ELMS LASTBANDThe Elms rock out one last time, and get it all on film for you to see and hear...

The Elms

The Last Band on Earth: A Film About The Elms
DVD (available in a variety of formats and packages, including an extended audio recording)
English, Dolby Digital, PCM Stereo, widescreen
Trust, Incorporated / Absorb Pictures, Inc.

At the risk of sounding hyperbolic about this, for years I've been calling The Elms one of the best rock and roll bands around – if you still need convincing I've got a little documentary concert film you need to see...

The Last Band on Earth: A Film About The Elms is the the very last performance of The Elms, filmed in Indianapolis in front of a small crowd of about 400 people on July 30, 2010. The 110-minute film contains performances of 20 songs from every aspect of the band's career. Energetically shot with several cameras and presented in color and black and white, The Last Band on Earth gives us an intimate close-up vantage point, as if we're squeezing past guitars, amps, mike stands and drums to get a better look at what's going on between the guys in this four-way rock and roll cage-match.

For the uninitiated, The Elms are ("forever"): Owen Thomas (lead vocals, guitar), Christopher Thomas (drums, percussion, vocals), Thomas Dougherty (lead guitar, vocals), and Nathan W. Bennett (bass guitar, vocals). Starting out on Sparrow Records, The Elms produced world-class pop songs from the very start. Before too long, though, it became apparent that American roots rock would be their final destination – and that their earthy combination of spirit and flesh required more freedom and a new label. Phase two of The Elms saw the band beginning to self-produce, with a new bass player, a new label, and a direction that would allow them to strut their stuff unhindered.

Stripped down to the basics, producing strong albums and blistering live performances, it seemed as if nothing would stop this four-man powerhouse. Nothing, of course, except their own decision to bring the era of The Elms as a band to a close. And that's what this film is all about – The Elms' final concert.

Starting with "Hey, Hey," (the first track from The Big Surprise ) and ending with "A Place in the Sun," ( the last track from The Great American Midrange, and the last song the band recorded in the studio ), The Elms cut a rocky swath through the almost two-hour set with classic rockers like "Strut," "Who Put Rock & Roll in Your Blood," "Nothin' to do With Love," and the explosive "Speaking in Tongues." "Smile at Life Again" and "Place in the Sun," on the other end of the perspective, provided emotional moments from both the audience and the band, as the aura of finality began to settle in.

As expected, The Elms turned in an excellent performance. Owen, the front-man, communicates with the audience on a visceral level – playing less guitar than in past years, but having learned much about the art of performance, this is a singer who knows how to share himself with the crowd and he has still got one of the best falsettos (and screams) in the business. Bennett's bass, nicely mixed here, is fluid and strong – exactly what's needed to provide the strong bottom-end for what is often (instrumentally) a three-piece unit. Chris Thomas is a powerhouse on the drum kit – definitely from the 'Ringo' school, and playing with some great, powerful and unexpected fills. Thom Dougherty is simply a spectacular guitarist, wonderfully on display here. Crunching rhythm, screaming riffs and searing solos fly off the fretboard as this underrated guitar hero fires off blues-based rock and deceptively complex soloing – listen to the country / pop masterpiece of a solo from "The Way I Will," for example.

The film's format is straight forward: a song, a short black and white intro shot from the audience viewpoint, then another song. Each performance is filled with close shots of the band members from all angles. The sound is wonderful. I wish I could have been there.

Well, now – in a way – I have been. And you can, too.

Visit www.theelms.net for details on the different formats available and for a tasty preview of the song, "Strut." Don't say I didn't warn you.

Bert Saraco