The seductive, soul-informed rock of the English duo Eurythmics is often about much the same thing that Prince's more frantic funk is about: love and, specifically, sex as liberators in the face of forces that confine.
That's clear enough early on in "Eurythmics Live"--a concert film opening a five-day run at the Nuart tonight--when Annie Lennox, David A. Stewart and their crack backing band open up with "Sexcrime (1984)" and "Let's Go," spirited swipes at those love-spoiling institutions Government and Marriage. It's also apparent again near the end, when Lennox finally breaks the mostly black-and-white scheme by appearing in a red brassiere to belt out "Missionary Man," the band's lusty crack at Religion.
But much of what comes in between is more traditional, less provocative pop, and inevitable comparisons with Prince's own recent concert film, the never-dull "Sign 'O' the Times," aren't always kind.
Love and sex, after all, do involve a lot of interaction, and while Prince wisely surrounded himself with a colorful assortment of singers, players and dancers in his film, Lennox--a crew-cut blond who's all warm, soulful vocals and icy stares--is really the attraction here.
Co-leader and guitarist Stewart remains distant behind dark glasses throughout, and the other players are clearly relegated to backing roles--save for a few show-stealing harmonica solos from Jimmy Zavala and a so-so duet with backup singer Joniece Jamison on Eurythmics' 20-years-too-late feminist anthem "Sisters Are Doin' It for Themselves." Firebrand that she is, Lennox can't hold you for these 92 minutes without a worthy foil.
Not helping at all are some terribly symbolic linking scenes--of band members off-stage, mumbling and staring--which make Prince's own symbolic linking scenes seem positively lucid by comparison.
One area in which "Eurythmics Live" (Times-rated: Family) does rate favorably against "Sign 'O' the Times," however, is its cinematography, inventive within its limitations. Whereas Prince took the liberty of considerable reshooting on a sound stage, director Geoff Wonfor and cinematographer David Cox presumably filmed all this footage during the course of one concert last February in Sydney, Australia.
And even with Lennox providing the vast bulk of the action, you can still appreciate the way Wonfor and Cox pan across the stage to establish as much of the connectedness of the players as possible--and the way that editor Andy Matthews avoids the obvious cuts and sometimes lets the film linger on a musician's face in the telling moments right before or after a solo.