martha would stand out a bit more amongst the rest of the instruments.  But that’s not to say that anything sounds bad.  Everybody sounds great!  It’s just that personally, I like to hear the vocals over everything else in the mix.  Especially in the case of Pop or New-Wave music.

The Motels - Live at the Whiskey A Go Go (Live Concert Blu-ray Review)As someone who grew up in the 90’s it’s kinda cool to hear the influence that Martha’s singing has had on modern day singers such as Gwen Stefanie, Shirley Manson and Alanis Morrissette.  Even after all these years you can tell that she still loves to perform live.  She even performs their biggest hits, which I’m sure she’s sang billions of times by now, with just as much passion and emotion as she did in the early 80s.  Mid way through the set they kick in with a new song.  Which normally I find a little boring when bands who’ve been around as long as The Motels add new tunes. But the new songs are actually really good!  They have the classic feel that we’re all familiar with, but at the same time they don’t just sound like remixes of old songs.  They actually have a fresh quality about them.




Unlike many New Wave artists from the early 80’s, The Motels aren’t completely reliant on the use of synths to drive their music.  They actually showcase the guitars and vocals with fairly minimal effects.  At a time when most music sounded like “Star Wars” sound effects set to a beat, The Motels stand out with a rich and genuine sound that instantly connects with you.  You don’t have to be a fan of them to acknowledge that they write great songs.  Good songwriting is good songwriting, no matter the era.  Martha Davis sings in an emotional and plaintive way that can penetrate through even the most jaded music lover.  Though she doesn’t have the biggest singing range, she does take great care in her vocal articulation that only skilled singers would be able to accomplish.  It’s one thing to be able to sing as high as Mariah Carey, or pack a million notes into a phrase like Christina Aguilera, but can you sing every note with such commitment that it sounds like it could be your last?

The Motels - Live at the Whiskey A Go Go (Live Concert Blu-ray Review)

Encoding: Not given.
Resolution: 1080p
Clarity/Detail:  Crisp and clear.  There are instances where the shot switches to hand held cameras in the crowd.  But the quality stays constant.
Depth:  It’s a small club so the only depth that happens from the overhead stationary camera.  But it’s still pretty good.
Black Levels:  Good and rich.
Color Reproduction:  Excellent.  Makes you feel like you’re right there.
Flesh Tones:  Very good and clear.
Noise/Artifacts:  There is some haziness from time to time but I feel like it adds to the authentic rock show experience.
The Motels - Live at the Whiskey A Go Go (Live Concert Blu-ray Review)
Audio Format(s): English 5.1 Dolby Digital, English 2.0 Dolby Digital.
Subtitles: None.
Dynamics: Excellent.  Aside from my personal preference to hear more vocals, it’s really great!  Considering the diversity of the instruments which includes keys, guitars, and sax they did a great job of maintaining the balance.
Low Frequency Extension: Not much in this department.  The mix focuses more on the high end tones.
Surround Sound Presentation: N/A.
Dialogue Reproduction: Clear and crisp.  All of the lyrics are easy to understand.
 The Motels - Live at the Whiskey A Go Go (Live Concert Blu-ray Review)


30 year fan get’s surprise meeting of a lifetime with Martha backstage

Original “Motels” members talk about the early days of the band and more.

Theatrical Trailer
The Motels - Live at the Whiskey A Go Go (Live Concert Blu-ray Review)
This was a really great show!  Watching this really took me back to my rocker days as a teen when I’d throw on my best Metal shirt, and head to San Francisco to catch my favorite band! Despite the random “meat head” that you might run into from time to time, there was a real sense of community among the rock crowd that I feel is kinda absent these days.  Often times with bands who have a long history, they tend to get a bit jaded and caught up in the idea of themselves. But with the Motels there is a grounded and genuine quality about them that simply states, “Hey man, come on out to the show tonight!  It’ll be GREAT!”
Available at Amazon.com:
The Motels - Live at the Whiskey A Go Go (Live Concert Blu-ray Review)

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