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Particle- Transformations Live

Transformations Live is a fitting title since the release captures Particle, regrouping after the departure of guitarist Charlie Hitchcock. Transformations tracks the band on the evening it introduces two new members- guitarists Ben Combe and Scott Metzger (who left the group last month for personal reasons) and a new sound during a show on Feb. 24 at the Henry Fond Theater in Hollywood.

With a touring schedule that shows little chance of stopping in 2006, many of the Particle People have become familiarized with the addition of vocals, R&B, and hip-hop elements and occasionally tighter song structures. Although I’m still getting used to it, the bookend approach with “Give” worked nicely. In one of the Special Features titled “Particle Transforms,” the members explain the desire to go in such a direction. Again, it’s interesting that none of the answers reflected on the past, only with gushing statements about the present and future. It’s the band members option to move in a particular direction if that’s what motivates them but from what I encountered on Transformations Live the most comfortable musical fit comes about when the group jams within its spacey electronica dimensions and brings about a journey of peaks and valleys as it picks us up and lands everyone safely at some other place and time. There’s a power and excitement that’s derived from that liquid formula, and it still serves them well.

But, since one of the ideas within the jamband scene is to embrace the possibilities offered by new ideas/sounds/combination of styles I’m giving this Transformation a chance.

As for the filmed version of that night in Hollywood, Particle spices up the proceedings by bringing on enough guests to equal a VH1 special. In comes Robby Krieger on “L.A. Woman.” Later, it’s Blackalicious knocking out speedy rap during “Particle People” and “E-Pro.” Joe Satriani and DJ Logic join in on “W.” Finally, all of the above are onstage for the encore, a cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition.” I’m sure that all of this was exciting for the crowd. Let’s face it. It’s always a nice addition to find the band you paid to see make things a little more special by playing with peers. But it was more satisfying when the quintet interacted amongst themselves, i.e. “Eye of the Storm” and “Sun Mar 11.” Overall, there’s enough here that’s worth a listen, which can be obtained through the soundtrack of this DVD.

That’s the good news. Because, as a viewing experience, Transformations Live rarely gets in sync with the band, the audience, or the event. It reminds me of the occasional moment when I’m taking photographs during a concert, and I’m off just a millisecond from capturing The Shot. Rather than anticipating the guitarist’s leap and capturing it in mid-air, I click’ onto the landing. To me that’s a wasted frame, ready to be deleted in disgust. A lot of the filming and editing captures a vocal or solo after it’s in progress rather than offer something as precise, sharp, and fluid as the music. And when the camera is around, it’s usually set up at odd angles or zooming in or out, as if an “all access” pass has been denied and these are the only options available.

It’s just a sign of a larger problem from director/editor Matthew Levin who only supplies snippets of the atmosphere of opening night (backstage or in the crowd). Like much of Transformations Live it’s just a taste of what happened rather than the meal expected.

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