Queen-Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert (2002)

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Released 26-Jul-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Music Booklet
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Rehearsals footage
Featurette-Made for TV Documentary
Featurette-Freddie Mercury inserts
Gallery-Photo-2x Photo Slideshow
Gallery-2x Facts Slideshow
Rating Rated E
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 107:17 (Case: 120)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (56:49) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By David Mallet
Studio
Distributor

EMI Music
Starring Queen
David Bowie
Robert Plant
Axl Rose
Elton John
Gary Cherone
George Michael
Roger Daltrey
Case Click-Double
RPI $44.95 Music Queen


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 (1536Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Brian May, 20th April 1992:  "We're here today to celebrate the life and work and dreams of one Freddie Mercury.
We're going to give him the biggest send off in history!"

    And what a send off it was!  This concert was organised by Queen following Freddie Mercury's sad passing in November 1991 from AIDS-related bronchial pneumonia, after much pressure not only from the public outcry of grief from fans around the world, but also from that of many rock artists who were as equally touched and wanted to pay homage to the musical legacy that Freddie and Queen had left behind.

    The concert was a fitting tribute. It was on a grandiose scale, as befitted Freddie's style, and served several purposes. First and foremost it served as a wake for the fans, in the most positive sense of being a celebration of Freddie's life work. Secondly, as well as a farewell for the public, the concert also provided a stage for many big name rock acts of the day to pay public acknowledgement and homage to the significant influence the man and the band had on their work. If anyone had any doubts at all about how influential Queen were, then you need only look at the list of artists who willingly and freely gave their support and their time to be associated with this concert. As Roger Taylor rather wryly but practically admits, this concert was also a means of "capitalising" on Freddie's very high public profile in order to bring something good out of the extremely sad event, i.e. by using his high public profile to promote AIDS awareness in the wider community (something necessary at that time) and to raise funds for AIDS research.

    Finally, this concert served as a very cathartic experience for those most impacted by Freddie's death, being the three remaining Queen band members, Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon. After the band worked and virtually lived together on the road and in the studio for 21+ years, one can only begin to imagine how acute the impact of this rather abrupt ending to their (communal) working careers must have been. To organise this large-scale event and to pull it all together with such aplomb is a tribute to the members of Queen. Well done guys. Freddie would have been very proud.

    This DVD is the first in the EMI series of Queen videos to be re-mastered and re-issued on DVD. It goes further than just being a re-release however, as this is also a special 10th anniversary edition of the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert For AIDS Awareness, featuring a newly made-for-TV documentary on the event, plus never before seen behind the scenes footage of band rehearsals with the singers. As with EMI's follow-up DVD release recently reviewed, Queen's Greatest Video Hits 1, the effort put in to this DVD release by all involved is admirable, with menu design, attention to detail and quality control exercised over the video and audio transfers all top notch.

    There is only one major beef with this release. As the back cover blurb openly admits, the concert footage contained on this DVD is only the second half of the Tribute Concert. The first half of the concert involved a series of short sets by various groups performing (largely) their own material, as a warm up to the main concert featuring Queen. The original videocassette release of The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert contained an edited one hour's worth of footage from this first half of the concert, featuring Metallica (17 minutes), Extreme (15 minutes), Def Leppard (8 minutes), Bob Geldof (4 minutes) and Guns n' Roses (16 minutes). Most of these performances I can probably live without on the new DVD release, however the blistering opening set of songs from Metallica's "black album" and the fantastic 15-minute medley of Queen songs specially put together by Extreme (the band who, in Brian May's words, "more than anyone have really understood what Queen's music has been all about") are highlights of this first half of the concert. The non-inclusion of this material on the new DVD is a sad loss indeed. I understand that the reason behind the non-inclusion is not simply an oversight by EMI, nor a limitation of space (this is a 2 disc set), but rather problems with securing the requisite rights from all the artists' respective record-labels. Now this is just annoying. After all, all of the artists gave of their time and performances freely, so why can't their record labels? Especially when you consider that the record labels were obviously able to do so in the right spirit for the initial video cassette release, then why couldn't they do so again now? My main annoyance at missing out on the first half concert footage on the DVD is that now I will be forced to keep my old videocassette copy of the Tribute Concert and won't be able to throw this away (along with my video player!), as I was so looking forward to doing when the rest of the Queen video catalogue is finally all released on DVD. Damn!....

