I must confess that prior to the release of this CD/DVD live set by San Diego's rock 'n' roll maestros Rocket from the Crypt, I'd never actually heard a song by the band. However, rest assured that you can now receive an unfiltered and unbiased perspective for a rather mammoth farewell release.
R.I.P. features the band's final show on Halloween 2005 at San Diego's Westin Hall Ballroom. However, the CD contains just 20 songs with heavily edited banter, and the entire, marathon-length set on the DVD --
about 27 songs plus all the song's various extensions and frontman John "Speedo" Reis' in-between talk.
The CD itself is recorded rather well, with a mildly raw coating over everything and the crowd noise at an ideal level. The over-the-top introduction from Mexican Elvis impersonator El Vez literally sets the stage for the band, who come on for a bustling intro of their own and lead-in to "French Guy." "Used" lets the listener witness the crowd participation for its first few lines, while you can really feel the tension during mid-set number "Shy Boy." The brass is punchy and perfectly audible. The editing lets the set flow at a perfect stream here, and you still get punctual one-liners from Reis along the way ("Boychucker" -- "Anyone from Florida? Oh, you know I hate Florida!"). The songs are pulled from drastically separate points of the band's 15-year career, yet things are incredibly linear.
On the DVD, you may want to pop yourself a bowl of popcorn and settle in for a long but entertaining show. By the numbers, you've got about 27 songs, 95 minutes, two encores and one costume change. Being it's Halloween, the band is decked out in their various outfits, with roughly half the crowd joining in on similar dress-up festivities. There's a nice mixture of pleasant participation and overzealousness from the audience, as they seem to draw the band's ire a bit by botching stage-dives, either diving into the barricade or causing general annoyance -- in fact, the band stops and starts "Carne Voodoo" due to one particular would-be diver. However, the crowd tends to joyously dance together in the expansive yet warm ballroom, and, due to Reis' wishes, greets each other and exchanges names at one point to turn strangers into friends. It's a colorful performance overall, full of a certain grandeur that never once feels contrived or forced.
The camera is fairly shaky throughout, though, with the handler not entirely giving us balanced shots. We're not talking purposely loose sloppiness √¡ la "Cloverfield," but things could be a little more focused.
R.I.P. is a serious package deal that comes just in time for the debut release of John Reis' newest band, the Night Marchers, and caps Rocket from the Crypt's career off nicely with a click of the coffin lock that couldn't be grander.