Dokken – Return To The East Live (2016)
Reviewed: Feb, 2019
It’s time to debut a double, digital, dose of deadly Dokken DVD’s. I’ve been on a bit of a Dokken kick lately after so I decided to review UNCHAIN THE NIGHT a Dokken Home video from 1986 and review a Dokken DVD from 30 years later, RETURN TO THE EAST LIVE (2016). Feel free to enjoy both reviews in this double feature.
Here we are in 2016…30 years later after UNCHAIN THE NIGHT came out, and after one failed reunion in 1994 that lasted for two albums and about four years. Don Dokken carried on making records for the next 20 years and over the years the band solved their differences. Legend has it someone (a promoter) backed up a dump-truck full of money to their houses and said, ‘Time for a reunion gig!’ and the stage was set. Naturally this iconic moment for Dokken fans had to be captured for all eternity and the result is Dokken’s fifth home video, RETURN TO THE EAST LIVE 2016. For you keeping track at home this was also released as a live CD, the bands 6th live CD. I like the title and cover art tie in with their bands first live album BEAST FROM THE EAST from 1988. It represents kind of a nice book-end, the end of the classic era and the one-off (?) reunion, 20 years later.
In terms of a DVD the value is OK, but not earth-shaking, Japan based pun fully intended. We get a fairly short 12-song concert. It is listed as ‘A Film By Frontiers Records’ so I’m not exactly sure how much creative control or editing input the band had. So essentially what happened in 2016 was, the band got together, rehearsed a bit, and then played one show at The Badlands in Sioux Falls, South Dakota on September 30th, 2016 and filmed it. Then they went to Japan to play the Loud Park festival and they filmed it. There is a massive difference in the size of venue and crowds and it really reinforces the cliché, but in this case true statement of, ‘big in Japan’.
Now this is where the comment about this being a film. This DVD is not really the whole concert in Japan. It is a blend of both concerts, the American and the Japanese. They cut back and forth between the two. For those of you who bought the CD/DVD version you will notice differences in the set-list, sound-quality and so on. This is not a deal breaker but it would have been nice to have both full concerts. They could have easily fit both concerts on one DVD.
The concert is all too brief as they run through an hour of hits, all 80’s stuff, really only representing the first four albums. There is some post-production editing in terms of visual presentation, some split-screen stuff, washes and fades, make it a little more appealing. It seems Don has aged the least well, although he was 63 years old when this was filmed, he is now a senior citizen. George, always the fitness buff, look great for his age as well. The concert is good but not great, the reality being it probably was for the money, they are getting up in years and this was perhaps the end.
What kind of saves this from being a rather mediocre live one-hour DVD (sort of like JAPAN LIVE ’95 and LIVE FROM THE SUN) is the amount of bonus stuff. There is 45 minutes of bonus stuff, all leading up to the big moment in Japan. Each member gets interviewed, (separately, maybe revealing a lack of band camaraderie?) and there is lots of neat, ‘fly on the wall’ back-stage stuff. Don seems nervous and worried, George seems disengaged, Pilson seems to be the most excited, professional and involved and Brown is just there for the fun like the big, dumb, puppy dog he has always been. And I mean that as the most sincere compliment.
Back in 2012 Dokken announced that BROKEN BONES would be the last Dokken album and to date (as of time of writing in early 2019) he has stayed true to his word. So aside from inevitable compilations and reissues, could this be the last Dokken product? The only thing that can top this could be the ultimate Dokken full-length, documentary film (released to DVD with all the videos etc) that has yet to be made. Jeff Pilson referred to this concert as a possible exclamation point on the career of the band, at least the classic line-up. If it is the end, RETURN TO THE EAST LIVE 2016 is a commendable finale to magnificent 40+ year career.