    The track list and list of performers for the second half of the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert is as follows. For completeness, I include below the complete concert set list as performed on the night, including the songs listed as bracketed below edited from this DVD:

1.  Tie Your Mother Down: Queen + Joe Elliott + Slash
2.  I Want It All: Queen + Roger Daltry + Tony Iommi
3.  Las Palabras De Amor: Queen + Zucchero
4.  Hammer To Fall: Queen + Gary Cherone + Tony Iommi
5.  Stone Cold Crazy: Queen + James Hetfield + Tony Iommi
     (Innuendo / Kashmir: Queen + Robert Plant)
6.  Thank You / Crazy Little Thing Called Love: Queen + Robert Plant
7.  Too Much Love Will Kill You: Brian May + Spike Edney
8.  Radio Ga Ga: Queen + Paul Young
9.  Who Wants To Live Forever: Queen + Seal
10. I Want To Break Free: Queen + Lisa Stansfield
11. Under Pressure: Queen + David Bowie + Annie Lenox
12. All The Young Dudes: Queen + Ian Hunter + Mick Ronson + David Bowie
13. Heroes: Queen + David Bowie + Mick Ronson
14. '39: Queen + George Michael
15. These Are The Days Of Our Lives: Queen + George Michael + Lisa Stansfield
16. Somebody To Love: Queen + George Michael
17. Bohemian Rhapsody: Queen + Elton John + Axl Rose
18. The Show Must Go On: Queen + Elton John
19. We Will Rock You: Queen + Axl Rose
20. We Are The Champions: Queen + Liza Minelli + all stars
21. God Save The Queen (taped): Queen.

    It certainly is a unique set list and combination of performers, isn't it? I'm sure you will never see Elton John performing on stage with Axl Rose again!  Nor Bowie and fellow Spiders From Mars guitarist Mick Ronson on the same stage with Ian Hunter (of Mott The Hoople fame).

    The stand out performers for me in this concert are George Michael, for vocal range, and Gary Cherone, for pure energy. George Michael simply walks over all of the other vocalists on the night, not only for his superior vocal strength and range, but also for his success in faithfully reproducing Freddie's vocal style. He manages to sing Somebody To Love not only word perfect, but also inflection perfect - not an easy feat.

    There are of course some low-lights in terms of vocal performances in this concert too; Axl's murdering of We Will Rock You being high up there among them for me. But whilst these vocal performances are all, in comparison, poor imitations of the original, what matters most here is the event, not the performances as such, and the magic of this event is certainly well captured on this DVD. It would be hard not to be moved by David Bowie's incredibly brave and unexpected gesture of humility in front of 72,000 fans, or by the groundswell of emotion generated by the end of the concert, when Roger Taylor approaches the microphone for his final words of the night.

    Oh, and in case you're wondering why Innuendo/Kashmir were the only songs omitted from the concert footage, according to sources who were there at the actual concert on the night, the performance of Innuendo was, umm, less than convincing. In Robert Plant's defence however, this song is in a very difficult key to sing (it was the title track from Queen's last album (with Freddie) and was never performed live by the band themselves), so one wonders why he chose such a difficult song to attempt to sing live to start with. These same two songs were also deleted from the previous videocassette release, so at least it can be said that no footage has been omitted from the previous release and that, apart from one small omission, what we have here on this DVD is the complete set list for the main concert.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. As with Queen's Greatest Video Hits 1 (and one would now expect for all the Queen DVD releases to come), EMI has 'cheated' here by taking the original full frame 1.33:1 source image and cropping the frame top and bottom to provide a pseudo-widescreen ratio, which has then been enhanced for widescreen TVs.

