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You Should Be Watching: Palladia

December 23, 2010

If you love music like I do, then you need to be watching Palladia, a high-definition, music-centric cable channel that pulls concerts, documentaries, events, and other programming from the vast storehouses owned by MTV Networks’ Music Group, which includes MTV, VH1, and CMT.

I beg you: don’t be turned off by the current-day face value of those call letters–while the individual channels mostly stray far from their original mission, through Palladia, you can catch new and old episodes of Storytellers, BBC broadcasts, vintage and recent concert films, award shows, footage from several years’ worth of Glastonbury Festivals, long-forgotten Unplugged performances, all the Austin City Limits shows you can handle, and maybe even a CMT Crossroads engagement that you didn’t know you shouldn’t miss, such as the one I just stumbled on last week that featured Shooter Jennings and fellow neo-outlaw and contempo-country savior Jamey Johnson.

I’ve had this channel for years and yet, until recently, I’d forget that it was there, waiting to show me some overlooked gem of a performance. Here’s a brief look at some of Palladia’s offerings that I’ve enjoyed in the last few weeks.

David Gilmour: Live in Gdansk—This was the broadcast that made me finally decide to keep an eye on Palladia, and for several reasons. Gilmour plays as well as always, but his voice sounds as strong and clear as ever–certainly better than on Delicate Sound of Thunder and he very nearly eclipses the live readings of Pink Floyd songs found on Pulse. The sweeping, soaring Polish Baltic Philharmonic Orchestra adds a degree of beauty and drama that must be heard, whether in the service of Pink Floyd classics or songs from Gilmour’s then-new On an Island album. Lastly, this was the final live performance of PF-related material to feature pianist/keyboardist/vocalist Richard Wright, who died shortly before release. If you aren’t aware of his immense contributions to the Floyd, I urge you to check out his segment regarding his discussion of the piano passage featured in “Us & Them” found on the Classic Albums: Dark Side of the Moon DVD.

Depeche Mode: Tour of the Universe—When the nuclear holocaust has come and gone, Depeche Mode, like stylish and ultra-cool cockroaches, will have survived. If heroin and the devastatingly fickle nature of pop can’t kill them, then nothing can. Watch and be amazed; this is a tight-tight band, and one that displays a far more balanced mixture of electronic and traditional rock instrumentation and influences than I ever would have imagined.

Hall and Oates: Our Kind of Soul—I can’t help but chuckle to myself whenever I hear people gush over The Bird and the Bee’s covers of Hall and Oates classics, and I’m amused to the point of bemusement that these covers have sparked such a reappraisal of H&O, when I can clearly recall just how unfashionable they were not so long ago. Yes, TBATB do justice to these songs and really emphasize their durability and craftsmanship–and, importantly, they make them sound fresh. But, if listeners had been able to see past the 80’s production and through to H&O’s clear love for classic R&B, such a reevaluation would never have truly been necessary. Hall and Oates adapted their instrumentation and methods to suit the times and emerging technology, but their strengths were always in their allegiance to Philly soul. This performance, mostly consisting of cover tunes, proves this point well.

U2: Rattle & Hum—It’s really easy to forget when these guys were still young, hungry, and shit-hot. This doc, and the concert footage therein, serves as a great reminder, even if you don’t count the album–or this era–as their best. While the interview footage is sometimes awkward, it’s humanizing and occasionally playfully sweet. Bono’s full of himself, sure, but he’s nowhere near the level of aggrandizement he’d attain later, after the music didn’t quite justify some of the hubris so well. Watching him and the band at work, still in their prime, you remember why you used to believe the hype.

Honorable Mentions—Foo Fighters: Live at Wembley, Chuck Berry: Hail, Hail Rock ‘N’ Roll, Gnarls Barkley: Live at Roskilde Festival, Heart: Night and Sky Church, NIN: Beside You in Time

While these might not suit your taste, keep up with their schedule, and I’m sure you’ll find something to love. This is must-watch music television, folks.

  1. Paul permalink*
    December 24, 2010 12:36 am

    Palladia is one of the few channels I miss now that we don’t have cable anymore. The hi-def concerts were a thing of beauty.

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