NITV gives again…

I have mentioned SBS’s NITV Channel 34 quite a few times since it went national in late 2012: How NITV and ABC News 24 have transformed my TV habits…, A must: NITV News really is a nonpareil, More surprises from NITV – and a rare bit of election comment, Mandela–great viewing on NITV, and more tonight on SBS and later on ABC, December movies on NITV.

Lately NITV has rebranded, though its essential programming is still “a must-watch channel if you want an authentic Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspective on just about anything.”


Not everyone welcomes the rebranding, including the post that I have quoted just before the image. I note too that the slogan “for ALL Australians” may be seen now.

Still, NITV continues to please and surprise, yesterday being a good example.

920x920 That still is of Bonnie Raitt and BB King in Lightning in a Bottle (2004) which was on NITV yesterday afternoon. I had not seen it before. What a documentary this is! Look at this summary from YouTube:

On February 7, 2003, renowned artists across music genres and generations commandeered the stage at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall to pay tribute to their common heritage and passion: the blues. Shared with thousands of fans in attendance, legendary performers from the roots of rock, blues, jazz, and rap joined forces for a once-in-a-lifetime salute to the blues benefit concert whose proceeds went to musical education.

Executive produced by Martin Scorcese, produced by Alex Gibney and directed by Antoine Fuqua, LIGHTNING IN A BOTTLE captures the night’s magic and weaves a history of blues through the juxtaposition of performers, backstage interviews, rehearsals, and archival clips of some of the greatest names in American music.

Part concert, part history lesson, part summit meeting, and all blues, Lightning in a Bottle puts a bright spotlight on this quintessential American music. There are some heavy hitters at work here, both behind the camera (Martin Scorsese executive produced, while the film was directed by Antoine Fuqua of Training Day and King Arthur) and especially in front of it, with a superb house band and a mind-boggling array of musicians (including B.B. King, Bonnie Raitt, Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, Solomon Burke, Keb’ Mo’, Macy Gray, the Neville Brothers, Robert Cray, and John Fogerty, to name but a few) performing at New York’s Radio City Music Hall in February, 2003. The idea was to trace the music from its beginnings; thus we get an African song (by Angelique Kidjo), some early gospel blues (the great Mavis Staples), acoustic Delta blues, and so on, right up to blues-drenched electric rock and even some rap (a riveting version of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killing Floor” by Chuck D.). Virtually all of the immortals who defined the blues (Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, and even Jimi Hendrix, whose fiery style is re-enacted by Buddy Guy) enter the picture, either through vintage film clips or new performances of their songs. One might wish for more insight into the influence of the blues on jazz (Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit,” sung here by India.Arie, is a fine song, but it’s not a blues tune) or country, but overall, Lightning in a Bottle is an edifying and, most important, highly entertaining portrait of the music and its heritage.

WOW! That’s all I can say. The Washington Post said:

The director also snoops around backstage, capturing such priceless conversation as King and Burke complimenting each other’s gaudy suits, and folk-blues diva Odetta lambasting the house band (which includes certified rock royalty Dr. John and Levon Helm) for drowning out Ruth Brown’s vocals. In one of several pre-show interviews, Burke tells a story about how he once played “Down in the Valley” at a Ku Klux Klan rally.

Kicking off the evening, a typically nerdy, nervous Scorsese shuffles onstage and says the concert’s focus is “to tell the story of this great music from its beginnings” — that is, from Africa to the American South to Sweet Home Chicago and beyond. The movie manages to educate without losing steam. The song title, the year it was originally performed and the original artist are provided for each number, and a screen behind the stage gives a rolling history lesson of the genre’s birth as an African American art form. Grainy footage of slaves toiling in fields gives power to Angelique Kidjo’s chilling “Senie Zelie,” and visual bios are provided for such long-gone gutbucket progenitors as Blind Lemon Jefferson and Robert Johnson…

The blues “allow a man to vent his feelings with pride,” Ruth Brown explains at one point.

And how.