It's surprising to think that with the magnitude of a band like Newsboys, it would take over twenty years for them to release their first ever official live audio project. For 2008, the Aussie based pop rock band brings their successful 2007 GO Tour to disc in a CD/DVD packaging format.
This version of the GO Tour captures on CD and DVD a slightly different presentation and song selection than their Spring '07 launch of the GO Tour. The tour's set list primarily consists of tracks from the band's latest studio effort, GO, with early runs of the tour including "In Wonder" as well, instead of "Stay Strong" which replaced it following the release of a new Greatest Hits compilation from their former label. Also, the "medley" tease that is performed towards the middle of the set included "Not Ashamed," "Million Pieces," "Entertaining Angels," and ended with "Where You Belong / Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus." Here, only "Not Ashamed" remains in the medley, and "Reality," "Love Liberty Disco," and "Amazing Love" all appear instead. But while "Entertaining Angels" was excluded from this particular set list, it does appear in its entirety following the medley, whereas "It Is You" was performed before.
The biggest drawback to this tour, as well as this recording, is the lack of classic Newsboys tunes presented in their entirety. The band has been performing an overlong cover of Matt Redman's "Blessed Be Your Name" since the Adoration Tour years ago and for it to be included here for nearly seven and a half minutes just feels a bit like overkill. On the other hand, it always goes over well live and makes for a lovely worshipful moment in their live set (which is probably why they keep playing it), it's just that with such a catalog of music as Newsboys have, it's a shame they couldn't represent more of it live. And that brings us back to the classic medley, which clocks in at over nine minutes but consists of only one performance of a line from the chorus of each song (except for "Amazing Love," which is another song that isn't a Newsboys classic). Most of the track is Peter Furler's tongue-in-cheek retelling of the band's humble beginnings set to Paul Colman's repetitious strumming -- something that is delightful live, but tedious in recorded form if you plan to listen to it over and over. When all is said and done, only really eleven full songs are included on Newsboys Live: Houston We Are GO, while many live records will load up the track list with many fan favorites (TobyMac's recent Alive & Transported comes to mind).
The audio quality for the CD portion of the project is actually really crisp and clear. On most of the tracks, the crowd is loud and pronounced at the beginning and fade into the background when the core vocals begin. Peter Furler's vocals are near perfect - at times almost too perfect (some studio overdubbing?). While listening to the CD, it meshes really well, but while watching the DVD, Furler's voice doesn't seem to match the image as it sounds more like a studio recording than a live one. And at times - like during "The Mission," we can see Paul Colman or Jeff Frankenstein belting out background vocals into their microphones while with the audio on the DVD especially, all we really hear are Furler's leads. But regardless of how it was done, the audio disc sounds great and fans will enjoy having these songs captured live in high quality.
The real drawback to Newsboys Live: Houston We Are GO is actually its DVD. With recent live projects from Third Day, TobyMac, and Rebecca St. James having been presented in widescreen, I was really expecting this to be a high resolution production. Sadly, it's hardly that. The video is merely presented in standard full screen format. While that's clearly forgivable, the quality of the captured video varies from crystal clear to muddy or presented in much, much too high contrast. Some of the camera angles are interesting, including some shots from within the crowd, but the cameras seem to focus a little bit too often on the audience members themselves, and not even in the best screen quality either. The resolution varies from camera to camera and it sometimes gives the presentation a truly amateur feel - especially when some zoom shots are digital zoom and not optical zoom. One of the highlights of the concert footage, however, is the inclusion of the entire drumming duel between Duncan Phillips and Peter Furler. It's a highlight of the live show and, while only forty five seconds of it appears on the CD, fans get to experience it in its unedited form on the DVD portion of the project. Lastly, the DVD doesn't include any other bonus features besides the live concert itself. This isn't really a big deal either, but some artist interviews thrown in for good measure would have been a nice addition.
In the end, Newsboys Live: Houston We Are GO isn't quite everything longtime Newsboys fans have been waiting for. The audio quality is near fantastic which makes the project worth the fans' purchase, but the DVD is rather disappointing. Still, even if you view the DVD as a bonus to the live audio disc, Newsboys Live: Houston We Are GO works well enough as a GO Tour souvenir. Now, all we need is for the Newsboys to record a live CD/DVD project consisting of all fan favorites from their extensive album collection and we'll be really good to go.- Review date: 9/29/08, written by John DiBiase
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