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One Hot Night in the Cold (DVD)
Artist: Chris Thompson
Time: 16 Tracks + Bonus features / 87 + 68 mins
(Region 0 DVD)
The title of this DVD, originally filmed by Norwegian TV, comes from the cold of a Scandinavian night and the heat inside the intimate venue. I could virtually count the people in the club (an eco-bar that is heated by body power?), but that doesn’t take away from the performance on stage, where Thompson puts as much emotion into the set for 50-odd people as he would for an arena of 50,000.
Thompson is best known for his 25 years as vocalist in Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, but he has also worked with Alan Parsons, Jeff Wayne (on War of the Worlds) and Sarah Brightman. Here he is backed by the Mads Eriksen band, a Norwegian quartet with a highly capable, quietly efficient eponymous guitarist and a tight rhythm section that does a nice line in backing vocals when required.
The material falls into three camps: Manfred Mann songs, solo material and “You’re the Voice.”
Most of the MMEB song arrangements are straight from the studio albums – particularly noticeable, because Mann took many of his best known songs from writers such as Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, making his versions distinctive and as well known as the originals. Thompson begins his Mann material with a nicely understated telecaster-and-organ-only version of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song”. Terje Tranaas on keys defers enormously to Mann on the rest, such as the solo on “Davey’s on the Road Again,” which follows his work right down to structure and synth tone. “Mighty Quinn” disappoints a little, being too strung out, but “Blinded by the Light” and “For You” are strong and “Questions” makes an ideal wind-down encore, where Erikson gives an emotive solo.
First impressions count and make the original material less than appetizing. The so-so fast-rock opener is the well-named “Wasting Time.” Things pick up straight afterwards, however, with the blues-rock piece “One Man Mission." Thompson’s own material varies from well-played-but-average (“Get Up and Dance”) to superb (“Angel” is mature blues balladry at its best). “Heart of the Fire” is one of the strongest in this section, Erikson’s solo incorporating a line or two of the apposite “Norwegian Wood.” The guitarist’s country pastiche “Suburban Cowboy” is best not mentioned...
To climax the regular set, there is the anthemic “You’re The Voice”. This song, made a hit by fellow antipodean John Farnham, is a Chris Thompson co-write with Procol Harum’s Keith Reid, that has been one of the highest-selling singles in Australian history.
The bonus material includes a missable video of “Ain’t No Rain in the Farmyard,” and a half-hour making-of feature, but mainly focuses on one of Jon Kirkman’s fine interviews for 36 minutes, where Thompson is highly relaxed and talkative. The chat meanders a little in the middle, but there is plenty of interesting information sprinkled about in it.
The disc is patchy in places, but with plenty of decent content. Careful use of the skip button will give Manfred Mann fans over an hour’s worth of great viewing and listening.