If you are a guitar player over a certain age, you probably know Les Paul as a guitar innovator who invented multi-track recording and performed into his ’90s. If you are a guitar player under that certain age — let’s say 45 years old — you most likely know Les Paul as the namesake of some very cool Gibson guitars, and may not realize that he was a real person. Don’t feel bad if the latter description describes you, as during the documentary portion of A Tribute To Les Paul, Slash admits that summed him up as a teenager.
As recorded on Les Paul’s 90th birthday in 2006, A Tribute To Les Paul: Live From Universal Studios Hollywood originally aired in the United States as a special on the AXS television network. As with most home video presentations of TV programming, this DVD is simply the original program — save for the commercial breaks — with some bonus features peppered in. The bonus features are four extended interview segments with Les Paul, two extended interview segments with Toto guitarist Steve Lukather, two extended interview segments with Joe Satriani, two extended interview segments with Slash, and a trailer for the main presentation.
As for the main feature of A Tribute To Les Paul, it is a combined concert and documentary. The concert, as filmed at Los Angeles’ Gibson Amphitheatre, features all-star performances of guitar-centric songs by the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Wonder, and Joe Satriani. The featured performers include Slash, Aerosmith‘s Joe Perry, Buddy Guy, Edgar Winter, Toto’s Steve Lukather, Robben Ford, Journey‘s Neal Schon, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Shayna Steele, Hubert Sumlin, and the aforementioned Satriani. If you are a fan of the recent movie Hired Gun, this film is of a similar format, although entirely free of drama and negativity since everyone only has glowing things to say of Les Paul.
If there is a main area for improvement for A Tribute To Les Paul: Live From Universal Studios Hollywood, it is that the DVD set does not include a CD or a digital download. If these excellent performances were offered in an audio format and could be listened to back to back without the documentary, it would make for a great, filler-free album. But when mixed with a documentary, you will probably only want to watch this all the way through once. In turn, this title makes for more an ideal rental than a proper purchase. Another relevant complaint would be that there are no stand-alone live performances of Les Paul included within the bonus features, even though Paul was regularly performing at New York City’s The Iridium into his 90s. As an aside, this advance copy did not come with a booklet or insert inside the case, which means that viewers would not know which songs are performed live as part of the concert.
Bonuses and layouts aside, Les Paul is one of the all-time greats of guitar, and A Tribute To Les Paul properly hammers that point. The archival footage of Paul is impressive, while the documentary includes Paul’s last known interviews from the 2000s, giving a complete picture as to who he is. The concert performances included are top-notch and showcase everyone in fine-form. Truly a must-watch for anyone interested in rock guitar.
Run Time: 119 minutes (main program)
Release Date: September 8, 2017
Check out a live clip of Slash & Edgar Winter playing “Superstition”