BBC in Concert: The Seventies [no label 1DVD PAL purelivegigs 31698, 31683 and others]
Live at BBC, London. This DVD collects performances by Melanie 1972, The Pointer Sisters 1974, Bill Withers 1973, 10CC 1974 and Joan Armatrading 1977. All segments are approx 30 mins. Rebroadcast on BBC4 June - July 7, 2006. Video Ex; Audio Ex SBD stereo. A joefish production. 153 mins.

No apologies for shrugging disinterestedly through two-thirds of this bountiful DVD – even a casual glance at its contents, after all, will confirm that such a scattershot round-up cannot possibly hope to please all the people all the time… and, beyond acknowledging that all five performances here are probably as strong as you could hope, we’ll settle down instead to watch the Melanie segment, a beautifully shot solo outing that dips into each of her four albums to date, and reminds us that, behind the somewhat grating novelty songs for which pop history remembers her, she really was one of the most captivating, and creative performers to emerge from that whole post-hippy singer-songwriter bag. Plus, "What Have They Done To My Song" is a masterpiece, no matter how sick of it you think you’ve grown.

With time for just six or seven songs apiece (Joan Armatrading sneaks in eight), it’s no surprise that guests on this most venerable of BBC TV series should aim straight for the jugular. Bill Withers opens his half-hour with "Ain’t No Sunshine" and peaks with "Lean On Me," while the Pointer Sisters, caught a couple of years before their descent into disco, serve up a deliciously sassy performance, even inciting the traditionally staid studio audience into a frenzy of clapalong participation.

The highlight, however, has to be a 10cc performance that makes a mockery of period criticisms of their live show, as they unchain five songs from the recently released Sheet Music album (plus two from their debut), and uncork an energy that actually amplifies the perfection of their studio work. The opening "Silly Love," "Wall Street Shuffle" and the closing "Rubber Bullets" are easy, of course… in the words of the age-old maxim, fuck art, let’s BOOGIE. But, in between times, "Fresh Air For My Mama," "Old Wild Men" and the strangely topical "Oh Effendi" all offer up an unfamiliarly ferocious face, while the voodoo stew of "Baron Samedi" serves up the best of both worlds.

It’s appalling just how little video exists of the original four piece 10cc – the handful of fuzzy TV performances that lurk on Youtube, the one (count it!) clip squeezed onto the official Changing Faces VHS way back when…. This In Concert broadcast practically doubles the running time of known surviving footage, and reminds us just what a spectacular band this was. It wasn’t a bad TV series, either. - Dave Thompson

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January 26, 2007