Queen-The DVD Collection: Live at Wembley Stadium (1986)

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Released 23-Jun-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Music Booklet
Menu Animation & Audio
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-"Road To Wembley" featurettes (4)
Featurette-"Unseen Wembley" featurettes (2)
Gallery-Photo
Multiple Angles-Concert footage extract with 4 selectable angles
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1986
Running Time 111:07 (Case: 300)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (54:06)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Gavin Taylor
Studio
Distributor

EMI Music
Starring Freddie Mercury
Brian May
Roger Taylor
John Deacon
Case Amaray-Transparent-Dual
RPI $34.95 Music Queen


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 (1536Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (1536Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
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

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Plot Synopsis

    The next choice for release in the Queen: The DVD Collection series is the 1986 concert Live At Wembley Stadium. This will be a very popular choice indeed and should prove to be a strong selling music DVD title. The Wembley concert, recorded during Queen's 1986 Magic Tour of Europe, is a perennial favourite among both die-hard Queen fans and the curious alike, for several reasons. Firstly, it showcases Queen at home in London, returning a strong performance at the peak of their live reign; secondly it is recorded in a huge venue, maybe actually just large enough to accommodate Freddie strutting his stuff; and thirdly, this concert features Queen in their last-ever concert tour, and so contains a set list that covers nearly all of the band's most popular material, up to and including the best-selling album "A Kind Of Magic".

    Whilst Queen had played Wembley Arena before in 1980 and 1984, their first appearance at Wembley Stadium was at 1985's Live Aid, where according to many sources including Bob Geldof, the band simply stole the show on the day, understanding perfectly Geldof's concept of 'the global jukebox' and delivering with a very tight 20-minute set of 'just play the hits'. This performance was beamed via satellite to 160 countries, reaching a combined audience of one and a half billion people - a third of the world's then population - on an estimated 80% of television sets on the planet. Gulp!  The event was described as "the perfect setting for Freddie Mercury" and it would prove to be a performance that revitalised Queen's career at that point. A year later, when organising the massive Magic Tour of Europe, Wembley Stadium was the obvious and only real choice for the London leg of the tour.

    Some stats and trivia on the Wembley gigs:

    The track listing for Queen Live At Wembley Stadium is as follows. Note that tracks marked with an asterisk indicate footage not commercially available before (i.e. these tracks were edited out of the previously available VHS release of the concert):

  1. One Vision
  2. Tie Your Mother Down
  3. Medley: In The Lap Of The Gods (Revisited) / Seven Seas Of Rhye / Tear It Up*
  4. A Kind Of Magic
  5. Under Pressure
  6. Another One Bites The Dust
  7. Who Wants To Live Forever
  8. I Want To Break Free
  9. Improvisation*
  10. Brighton Rock Guitar Solo*
  11. Now I'm Here*
  12. Love Of My Life*
  13. Is This The World We Created?
  14. Rock and Roll Medley: (You're So Square) Baby I Don't Care* / Hello Mary Lou (Goodbye Heart)* / Tutti Frutti / Gimme Some Lovin'*
  15. Bohemian Rhapsody
  16. Hammer To Fall
  17. Crazy Little Thing Called Love
  18. Encore 1: Big Spender* / Radio Ga Ga
  19. Encore 2 : We Will Rock You
  20. Friends Will Be Friends
  21. We Are The Champions
  22. Taped Exit: God Save The Queen

    The above set list remained relatively solid, more or less, throughout the whole Magic Tour, and the Wembley concert features the entire set list, so this DVD is indeed a good representation of Queen's live performance on their final tour. For the record, the only omissions of songs from this tour that we don't get to see here are a couple of songs that very occasionally made their way into the set list during odd nights on the tour, usually as part of the Rock and Roll Medley or Improvisation sections. These songs are a Piano Solo, Immigrant Song, Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting and snippets of Stupid Cupid and Shake Rattle & Roll.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    I'd love to be able to tell you that this video transfer looks simply stunning in its restoration and new widescreen enhanced presentation for DVD. I'd love to be able to tell you that the noisy image I'm used to watching on the VHS release of the concert is a thing of the past now that the newly mastered widescreen DVD transfer has hit the streets. I'd love to, but I can't. I can't even report that's it's widescreen. But still, the video transfer is still eminently watchable.

