Christine Lavin,
Girl Uninterrupted
(self-produced, 2003)

The best sort of live concert video is one that presents the entire concert, start to finish with nothing edited out, as a document of the concert in its entirety. Girl UNinterrupted is exactly that; as promised on the cover, "filmed live in Indianapolis -- not a single moment, glance or thoughtless mumble edited out!" The view cuts back and forth between two cameras, providing essentially the view from the first or second row. Although there are no menus on the DVD, the sound is well recorded and the full-screen video image allows you to feel like you are there.

If you're familiar with Christine Lavin, you know that she's a rather unique combination of humorist and modern folksinger, best loved for her funny songs, her story-songs and her witty repartee with the audience that, between the songs, works almost like a stand-up comedy routine.

She opens and closes the show with "Strangers Talk to Me" performed a cappella accompanied only by a rhythm track she creates by multi-tracking her voice on a digital sequencer. Next, she gets the show going with a story-song; most of her story-songs are either funny or poignant, and "Jack & Wanda" falls into the latter category. Lavin explains that the song is based on a true story about a couple she met on a plane who celebrate their anniversary every four weeks.

"Good Thing He Can't Read My Mind" is one of Lavin's humorous classics, funny and charming. This slightly self-deprecating version is only the third song of the evening, but already the audience is eating out of her palm. "Da Doo En Ron Ron" updates the oldie with some current events, while on "Harrison Ford" she sets up a nice chorus using her voice multi-tracked on the sequencer and then sings over it to good effect. "Planet X" is another story-song that uses echo to good effect, and "Jeopardy Lyrics" offers more clever and self-deprecating humor.

The last portion of the first set is heavy on audience participation as Lavin first identifies the smartest people at the concert and gives them science articles, then attempts to find the best looking man in Indianapolis who this night is Wayne the epidemiologist. Lavin strong-arms Wayne into singing backup on the set closer, "Sensitive New Age Guys," with a chorus of new-age guys selected from the audience. Fans may wonder what happened to the sexual joke at the end of this song; I'd guess that she perhaps toned it down for her Midwestern audience. The DVD provides a musical interlude during the concert's intermission.

The second set opens with "The King of Indianapolis is Wayne," freshly written during the break. On "Happy Birthday Mary Helen, Mary Margaret, David & Michael" she sings to four people at once, multi-tracking four different sounding voices simultaneously. The multi-tracking device is put to good use again on "Making Friends With My Grey Hair" complete with a demonstration of the device as Lavin sings "follow the yellow brick road" in a munchkin voice.

Introducing "Sunday Breakfast With Christine" she mentions that she used to host a radio show by that name but more recently wrote a theme song for it and included a recipe in the song. This reminded me of the first time I ever heard Lavin on the radio many years ago, with a song called "Cold Pizza for Breakfast," first recorded back in 1984. I think I'm sensing a theme here. Later in the second set, she gives away more stuff to the audience. The show closer is a nice medley of "All I Have to Do is Dream," "Summer Song" and "Gotta Twirl," referring to Lavin's predilection for baton twirling, with a little "Mr. Sandman" mixed in, and yes, there's even marching band music and glow-in-the-dark baton twirling by Lavin before the song ends.

To complete the concert experience, the DVD includes a shot of the audience leaving while the sound system in the theater plays a pre-recorded version of "Good Thing He Can't Read My Mind" recorded live in San Francisco with vocal backing by the Washington, D.C., Gay Men's Chorus. As a further bonus, while the song continues, there's a home movie of a young relative of Christine's twirling while the credits roll. This is followed by an on-screen listing of the recipe for petit pan au chocolat from the "Sunday Breakfast With Christine" song, which plays again while the recipe displays.

The show was filmed on Feb. 16, 2002, at Rehearsal Studios in Indianapolis by the staff and students of Butler University's telecommunications department, and they really did a fine job providing a straightforward document of Lavin's live performance. Clocking in with a total time of one hour and 57 minutes, there really were no apparent interruptions on Girl UNinterrupted. You go, girl!

- Rambles
written by William Kates
published 17 April 2004

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