- Traffic The Last Great Traffic Jam
Timing is everything. I get an email confirming a DVD review assignment, and its quickly followed by my traditional time to start the New Year by having my body finally give up on me, demanding that it needs a rest. Usually comes about in the form of some version of cold/sinus infection/flu-like symptoms and includes much hacking, blowing, sniffling, aching, and whining.
Since my years in college, when the holidays meant going out as much as possible to get together with friends and visiting relatives on both sides of my family, to my post-collegiate time, wherein I worked my way through the end of the year as well as all the visiting/going out, Ive become accustomed to this Forced Rest. And while it remains frustrating that I cant jump into each new year with the enthusiasm of having a clean slate and rushing my way towards all methods of self-improvement, long-held desires, and procrastinated projects, Ive learned that some natural disasters can be foreseen but unavoidable. I mean, its not as if my use of several boxes of Kleenex rates anyway near the equivalence of most of the Gulf Coast region still being screwed up and screwed over by our government and its agencies.
Somewhere in the middle of all this is the need to check out the Traffic DVD The Last Great Traffic Jam. An assignment is an assignment. And while my concentration level runs from ADD to me so tired to…um, I forgot, what was I saying, I still need to push play and come up with a few words on this chronicle of the last time Traffic graced the stages of the United States, which was back in 1994. While Steve Winwood currently incorporates Traffic songs into his solo sets, its extremely unlikely hed go back to that moniker since the death of longtime friend and band member Jim Capaldi. In fact, with much of the backstage moments focused on Capaldi, along with the performances, the DVD becomes a tribute of sorts to Winwoods fallen mate.
Lucky for me that the construction of Last Great Traffic Jam coincides with my fluctuating state of mind. Rather than unspool one specific gig or even take excerpts from several shows and splice em together as one seamless performance, this moves along in a haphazard stretch of onstage action, rehearsals, crowd shots, and interviews plus the requisite backstage banter and silliness. What sounds like throw-everything-up-against-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks editing actually works quite smoothly. At the very least, its a different and somewhat refreshing method than the usual two hours of watching and wishing you were there or watching and never quite getting that adrenaline rush of actually being there even if you play the DVD loud, spill beer on your feet, and charge yourself inflated prices each time you head to the fridge for a beer.
Its interesting to see the normally reserved Winwood openly enjoying himself during the behind the scenes footage, while Capaldi is endearing throughout with his dry humor and general frumpiness. He shuffles around his hotel room or backstage, only coming to life when he plays or sings.
The interviews, unfortunately, arent illuminating at all. The closest thing is when Capaldi gripes about meeting the press and all its useless questions.
Of course, the best part is the music. It brings back great memories of seeing Traffic when it opened up for the Grateful Dead during its Summer Tour. In particular, I recall dancing on the playing field at Sam Boyd Stadium, a perfect match of hot sounds and dry heat. In a related note, when Jerry Garcia joins the band during Dear Mr. Fantasy, it turns out to be less of a peak moment, almost as if he wasnt given the room to contribute. But thats minor because the real selling point is that this is your best taste of live Traffic, even if its imperfect at times, until film of the original line-up surfaces one of these days.