    Disappointment #1: The DVD is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 full frame. This was quite a surprise to me, as I was fully expecting the transfer to receive the same treatment as the previous two Queen DVD releases, whereby the original 1.33:1 image was cropped down marginally, re-framed and then enhanced in the ratio of 1.78:1. Personally speaking, I simply hate watching a 1.33:1 image with a full-on 5.1 concert audio mix, as I find the marriage of a small screen size with big surround audio soundstage completely incongruous. Of course, most widescreen TV's will give you the option of watching in 'cinema mode', enabling you to manually zoom in to the image to expand to a 1.78 aspect ratio, but this is quite suboptimal framing compared to the situation of a transfer deliberately scanned and constantly re-framed with the intention of creating the best 1.78:1 image (as in the previous two Queen DVDs). After I recovered from my initial dummy spit at the 1.33 framing, I soon realised why, in retrospect, the decision must have been arrived at not to provide a cropped 1.78:1 enhanced aspect ratio, and that is because of the lack of resolution of the source material at hand. Any zooming in to this source material at all immediately exacerbates image quality problems. So 1.33:1 it is. (Ed. Can't say I agree with this reasoning. If the original aspect ratio was 1.33:1, then in my opinion the disc should be (and indeed is)  presented at 1.33:1.)

    Disappointment #2:  The luminance portion of this transfer may appear OK at first glance, and indeed the transfer is eminently watchable as stated above, however on any closer inspection luminance scores poorly. The transfer is lacking in any detail, shadow detail is often poor and low level noise is a drama, all due to the analogue video tape source material and the technology of the valve video cameras of the day. This makes for much frustration at times watching the video transfer, but is no complaint of the DVD transfer process itself - all of the problems and artefacts I am about to catalogue below are simply something we have to live with as a by-product of the old camera technology of the day. Mind you, it's not all doom and gloom from go to whoa, and many shots do reveal appreciable detail in some scenes.

    Colouring is probably on balance best described as sufficient, however again owing to the analogue video source material, true solid colours are simply not achieved, and this is particularly evident with the low level noise in many blacks and with the chroma noise in some reds and blues. The old technology cameras also mean a propensity for significant chroma flaring and colour bleeding in many instances, such as in the bright yellows of Freddie's jacket during the first third of the concert, or the white outlines of many costumes or the flaring around band members as they approach or are highlighted by light sources. This flaring effect tends to lead to artificially enhanced colouring in some scenes. Still, if we put aside these annoying instances of flaring and bleed (and also some instances of streaking of colours, to be discussed under source artefacts below), the colouring in the transfer is generally sufficient to portray the impact of the many colours in Queen's impressive lighting rig. There are also many (mostly static) wide shots that reveal a healthy degree of colouring in the lights and costumes and overall environment.

    A bit of good news is that a great job has been done with the DVD transfer process itself, with absolutely no MPEG artefacts introduced and film-to-video artefacts (or 'transfer artefacts', in this context) also kept well and truly in check. The only transfer artefact I did note was a couple of trivial instances of aliasing, such as that appearing on the Vox amplifiers behind Brian during his guitar solo at 45:53.

    However now we come to major disappointment #3, film artefacts (or in this context 'source artefacts'). Where do we start? Probably the most annoying artefacts present here are colour bleed/chroma flaring/chroma noise, burning out and ghosting of the image, and microphony. I've noted some times for examples of these below, but you will see that these times are all mostly from the first half of the concert, as to be honest I gave up writing them down after a while - you can find several other instances. All of these artefacts are due solely to the old technology tube video cameras used to record this concert. This old technology certainly dates the concert and these problems would largely not be there at all if it was possible to go back and record the concert again today, using modern technology. What a pity.

