FRANK MARINO - Live At The Agora Theatre (DVD Review)
Release date August 4/19 (mahoganyrush.net/dvd)
Finally, a quality live DVD from the greatest guitarist to ever have bent strings. Move aside Eddie, Jimi, Jimmy, Randy, Tony et al, we're talkin' about Montreal's underappreciated Frank Marino of (limited) Mahogany Rush fame. Working on his fifth decade in the business, it's definitely a case of "better late than never" as he is clearly past his 70's commercial height. That said, there's no doubting the man has retained his enviable six string talents despite his advancing age (this was recorded in 2010 when he was 56).
Some facts first. This is a monumental package consisting of one immaculate Blu Ray disc and three regular DVDs (both containing the same six hour (!) concert held at Cleveland's Agora Theatre), as well as a book, which are all packaged in a nifty box set (that can be signed by Frank himself if so desired).
The book contains three sections, the first a history lesson of all things Marino up to the tour that this DVD was filmed. The second part is a photo album, while the guitarist himself pens the final section, covering the tale about the 2010 tour and the filming/editing of the DVD (an incredible story of luck, perseverance, passion and dedication). What becomes clear from reading this tome is that this is a case of an artist sticking to his beliefs and standards despite financial implications, refusing to issue his art until it was perfect. I'll leave it up to your reading pleasure to find out about the unbelievable details.
Onto the concert itself now. Broken into three sets, Marino leads his band (rhythm guitarist, bassist, drummer and guest violinist on a few tracks) through an extensive list of tracks covering most of his recorded works (disappointed that nothing from Tales of the Unexpected was included though). The first two sets are somewhat laidback, finding Marino focusing the majority of his playing on jazzier, psychedelic terrain, only reaching intensity levels that he is renowned for on occasion. However, the elongated third set is chock-a-block with searing guitar work, including a suite built around 'Reflections of War' and 'The World Anthem'. Worth the price of admission alone, here we see and hear a master instrumentalist schooling all others in his craft. All fall to your knees.
Now for the hard part - critiquing such a massive package. Clearly I will never watch this in its entirety ever again. It's just too long and, to be honest, uneven. I'm a fan of his hard rockin' stuff, usually eschewing his laidback side, so there is definitely some downtime for me on the first two setlists. Additionally, overall the backing band lacks the incendiary fire that I saw glimpses of from his 70s and 80s live clips. That said, I'll be extracting a good 2 to 3 hours from this onto my own playlist for a concert that I anticipate I will watch over and over again until I am placed in a pine box. For that I unreservedly give two enthusiastic thumbs up for satisfying this long-time fan's thirst for a top notch concert document.