December 1, 2005

DVD Review: Yngwie Johann Malmsteen: Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra in E Flat Minor with the New Japan Philharmonic: Live

Many rock acts have taken their act to the stage with an orchestra, but I must say that I have not seen it done quite as successfully as Yngwie Malmsteen has. In most cases the bands get up and play their songs while the orchestra follows along. A good example of this would be when Metallica took to the stage with the San Francisco Philharmonic. I thought that was a good album, but it was nowhere near the level of Malmsteen's concerto.

Back in 2001, Yngwie decided to take his classically influenced playing and combine it with a full orchestra. He went to the drawing board and crafted a concerto for precisely this event. It is a wonderful piece of music that obviously plays around the guitar as its central point, yet complements the orchestra as a whole. the two meld together and become this wall of classical and rock sounds in perfect balance.

This is a different Yngwie than I am used to seeing. Over the past couple of years, I have had the opportunity to see Yngwie live, most recently, this past weekend. One thing that has always stood out was his flamboyant onstage antics. He was always swinging his guitar, or raising it to the heavens, always in leather with pointy boots and a frilly shirt, kicking in the air, all sorts of crazy stuff. For this performance, the leather and frills are there, but his presence is much more restrained. He walks out, takes a bow, and proceeds to play some incredibly precise and speedy licks.

The show not only showcases Yngwie's electric playing, but also his acoustic side. A few of the segments having him unplug and show that he cans till shred whether the strings are metal or nylon. As good as his playing is, it is only half the show. The orchestra sounds absolutely fantastic, and they are not just there to back the star attraction, but they also further their own purposes, creating this powerful wall of sound.

The camera work gets the job done as well, bringing you right into the think of the action. Get right into the orchestra as the violinists play, watch as the basses bring out the low end. More importantly we get right in on Yngwie's fretboard as his fingers fly over the strings, and impressive site, to say the least.

There is one lackluster element to this disk, that is the sound. It is presented in both Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0. Obviously, the 5.1 sounds better, but it wasn’t nearly as full as I would have liked. The recording is heavily guitar-centric, and that leaves the orchestra sounding a bit on the thin side.

Still, this is definitely a disk worth adding to the guitar fan’s collection. It is quite an impressive concoction of classical and rock.



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