    Now such a cropping technique is highly problematic on two fronts: 1) it means the arbitrary loss of source data (an annoyance in exactly the same the way that pan and scan is), and 2) it inflates any grain/imperfections, by effectively zooming in to the source image. As a general rule, the practice of cutting back the source data should therefore be heavily discouraged. However, in this case, I think that EMI has, like for Queen's Greatest Video Hits 1, managed to get away with it OK. After doing a comparison to the original full frame transfer, I can attest that the cropped DVD transfer does not appear to have suffered from a loss of any material source data. Yes, there is the odd shot here and there that looks unnaturally tightly cropped - for example the shots of Brian May in front of the huge video screen during Too Much Love Will Kill You - but other than one or two notable instances, on the whole the cropping works OK here. As stated in my last review, I can also appreciate the reason why the producers would have opted for the video cropping too, despite the outcry it would risk invoking. In this day and age of widescreen TVs, the market tends to expect widescreen video transfers. And I readily admit that, when listening to a music video with newly and aggressively-mixed surround audio, the marriage of such an audio transfer with a small 1.33:1 image can come across as quite weak, possibly even detracting from the scale of the home theatre experience. (Note: this is my personal view, not necessarily that of the site or my fellow reviewers!)  In my opinion, provided that the re-framing is executed carefully so as to ensure no material data is lost, I think I can live with this practice for music DVDs. This would appear to be becoming an emerging issue for DVD producers, with the trend of releasing more and more old music videos on DVD with new surround audio mixes.

    Sharpness and shadow detail in this transfer is on the whole quite strong. The vast majority of the footage, coming from the cameras covering the performers and stage, displays very clean, clearly defined foreground images, particularly so for a videotape shoot under harsh lighting. The level of background resolution is too, on the whole, quite pleasing. Some images do suffer from a mild softness in definition, but this does not detract. A more prominent problem is the clear lack of resolution in shots from two particular cameras covering the overhead and panoramic views of the stadium. Scenes from these cameras display a notable lack of resolution, with the result that many crowd shots appear a bit blurry. The helicopter camera in particular was clearly plagued by technical problems throughout the night (refer to film/source artefacts below). However, as these issues only affect intermittent sequences and the images from all other cameras are unaffected, overall transfer clarity and sharpness is fine. Pleasingly, there is no material noise at all in this transfer and with a consistently high data transfer bit rate providing plenty of image data throughout the feature, the luminance of this transfer scores well.

    Colours are also quite vibrant. There is the odd wide shot or full stage shot that on close inspection reveals limitations of the video source material, but generally all colours across the palette are nicely saturated indeed and the blacks are faithfully deep and clean of noise.

     There are no MPEG artefacts to note and film-to-video artefacts are nominal, consisting of some infrequent  and immaterial aliasing, like that on a speaker at 38:06. Film/source artefacts are an issue, with the most distracting manifestation being in all scenes from the aforementioned helicopter camera and a camera covering the rear stadium vistas. Shots from these cameras suffer from some sort of interference that causes a very noticeable image flicker or streaking horizontally across the frame. See the rear stadium shot at 51:05 and the helicopter shots at 36:12, 52:17, 68:00 and 71:25 for examples. If you wanted to be picky, some minor colour bleed or image smear is also to be detected in odd shots of the main stage under the multi-coloured spot lighting, but these are an infrequent exception to the overwhelming majority of the footage.

    There are no subtitles provided on this disc.

    The DVD is dual layered, with the transition occurring at 56:49, just before All The Young Dudes. It is well placed.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The main audio transfer on this disc is not bad, but marred by an overly aggressive new surround mix and imperfections in the source live recording.

    We have two audio tracks on offer, the default being a LPCM 2.0 mix (at 1536 kb/s) and the second a new dts 5.1 mix (at 768 kb/s). Note that as per the last Queen DVD release, there is no Dolby Digital surround track provided, so if your equipment is not dts compatible then no surround format will be  available to you. I reviewed the new dts track and sampled some parts of the LPCM track.

    The main complaint with the dts transfer lies in the 'up-mixing' of the original concert audio, with a clear emphasis on re-creating a realistic stadium sound. To that extent, the new surround mix may be technically successful, but fails to deliver an optimal home theatre mix, as it is muddied by some excessive use of reverb and unsatisfactory vocal and instrument levels within the mix.