    Bad colour bleed is evident on Brian May's white jacket (see 4:08) and striped black and white shirt (51:00), and on Freddie's bright yellow jacket (15:05). The bright yellow in this jacket cannot be handled effectively by this video camera technology, and consequently we have bad chroma flaring and even a complete loss of the detail in the jacket's white stripes and other finer details on occasion. Luminous bleeds are in fact a problem on the whites of costumes generally; see for example images of Freddie during Another One Bites The Dust, or the loss of detail on a flaring Freddie as he walks too close to the light at 37:25. Chroma noise is problematic with the video camera trying to capture reds and blues in particular, as in the images throughout Hey Big Spender. These old technology tube cameras also don't like bright lights being shined into them, and so next we catalogue instances of burning out and residual ghosting of the image on the camera. You can see this as an annoying and distracting streaking of the lights across the frame, whenever the camera tracks shots of moving performers in front of bright lights behind them. Once the image is burned into a particular camera, it then remains as a notable residual burn even for later static shots. See as some of the worst early examples of this annoying burn/streaking effect 9:46, 13:34 and 25:18, but there are others. Next, we have microphony as a result of the inability of the old valve technology cameras to handle vibrations from loud noise, marring the image at, for example, 9:30, 13:55 and 21:03.

    There's nothing really that can be done about all of these source artefacts. We just have to live with them. I do hasten to put all these issues in context though and state that it's not like the image is completely unwatchable or anything - in fact far from it. I have just honed in on the problems to note them. But there is indeed still some nice colour and adequate detail on display in many shots too. I also hasten to add that the above is in no way a criticism of the DVD transfer process. I doubt that these image streaking and flaring issues could have even been cleaned up digitally - or if they could it would have been simply too big a task  This does explain though why any thought of cropping and zooming in to the image to enhance it for widescreen TVs must have been quickly abandoned.

    No subtitle stream is provided on this disc - a lost opportunity to include a lyric sheet.

    The disc is RSDL-formatted, with the layer change occurring at 54:06. It is during a wide shot of the crowd, cheering between songs, and whilst still a bit jarring to the audio there is no less disruptive spot to place the layer change in a live concert DVD.

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

Audio

    Thankfully I can report that the quality of the audio transfer is much better than the video transfer and this concert now sounds better than it ever has in its new mix.

    As with the previous Queen DVDs, this one comes with a default LPCM 2.0 mix (at 1536 kb/s) and a dts 5.1 mix (at 1536 kb/s). As before, there is no Dolby Digital 5.1 mix at all, and Queen is instead fully embracing the dts format, again offering a full bitrate track. It means however that if you don't have dts capabilities, then a surround mix is unavailable to you. My review below is of the dts track. Please note that if you just put this disc in and press play, it will start with the default stereo track, so you do need to go through the audio options menu first to manually select dts.

    The most immediate and pleasing aspect of this concert mix is in the mixing levels across the vocals and all instruments. Inappropriate mixing levels is one of my biggest gripes about concert DVDs generally (see review of the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert for my whinge about the previous Queen concert DVD mix). The mixing levels in the new dts mix on this disc have improved the concert sound immeasurably over the previous VHS and CD mixes of this concert. Vocal quality is strong and clear, (importantly) guitars are now loud enough to be satisfactorily distinct and biting and the drums are also much punchier and with good attack. The audio transfer on this disc also exhibits a healthy dynamic range, equally handling the quieter moments in songs like Is This The World We Created? through to the walls of sound in tracks like Now I'm Here, Tutti Frutti, Hammer To Fall and We Are The Champions. In terms of instrument separation, there is the odd track like Bohemian Rhapsody that still sounds a touch muddied in parts, but by and large there is very little bleeding of the instruments and nearly all songs sound just great. My picks of songs for the best examples of the quality and separation of the audio mix would be Under Pressure, Who Wants To Live Forever, I Want To Break Free (with a much more pronounced bite on the guitar here than before), the Hammer To Fall guitar solo, and We Are The Champions. I did not note any issues with clicks, pops or drop-outs, other than to note some audio hiss during the quieter tracks, as in Who Wants To Live Forever. I did not note any issues with audio sync at all.

