If it seems odd to showcase a rock act as straightforward and non-flashy as Dave Matthews Band in 3D, “Larger Than Life in 3D” only underlines that curious mismatch. This pedestrian concert docu — toplining one of the music industry’s least theatrically inclined, most prosaically life-sized success stories — has no need for 3D, or vice versa. Filling format-equipped venues between “Disney’s A Christmas Carol” and “Avatar,” this first release in AEG Live and Action 3D’s planned series of filmed concerts opened a one-week engagement across the country on Friday to very modest returns.
First up are two songs (plus a third under the closing credits) from Gogol Bordello, whose pogo-polka raucousness was more vivid in the club-scaled climax of Madonna’s dicey directorial debut, “Filth and Wisdom.” Its charm seems more sweatily labored here, as band members endlessly exhort a huge outdoor crowd.
By contrast, Ben Harper and Relentless7 — actually, it’s a quartet — are less labor-intensive. The frontman spends two of three songs seated, seldom glancing up from his guitar. Band’s muscular sound compensates (especially on “Keep It Together”), even if Harper remains more solid than inspired as a songwriter and vocalist.
That also applies to the widely popular Matthews, a South Africa-born, white-bread baker of tastefully rocking, moderately funky tunes that, in concert, often distend into tastefully rocking, moderately funky jamming and solos.
The nearly hourlong set features fan favorites such as “So Much to Say,” “Why I Am” and “Funny the Way It Is,” as well as a Xerox cover of Talking Heads’ “Burning Down the House.” The basic rock quartet is filled out by trumpet, sax and electric violin.
This nocturnal gig (prior artists were shot during daytime hours) features stage lighting, rear projections and dry ice. But visual interest remains near-nil, and primary camera subject Matthews ain’t exactly a king of charisma.
The idea here is to give audiences a comparatively cheap-ticket, almost-live concert experience, and sound quality is duly excellent. Still, one expects more presentational oomph from any bigscreen concert pic, let alone a 3D one, and this no-frills document could have used some frills. There’s no interview or backstage footage; even crowd shots are scant until late. Segues between songs and acts are blunt, cinematography and editing just adequate. Pic was shot two months ago at the three-day Austin City Limits Festival, and the assembly does feel hasty.
Judging from this underwhelming launch, the producers might want to consider programming their future 3D concert records as one-day theatrical events rather than inviting tumbleweeds during a full week’s booking. San Francisco screening attended had an audience of five.