Europe or Your DVD Player, Blue Cheer Will Rock It

I don't think I've ever posted a DVD cover as a lead image before. To be honest, I'm not quite sure how to do it.Even if Blue Cheer weren’t gods widely credited with being the first true stoner rock band, their new DVD, Rocks Europe (Rainman Records) would still be worth checking out just for frontman/bassist Dickie Peterson‘s commentary and bonus interview segment. Between the two, he spills his guts about the trio’s long, long history — they formed in 1966! — and what it was like being the loudest band in the San Francisco hippie scene, his lack of a tone knob, the blues, his motivations, songs that take 20 years to write, how he wants to die on stage, etc. It’s a 90-minute show and the commentary runs through the whole thing. He’s got a lot of time to fill.

The concert taped for the DVD took place in Bonn, Germany in April 2008, so it’s not so much all of Europe being rocked as just one city in it, but as someone who saw them on the American leg of this tour supporting their first album in 16 years, What Doesn’t Kill You, the safe bet is that the rest of the shows fell in line accordingly. The set list in Bonn crosses the decades, opening with “Babylon” from 1968’s Outsideinside, going back to their seminal release, (earlier) 1968’s Vincebus Eruptum with “Parchman Farm,” “Out of Focus,” “Summertime Blues” and “Doctor Please” spread throughout with What Doesn’t Kill You cuts “I’m Gonna Get to You,” (the High Times Award-winning) “Rollin’ Dem Bones,” “Just a Little Bit” and “Maladjusted Child” before returning to Outsideinside to close the night with their famous cover of Booker T. Jones‘ “The Hunter.” Sure, there are seven other studio records untouched, but Blue Cheer hasn’t lasted 43 years by indulging themselves in the deep cuts. They know what fans want and they know how to deliver. Loudly.

They're on the same team.But, just as much as his BrianJohnson-wishes-he-had-this crusty blues voice is an essential part of the band’s legacy, it’s hearing Peterson‘s stories, thoughts and opinions that really make Rocks Europe an interesting document of the band. With clever editing, the commentary takes periodic breaks to let guitarist Andrew “Duck MacDonald (still considered “the new guy” since he only joined in 1989) and drummer Paul Whaley shine, and though he rambles some — again, lots of time to fill — his unique experience as a musician proves to be the high point of the DVD. That’s not to say the show is lacking anything whatsoever in the ass kicking dept., because this is Blue Cheer we’re talking about, but a concert film without context gets old really quick, as all too many releases prove. With Rocks Europe, you get Peterson talking openly about his history of addiction while at the same time introducing “Doctor Please” by “clearing up the rumor that it’s a drug song” with a simple, “It is.” I’m sorry, but that’s just fascinating.

Famed producer and instrumental stoner rock figure Jack Endino (Nebula, High on Fire, etc.) contributes laudatory liner notes, there’s a photo slideshow set to an unreleased recording of “Alligator Boots”, the aforementioned interview separate from the commentary and a smoke-filled behind-the-scenes featurette from Dutch tv. But really, the show is the show, and if you’ve yet to experience Blue Cheer, Rocks Europe can’t even be close to approximating the volume of the stage, but the blending of documentary info and raw, powerful rock is sticky and dank enough so that it more than gives the general idea. Blue Cheer forever.

Blue Cheer on MySpace

Rainman Records

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