Here are a few recently released discs worth checking out:
"The Nomi Song: The Klaus Nomi Odyssey"
Andrew Horn's feature-length documentary "The Nomi Song" chronicles the musical career of the truly bizarre Klaus Nomi, a diminutive German man who briefly became the toast of oh-so-hip and oh-so-strange early '80s downtown New York with his act of new-wave rock with operatic vocals and a theatrical, deeply stylized look and stage show. Nomi had a small degree of mainstream success in Europe, but never really became anything more than a minor cult figure before dying of AIDS. The documentary includes plenty of interviews with Nomi's friends and collaborators, and some wonderful footage -- most notably a spine-tingling early performance, singing an aria to tape-recorded accompaniment at an experimental East Village variety show -- but being barely schooled in the ways of Nomi beyond his best-known song, "Total Eclipse," I never get a sense of whether his rock band was just an arresting novelty act, or if the seemingly awkward hybrid really blossomed into something special.
Los Lobos, "Live at Fillmore"
This DVD presents the disheartening spectacle of a once vital band going through the middle-aged motions. It is redeemed every now and then by David Hidalgo's still electrifying guitar playing -- but other than that, this well has run dry.
Rod Stewart, "One Night Only: Live at Royal Albert Hall"
More middle-aged motions, a slickly produced nostalgia trip of a performance at London's Royal Albert Hall, with what few sharp edges there ever were on Stewart's music softened into feel-good cuddliness. But oh what a voice, raspier and better than ever, and when Stewart dons a tuxedo for the second half to sing chestnuts like "Blue Moon" and "What a Wonderful World" with full orchestra, I'm left pondering why aging rock stars like Stewart, Elvis Costello and Joni Mitchell sing standards so much better than, with only a few living exceptions (Shirley Horn, Cassandra Wilson), jazz singers.
Iggy Pop, "Live San Fran 1981"
Here's the opposite extreme. Both sound and picture quality are fairly poor, but the band, led by Clem Burke's (Blondie) fierce drumming, is raging, and while Iggy hadn't quite developed his astounding dance stylings to their full potential yet, he's still a mesmerizing figure, dressed in a miniskirt, garters and stockings, pressed up right against the manically energized crowd.