    The level of the vocals in the mix is variable and is the most problematic feature. I note that the original concert recording (on the videocassette release) also suffered in this department, leading me to believe this is principally a deficiency in the source live recording. In defence of the concert mixing engineer on the night, granted that this must have been an extremely difficult concert sound to get right, with an endless procession of guest vocalists all coming on for one song only, and the mixer left trying to compensate for vocalists of widely ranging vocal strengths and singing styles. You can appreciate when listening to this concert that many vocalists simply don't have the power to compete with such a loud barrage of guitars and drums on stage. Paul Young and Zucchero for example really struggle in terms of vocal strength (fine singers though they are). At the other end of the spectrum, the likes of George Michael and Axl Rose have very strong voices and don't have any trouble at all competing with the instruments. However as a general comment I did find the level of vocals in this concert to be lacking in the earlier songs (admittedly some of the heavier ones) and then improving appreciably as the concert progressed. Whether this is just due to the relative vocal styles of the individual singers, or the concert mix engineer on the night adjusting and perfecting the concert sound as the night progressed, or an issue exacerbated by the newly inserted surround audio ambience, or indeed all three, I can't say for certain. Whilst I would tend to put this down more to a source issue than anything, I would have thought that perhaps it might have been possible to compensate for differences in the levels in the mix just a little better in this newly mastered 'up-mix' for DVD, especially seeing the audio was mastered using Pro Tools.

    The other main issue with this new audio transfer is that it is muddied by an excessive amount of reverb and/or echo in the drums, not present (to the same degree) in the stereo mix. This has the effect in some songs of drowning out the level of the vocals (further) and detracting from the impact of the guitars. I would have certainly liked to hear the guitars a bit more bright and prominent in some songs. See Tie Your Mother Down, I Want It All and All The Young Dudes for best examples of where the excessive reverb effect detracts from the guitars. Some of the quieter tracks suffer from too much echo too, as in Too Much Love Will Kill You and Who Wants To Live Forever. Yet it also has to be credited that the relative mix levels  for vocals, guitars and all instruments in a good majority of songs is actually spot on. Again, as a general comment, the further you progress through the concert, the more the mix improves. Great examples include Somebody To Love, Bohemian Rhapsody, '39 and I Want To Break Free, which all sound tight and alive and display great enhancement through the newly added ambience in the surrounds.

    I compared the dts mix for many songs to the LPCM transfer and noted that the 2 channel mix of the opening tracks does not suffer nearly as much from reverb. Consequently the vocals in the earlier tracks have the chance to fighting through the instruments just a bit better and are more distinct in comparison to the dts mix. Whilst you gain a bit of vocal clarity in these opening songs with the LPCM mix, of course what you lose in comparison is the significantly deeper sound stage and consequently the electricity of the event. It's really a choice of clearer separation at the sacrifice of flatter soundstage with the LPCM track. Certainly as you progress past the first four or five songs, the LPCM mix starts to pale in comparison to the impact of the dts mix.

    Audio sync was also a bit problematic on my player, with the audio arriving just a smidgen before the visual. Only talking a bare fraction of a second mind you, but for concert footage, with clear and repetitive visual cues, any amount of audio sync mismatch can become problematic. If you're not as overly paranoid about audio sync as I tend to be, then it may not be an issue for you, but to me it is noticeable that the vocals seem to hit my ears just that fraction of a second premature to the performer on screen actually articulating the words into the microphone. The slight mistiming is confirmed further with some lingering close-ups of Roger Taylor on the drums - for the best example check out the intro to We Will Rock You.

    Surround presence is certainly constant and effective in the dts transfer. The surrounds are used effectively for crowd noise and ambience, especially as stated above to convey the delay-echo of the drums, as if bounced back at the listener from the rear of Wembley stadium. This does provide very effective aural wrap-around for the viewer and gives the concert sound a very raw and realistic impact. However, whilst successfully building the illusion of having my lounge chair right in the middle of a large crowd at Wembley Stadium, raw live stadium dynamics and all, I think I would have preferred the mix producer back down just a little on the raw edge and give me a little more polish and embellishment in the vocals and guitar levels. Still, it's certainly not all bad news and there are some tracks where the surrounds help deliver just the right level of ambience, adding to the viewing event. Some of my picks for surround mix are '39, Bohemian Rhapsody and We Are The Champions.

    The subwoofer is employed to healthy effect throughout the concert, providing excellent bass extension in the drums (see I Want To Break Free) and the bass guitar (see The Show Must Go On). Other highlights for subwoofer use are Stone Cold Crazy and Heroes.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There are some newly produced or released extras on this disc for this 10th anniversary release of the concert.

Booklet

    A 24 page booklet provides some great pictures and background information, both to the event and the Mercury Phoenix Trust, originally established back in 1992 to distribute the monies raised from the concert to AIDS research, and now one of the most successful continuing AIDS charities in the world.

