ONEREPUBLIC: LIVE IN SOUTH AFRICA (2018)
Featuring Ryan Tedder, Zach Filkins, Drew Brown, Eddie Fisher and Brent Kutzle.
“Don’t Look Down” written by Sam Dunn.
Directed by Scot McFadyen & Sam Dunn.
Distributed by Eagle Rock Entertainment. 119 minutes. Not Rated.
OneRepublic rarely gets much credit as a rock band, beyond their fan base. Perhaps because lead singer/songwriter Ryan Tedder is such a terrific commercial pop songwriter, specializing in slick, catchy tunes – in fact, Tedder has worked on the side as a gun-for-hire songwriter and/or producer for the likes of Adele, Beyoncé, U2, Taylor Swift, One Direction, Kelly Clarkson, Demi Lovato, Leona Lewis, Ed Sheeran and many more.
Maybe because of his staunch devotion to hit-making beats and melodies, the band lost its street cred early on. Maybe it’s because you are as likely to hear their music in commercials as you are to hear it on the radio. For whatever reason, the band has gotten a reputation as a safe studio band. It’s hard to remember now, but they were originally discovered by hip-hop impresario Timbaland and debuted with a ton of hipster buzz. (Their first hit single, “Apologize,” debuted on a Timbaland remix disk and was originally credited to Timbaland with OneRepublic.) Now, ten years later, they are often snidely derided as a slightly less edgy version of Coldplay.
The derision is not fair. There is the place in the world for a smart, tuneful, pop-rock band and OneRepublic has done a pretty good job of filling that void over the last decade. Particularly in a music scene where it harder and harder for a rock group to break through and stay relevant, OneRepublic have built up a much better body of work than they are given credit for.
This package is an embarrassment of riches for the OneRepublic fan – an hour and a half long concert film (Live in South Africa) and a half-hour short documentary (“Don’t Look Down”) on the band. Both were made in conjunction with each other – in fact, both open with the same footage of the band riding the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway above South Africa, where they were playing the final two shows of their Native World tour in 2015. Both also share snippets of many of the same performances.
“From the very beginning, my songwriting was never going to be anything but accessible,” Tedder states in the documentary, a smartly self-aware statement that encompasses and embraces both OneRepublic’s greatest strength and their perceived weakness.
Both the concert and the documentary show the smart musicianship and canny abilities of the band. Playing in Johannesburg for only the second time in their career (and the first time was as an opening act for Maroon 5), the band seems wired and happy to be there, honed to a well-oiled machine after two years on the road.
The local fans (who mostly seem to be young women, read into that what you will) are obviously thrilled to see the band, singing along to not just the hits but the album tracks as well. Fan favorites like “Light It Up,” “Something I Need” and “Good Life” feel energized – and a little spikier – in a live setting. And the big hits – such as “Apologize,” “Stop and Stare” and “Counting Stars” – cannot be denied. Not only that, but they also pull off a surprisingly pretty blue-eyed soul take on Louis Armstrong’s classic “What a Wonderful World.”
“Don’t Look Down” gives us a nice thumbnail overview of the band’s career, hitting the high and low points, and some of the unintentionally funny ones or outdated ones. (Ryan Tedder’s early appearance winning a contest on MTV’s Total Request Live, the huge role that MySpace played in breaking the band.) Still, all the guys in the band are smart and well-spoken, all have intriguing things to say about the group’s jaunt to the top of the charts, as well as their creative wanderlust.
“Just having hits, that’s not what it’s about for us,” Tedder said in the documentary. “There are lots of bands that have made storied careers just copying themselves. We’re the opposite of that. It has to be something surprising.”
From the evidence of this video package, they will probably continue to reach that goal. And the world will continue watching them succeed.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2018 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: March 10, 2018.