From electronic dance music to a 34-piece orchestra; from the famous Hollywood Bowl to the silver screen! Above & Beyond Acoustic: Giving Up The Day Job is the latest achievement that the musical trio has put on their ever-expanding resume of creative expression. I analyze this film through two different lens: as an avid Above & Beyond fan who has seen them live seven times including their Toronto acoustic performance at Massey Hall, and as the average person who has never been exposed to the Anjunafamily before.
Directors Myles Desenberg and Paul Dugdale packaged the film as a countdown to the group’s sold out acoustic show at the Hollywood Bowl in amphitheater in California. This is Above & Beyond’s most successful show to date as a solo headliner with 17,500 fans in attendance. Footage from the recording studio and interviews with Jono Grant, Tony McGuinness, Paavo Siljamäkiand the vocalists are cut in between a large selection of live recordings from the main event. The concert footage of the entire 34-piece band is gorgeously captured and edited together with passionate fans singing along, smiling, crying, and being moved by the music.
This is a feel-good film for those already familiar with and currently following Above & Beyond’s musical career. The concert footage brought me back to my personal experience at the Toronto show which was such a beautiful experience that I cannot praise enough. The crowd shots from the Hollywood Bowl were very diverse of all types of people of all genders, race, and sexuality and is the perfect representation of the inclusiveness and the mantra “we’re all we need”. Long time collaborators Justine Suissa and Zoë Johnston and touring singers Natalie Holmes and Cobi each had their moment on screen as the lead vocalist. Together they covered a selection of acoustical remakes including: We Are All We Need, Blue Sky Action, Miracle, Counting Down The Days, Satellite / Stealing Time, No One On Earth, On My Way To Heaven, Peace Of Mind, Thing Called Love, Sun And Moon, and Good For Me. Fans watching along in the theatre got very into the musical segments and would clap after each song.
That being said, this film could not stand on its own as a documentary without any prior knowledge of Above & Beyond. There was very little “character development” all round. Interviews involving the trio were filmed from a fly-on-the-wall perspective but sadly it all comes across very staged and at times, a little forced. The producer, Bob Bradley, is introduced as the one who created the acoustic arrangements and we see short clips of him in the studio… and that’s it. There needed to be more insight to the creation of their acoustic series and more details on the creative process. The constant questioning if fans will follow A&B in their new musical direction loses all suspense early on, and the countdown to the Hollywood Bowl show is completely unnecessary because of the interspersed concert and fan admiration footage, which lead us to believe it all happened successfully without any problems or concerns. Initially intriguing, “Giving Up The Day Job” is now a questionable title – if your job is to create and perform music but all you do is switch instruments, what are they really giving up?
I would’ve been happier simply watching the recording of the concert in its entirety, but by teasing in some documentary aspects it left me wanting more. This was Above & Beyond’s opportunity to talk directly to their audience; to capitalize on this medium by presenting their incredible talents to new, unaware viewers and strengthen the Anjunafamily by revealing a more complicated world beyond the stage.
Ashlyn Doughty – EDM TOR