Menus

    All menus are presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and are 16x9 enhanced. Most menus have subtle animation and audio underscoring. Some thought has definitely been put into the DVD menu design - it is well themed and looks great.

Disc 1: "Follow the white rabbit" - Bray Studios Rehearsal footage (12:13)

    When playing the concert, every now and again an information icon appears in the bottom left hand corner of the screen. Pressing 'Enter' on the remote control takes you out of the concert and into a branched menu, giving access to rehearsal footage of Queen and the artist in question rehearsing that particular song. The separate segments are rehearsals of Under Pressure, Somebody To Love and These Are The Days Of Our Lives. Further rehearsal footage is provided in the TV documentary extra on disc 2. This is a very interesting behind the scenes extra. As well as being able to witness the guest vocalists coming to grips with the lyrics and the song they are performing, the most fascinating thing about this footage is seeing all the other rock personalities interacting and hanging around in the background, enjoying the performances and just generally joking around. This is a very candid glimpse at some big names in rock music.

    The rehearsal footage is presented at 1.33:1 and with PCM 2 channel audio. The quality is fine for what it is, with video acceptable, although with colour pretty washed out and merely OK audio.

Disc 2: Documentary (56:27)

    This one-hour documentary was made for UK TV, promoting the 10th anniversary of the Tribute Concert and its re-release on DVD. It is presented at 1.33:1 with 2 channel audio, and being shot on modern equipment is of excellent audio and video quality.

    The documentary is based around interviews with Roger Taylor, Brian May and many of the guest artists, giving their interpretations of what led to them becoming involved in the event and their impressions of the event's success. Most rock music fans will find these interviews interesting, although it doesn't cover any wider ground other than this concert. The most interesting part of this documentary for me is seeing more of the rehearsal footage and some fascinating sequences backstage as the performers arrive and prepare to go on stage on the night.

Disc 2: "Freddie" segments (22:40)

    This extra shows the six featurettes shown to the audience on the big screens on the night in between acts. They are predominantly excerpts of old interviews and live concert footage of Freddie. It is all well edited and put together, but does become a little tedious when watched all together. Strangely, a sub-menu provides you the option to select 2-channel stereo or dts (!) before playing this extra (although why for old interview snippets is beyond me) and the menu also allows you to select any one of the 6 segments individually or just 'play all'. (Note: the individual segments are not time coded, however the total time for all 6 segments is as shown above.)

Disc 2: Slideshows - Concert photos (3:04)

    This extra is a nice touch. It provides not one but two different slideshows of photos from the event, set to audio from the concert. The first is a selection of unofficial fan photos (1:53), which is great, and the second a selection of official photos (1:11), showing a different perspective. Both contain clean video and audio (2 channel).

Disc 2: Slideshows - Facts (5:24)

    Another two slideshows, the first information on the Mercury Phoenix Trust, running through 10 screens of text info, and the second promoting the QueenOnLine website.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This music title has been multi-zoned and spec'd the same for worldwide release. Opt for Region 4 for price and the superior PAL resolution.

Summary

    This is a moving concert event.

    Does it provide the definitive live version of Bohemian Rhapsody or other well known Queen songs? Certainly not.
   Are any of the guest vocalists an acceptable stand-in for Freddie? Certainly not.
   Are the vocals in some of these songs poor in comparison (or even downright annoying)? Yes.
   Is the quality of this live recording perfect? No.

    However the performances by Queen themselves are all very strong and the band members are clearly on a buzz from the adrenaline of the event and the deference of their peers. What matters here is the event, much more so than the quality of the actual performances. Whilst the concert mix is not perfect, this DVD certainly does capture the emotion of the event extremely well, with a great video transfer, variable but effective dts audio and another great effort at extras and design. This DVD captures the end of a music era and is another "must have" for any serious rock music collector.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Sean Abberton (read my bio)
Friday, February 28, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 2109, using Component output
DisplayToshiba 117cm widescreen RPTV. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderYamaha RXV-1000. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.
AmplificationElektra Home Theatre surround power amp
SpeakersOrpheus Aurora III mains, Orpheus Centaurus 1.0 centre, Velodyne CT150 sub and B&W DM303 rears

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
What a send off!! - Dave