Shelter From The Storm: A Concert For The Gulf Coast

***1/2

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

During the time that George W Bush was relaxing at the ranch and dead bodies lay untouched in the fetid waters of New Orleans, after Katrina's fury had passed, the privileged classes of Hollywood and the celebrity music world consolidated their considerable energies to organise a concert for the victims of the hurricane. It was not an act of political expediency against an administration that didn't seem to care, but a humanitarian response to the worst natural disaster in North American history.

Well, it turns out to be a DVD - £2 of every sale goes to the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army - rather than a concert, and a telethon, manned (and womanned) by the likes of Jimmy Smits, Jack Nicholson, Jennifer Aniston and Dennis Quaid. A-list actors speak with humility straight to camera in a simple studio setting - no frills. They ask for help and the best - Jack Black, Cameron Diaz, Chris Rock - do not appear to be relying on a saccharine-soaked script, but talk from anger, the heart or desperation at the appalling state of things on the Gulf Coast. Morgan Freeman is eloquent; Bruce Willis is macho-lite and low key; Julia Roberts is respectfully unglamorous. For them it is a performance, sensitively delivered and naturally well meaning.

What this charity event lacks is what Down From The Mountain, the concert in Nashville to celebrate the filming of the Coens' O Brother, Where Art Thou? had in spades - a raw, live, unchoreographed enthusiasm. The musical numbers are played in badly lit, purple draped spaces, without an audience. The atmosphere is created briefly by the performers, but you can feel how much they miss the feedback from the fans.

Maria Carey is overwhelmed by a massive gospel choir; Rod Stewart tries in vain to out blues a black quintet; Neil Young, dressed like a preacher man and suddenly looking ancient, sings a sentimental religious ballad VERY slowly.

Paul Simon, alone with an acoustic, sings Take Me To The Mardi Gras and it's beautiful. Garth Brooks duets with three famous country stars (The Dixie Chicks?) and they are just havin' the bestest good time. The song's great, too.

If you have any doubts about buying this DVD and supporting the cause, they will disperse like the morning mist when you watch U2, accompanied by a dangerously sexy Mary J Blige. This is what rock'n'roll is all about. The trouble is they open the show and there's nothing that follows to touch them.

Reviewed on: 07 Dec 2005
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Shelter From The Storm: A Concert For The Gulf Coast packshot
Film stars man the phones; others speak from the heart, while musicians perform for the survivors of Hurricane Katrina.
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