The Chieftains: Live Over Ireland – Water From the Well (2002)

by | Aug 25, 2007 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

The Chieftains:  Live Over Ireland – Water From the Well  (2002)

The Chieftains: Paddy Moloney, uilleann pipes, tin whistle & accordian; Derek Bell, harps, harpsicord, piano & tiompan; Martin Fay, fiddle; Sean Keane, fiddle; Kevin Conneff, bodhran & vocals; Matt Molloy, flute
Studio: Eagle Rock Entertainment
Video: 16:9 widescreen, color (problems: see below)
Audio:  PCM  stereo
Extras: could not access
Length: 110 minutes
Rating: **

The Chieftains “Live Over Ireland” is an interesting mix of documentary, live performances and travelogue, all in a single film. The film’s stunning opening sequence offers incredible visuals of the beautiful Irish countryside, while also doubling as a clever tool to introduce the band’s current members. The film then skips throughout Ireland, with sequences filmed in the homes of the various members offering anecdotes and insights into the group’s experiences; these are interspersed with live and often impromptu performances from the individual member’s homes, from many pubs scattered across the country, and from the concert stage. Joining them onstage and off are a host of notable guest artists and Irish musicians, including Ashley Mac Isaac, Steve Cooney, Van Morrison and the members of both Los Lobos and the Irish music supergroup Altan.

While the film spends about as much time in documentary mode as it does in actual performance of the music, anyone watching this should find the overall presentation both appealing and entertaining. I found all the interviews to be truly enlightening, and in the case of harpist and long-time member Derek Bell particularly poignant; he speaks of wanting to live another 20 years and, sadly, died not long after the film was completed. The many impromptu performances – many of them in local pubs, where many a pint was consumed during the filming – were invigoratingly fresh and mostly in the spirit of their early, more traditional work.

Now for the bad news: the image quality is really rather poor quality; in fact, I have bootlegs that are superior in every way to this DVD. Despite the fact that many of the interior sequences are shot in really dark locations in pubs and the various members’ houses, there’s fairly good contrast throughout, but the image is very fuzzy from the get-go. Both my front projector and DVD player offer focus and sharpness controls, but neither worked or only made edge enhancement artifacts really much more noticeable.  Sound quality is pretty good, and in consideration that a good portion of the film is spent in conversational sequences, that’s OK. But the disc is supposed to offer Dolby 5.1 sound, and there was no way to access it, and none of my DVD player could access the bonus material offerings either. And the widescreen image is not enhanced for 16 x 9.

Overall, I really enjoyed the concept and the content of “The Chieftains Live Over Ireland.” But the DVD was damned-near disappointing to watch. What a waste of great subject material. A must have for die-hard fans only.

— Tom Gibbs 

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