|Veteran Little Feat fans familiar with the band's live shows in the '70s will notice some missteps in the performance captured on this 1977 German television broadcast. Its sound betrays the original monaural mix and notable concert PA system glitches, and the video coverage likewise suffers from lapses in focus, color saturation from the stage lights, and questionable camera choices. Why on earth would we recommend it? Because even a flawed Feat show captures one of that decade's most mesmerizing live groups, and the set in question offers the first comprehensive visual record of that prowess.
In an era noteworthy for live rock's vaunted arena ambitions, including the substitution of elaborate production effects and musical bombast for musicianship, Little Feat were riveting exceptions, a supple and accomplished sextet that made their often intricate and subtle music sound deceptively simple and accessible. Mating gutbucket blues, country flourishes, and New Orleans second-line syncopations to colorful (and sometimes surrealistic) songs, this true Hollywood band was often mistaken for a Southern boogie outfit. And, in original leader and principal songwriter Lowell George, Feat had a funny, feisty front man whose striking electric slide guitar playing would influence dozens of other musicians.
By the time of this live broadcast from Essen, Germany, George had stepped back to allow a more democratic arrangement, and virtuoso keyboard player Bill Payne and second guitarist Paul Barrere were taking over much of the writing. A shared group style, noteworthy for slippery time signatures, sneaky jazz harmonies, and a nifty mix of street smarts and poeticism, had coalesced in their repertoire, here echoing their brilliant live album, Waiting for Columbus.
If you're looking for a showcase for DVD's technical state of the art, this isn't it. But if you're after an archival testament to one of the coolest rock bands ever to tread the boards, Little Feat: Rockpalast Live more than earns its encores. --Sam Sutherland