Not-so-live live music
Five music Blu-rays you must see
High ticket prices, sweaty crowds and the distraction of smart phones can combine to ruin a live music concert. Instead, enjoy your favourite artists over and over again from the comfort of home
1 The Rolling Stones Shine a Light
When I was in a band in my early twenties, we got our friend Martin Hiskey to film the gig. It wasn’t bad: a bit shaky, perhaps, and the sound wasn’t all that.
The Rolling Stones got their friend Martin to film their gig, too. His surname isn’t Hiskey. It’s Scorsese. And their video is better.
Taking footage from the band’s 2006 performance at New York’s Beacon Theatre, it features a typically classic Stones set. And, of course, there are special guests including Jack White, Christina Aguilera and a hair-raising turn from Buddy Guy.
It’s brilliantly shot, of course – and really gives you an up-close look at the band in action (whether that’s a good thing in high-definition is a matter of opinion). The 5.1-channel Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is a thing to behold, too: powerful, spacious and toe-tappingly entertaining.
2 Michael Jackson This is it
Before his sudden death in 2009, Michael Jackson was going to embark on a mammoth run of concerts in London. Those shows never happened – but we can at least have a taste of what we would’ve had with this documentary.
Consisting of Jackson rehearsing with and directing his dancers and team, from costumes and prop changes to wailing solos courtesy of guitarist Orianthi Panagaris, it’s a fascinating look at what goes into the preparation of a major show.
And it’ll give your system a thorough workout, too. The 5.1-channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack might not convey all the ambiance of a gig in full flow, but it certainly gives you a good idea of the bombast we might have had. What a shame we never did.
3 Foo Fighters Live at Wembley
The drummer out of that band from Seattle has done pretty well for himself, hasn’t he? Dave Grohl and co filmed two (sold out) nights at London’s Wembley Stadium in 2008 for this disc.
And if you want proper, old-style rock bombast, you’ll find it absolutely ladled on here. That the band runs through its hits is a given – you’re treated to tracks including Times Like These, Breakout and Monkey Wrench – but there aren’t many acts on the planet who could attract the guest stars that appear here. Say hello to Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones from Led Zeppelin…
The soundtrack is something a bit special. In addition to a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, you get uncompressed stereo audio and – unusually – an uncompressed 5.1 soundtrack. And it sounds massive, conveying all the ambience you’d expect from a stadium gig, but without the flighty, in-and-out nature of the sound when you’re actually there. It’s a masterpiece of mixing.
4 Adele Live at the Royal Albert Hall
If you’re recording Adele, you have to be pretty certain that your kit is up to scratch. There are few vocalists who sound quite so good coming out of a set of speakers.
Luckily, then, the team behind her Albert Hall gig in 2011 have done a bang-up job. Picture-wise it might not be the best at times (although the on-stage shots are good) but the sound is great. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1-channel soundtrack is subtle and nuanced, with enough dynamic range to cope with Adele’s powerful set of pipes.
And who knew she was a comedienne, too? The short, London-accented speeches she gives are refreshingly amusing next to the soulful melancholy of some of her songs: “I’m pretty miserable on record, really. Not in real life!”.
5 Spinal Tap This is Spinal Tap
No roundup of music Blu-rays would be complete without mentioning one of England’s loudest bands. This classic spoof rockumentary follows Spinal Tap as they prepare for and embark on a comeback tour for their latest album, Smell The Glove. Endlessly quoteable and containing new details to notice every time you watch it (“Do you have any artificial plates or limbs?” “Er, not really.”), it’s a masterclass in how to film a band. Even if they don’t really exist.
There’s a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack on this disc, and it’s a great bit of work by the engineers considering the film’s age. Dialogue is clear, effects steering is precise and when the band takes to the stage, you get all the power and rock glory you could hope for. When they can find the stage, of course.
Special mention here also has to go to the commentary track. Performed by band members Nigel Tufnel, Derek Smalls and David St Hubbins, they have a few choice things to say about the experience of making the movie.
But hey, enough of my yakkin’. Whaddaya say? Let’s boogie…
John Steward is the assistant production editor of What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision
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