Incognito In Concert

Mark Sabbatini By

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In Concert
Music Video Distributors

This DVD brings out the inner child - at least the one going through the "why stage.

Why is Incognito, who say they "made their name as pioneers of British acid jazz, performing such nondescript funk? Why is this show being released after a decade? Why the cheesy overly colorful production? Why doesn't the audience look like they're more than lukewarm, even if the performers are sweating profusely?

Why spend an hour watching this when the group has so many acclaimed albums one can listen to?

The answer probably lies in the question. Incognito In Concert offers fans a chance to see the 11-member group perform mostly a greatest hits set during a June 27, 1995, concert. The problem is this isn't a bad performance. It's dull - almost as bad for this kind of music. Also, packaging seems to take priority over performance.

It's mildly interesting, for example, to watch Byron Wallen open the concert by hoisting a lengthy Tibetan horn, but all he does is play a couple of long notes and wait for the audience to applaud. The song, "Good Love becomes a straight pop/dance beat with some horns with an honest but unremarkable vocal performance by Pamela Anderson. Her fairly consistent lower-register singing fills the professionally on this and other songs, but seldom feels energetic.

This may be in part due to mediocre sound, which is overcompressed, mixed oddly and possesses almost a distant quality. It also makes the instrumentalists virtually colorless, especially since they get few chances to solo. There's occasional moments of distortion, a sign the original recording may have been less than exceptional.

Band leader J.P. "Bluey Maunick, who performs on guitar and vocals, keeps asking the audience if they're ready to "take it to the next level, which becomes mildly funny or painful depending upon one's attachment to the group. It's interesting that, while Maunick gets top billing, he's actually a near non- presence as other singers dominant.

A number of small things give this the feel of a cheap, hastily produced DVD, including a lack of printed linear notes and performer credits. The "extras on the disc are sparse, consisting of a short interview with producer Michael Au and a biography of Maunick. Finally, the performance has only basic camera work and a few annoying touches such as neon splash titles for each song.

Fans of the group won't find anything heartbreaking in this disc, but it's easy to imagine them telling themselves they're enjoying it instead of summoning such feelings without conscious effort. Unless watching the group is a must, better bets from this era are the 1992 album Tribes, Vibes and Scribes and 1994's Positivity.

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