If you’re at all familiar with the 22-year-long history of the Ramones — the band that put the clunk in punk — then you know their music was never exactly synonymous with high technology and fidelity. Remarkably, a DVD compilation of more than 30 of the band’s live performances keeps the Ramones’ rugged artlessness intact while gloriously preserving it for all time.
It’s Alive begins with a murky black-and-white 1974 performance at — where else? — CBGB that is so sloppy it is instantly endearing: Joey wobbles onstage, songs stop and start, and the band members argue about what to play next. But in three short years, we see their musicianship (and videography) improve drastically, and a 1977 appearance on Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert is a polished triumph. Over the next two decades, the Ramones’ signature sound doesn’t change very much, but a farewell 1996 concert before thousands of fans in Argentina is a fitting kiss-off from a band that needed only three chords to change the world.
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