Champion is and will likely be heralded for quite some time as the quintessential straight-edge hardcore band of the Pacific Northwest, as far as the 2000s goes. Therefore, Different Directions, which captures the band's final show on CD and DVD, is likely to be as best a summarizing snapshot of their career as you're likely to get. However, does it actually deliver on all fronts like it should? Sure, albeit with slight criticisms to be had with each.
The major concern that lies with the compact disc portion of Different Directions is that the vocals cut out way too often, and it begins nearly immediately -- namely during the second line of opener "PK," one of the best songs in the band's catalog, which starts with the mesmerizing, unified shout of "break!" While the vocal cut-out problems are slightly less prevalent in the very next song, "Fourth of July" (another Champion standout), they're still present. This happens sporadically throughout the course of the album, too. While admittedly it is funny to imagine frontman Jim Hesketh endlessly buried by rabid hardcore kids wishing to scream into the mic, it detracts from things a little bit when you're focused in solely on the audio.
When all of the instruments cut out in "116" though, Hesketh doesn't seem to bother with the vocals and lets the crowd finish it a cappella, which makes for an incredibly epic and heartfelt close to the band's career.
Otherwise, the audio is captured wonderfully, nearly studio quality. It does cut out a little bit of the stage banter, but thus manages to retain a seamless flow from track to track, even during the brief breaks for Hesketh to talk about such things as explaining the value of straight-edge hardcore to his father and such other elements of being an outcast.
As for the DVD, it's a professionally shot, six-camera angle deal, and while the constant angle changes are a little jarring, it eventually slows down a bit and the viewer gets settled in. You can clearly see the flailing, berserk crowd up front and smooth shots of every band member on stage doing their thing.
Early on in the set, Hesketh is cut on his forehead by a stage-diving passerby, and proceeds to bleed profusely for the rest of that song ("Monument," I believe). He wipes it up quickly with one passing comment about possibly taking a visit to the hospital after the set, and overall seems to shake it off quickly to continue the set. During the final song, "116," Hesketh clearly begins to choke up a little as he designates the mic towards bodies on the tip of the stage; it's honestly pretty endearing.
With every break in the set list, the camera cuts to candid, mini-interviews with band members and closely related peoples, aside from fan reactions after the last song or so. No questions out of the ordinary are asked, and the commentary isn't always entirely insightful, but it does provide honest feelings from members and community talking heads about the band and their impact.
The one minor flaw with the DVD is likely its complete lack of bonus material; this reviewer in particular would've been perfectly satisfied with video from the Sinking Ships set of the show, but there had to be a number of treats that could've been thrown on for good measure.
Overall, Different Directions is a well-rounded and absolutely solid document to close Champion's career on a note of closure. Any well-invested fan of the band would do well to purchase it and complete their all-too-short Champion discography.
Fourth of July
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