    The surround presence in this audio track is constant and generally effective. Thankfully the surrounds are not used too aggressively this time for venue echo and reverb, as I found to be problematic in the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert audio track. This time, the surrounds are used in a more measured dose, still providing ample crowd noise and echo and giving appropriate front-to-back balance to the soundstage. A point to note with the surround use, however, is that there is very little, if any, utilisation of precise rear directional effects in the mix. With little separation between the rear channels, this restrains the mix in its front-to-back weighting and fails to elevate it to a 5.1 mix with distinct localisation. As an example, listen to the Brighton Rock Guitar Solo and note the use of the surrounds here. The two single repeat echoes on Brian's guitar are not directed precisely in this mix, as both echoes are simply directed to both rear speakers, rather than the first repeat to the left rear and the second repeat echo to right rear, as intended in the live environment. Still, I would much rather sacrifice some rear channel directionality in this mix than have a more localised mix that is ruined by an overly aggressive echo and reverb (to more accurately replicate the venue acoustics), as was the case with the Tribute Concert DVD mix. Effective but moderate is the best way I can summarise the surround use in this audio transfer.

    The subwoofer is called upon constantly and effectively to help fill out the bottom end in this concert mix. There is pronounced kick drum throughout the mix (another big improvement on the previously available mixes of this concert) and clean, deep bass. Check out Hammer To Fall and Tutti Frutti as two effective examples of subwoofer use.

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

Extras

    Brian May and Roger Taylor themselves oversaw production of this DVD, and they are both acutely aware of what the fans want and the wait the fans have had to endure over the years for Queen's most popular concert to come out on DVD. It is therefore no surprise that all aspects of this DVD, from menu design to choice of extras, have been thoughtfully put together. The extras on this disc include several new ones including newly recorded retrospective interviews, a few previously unseen snippets of backstage footage immediately before and after the concert, previously unreleased rehearsal footage, unseen footage of the band's performance in the prior night's concert, plus previously unseen and unused coverage of the feature concert. To round it off, the extras package on this disc also includes excerpts from previously released Queen documentaries, providing other backstage and background material relevant to help put this concert and the Magic tour in context. This represents (to my knowledge) just about all of the extra/bonus material possibly available in respect of this particular concert, so fans could not possibly want for any more in this department.

Booklet

    A 20 page photo booklet gives some great pictures of this concert and other concerts from the Magic tour. Most of these pictures were previously available to Queen fans in one release or another, but the images will be fresh to many. In any event, it is great to see this collection of images presented together. There are also one or two new pictures that I have not seen released in any format before. This booklet also provides the DVD production credits.

Menus

    All menus are presented in the appropriate aspect ratio of 1.33:1, commensurate with the feature and extras. All menus are nicely themed, are animated and include audio underscore (sometimes overly loudly!) in Dolby Digital 2.0.

    All the extras to be discussed below - without exception - come in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.

"Road To Wembley" Featurettes (total 67:24)

     This menu screen gives access to four separate featurettes:

"Unseen Wembley" Featurettes (total 47:15)

     This menu screen gives access to three separate featurettes:

"Queen Cam" Multiple Angle Featurette (19:34 x4)

     This menu screen allows you to select one of four specific camera angles used by the director for the concert footage (cameras covering Brian, Freddie, John and Roger respectively) as the songs One Vision, Under Pressure, Now I'm Here and We Are The Champions are performed. Note that as well as just being able to select one of these four camera angles from the menu screen and then staying with it for the duration of the featurette, you can of course keep swapping and changing back and forth between the camera angles whilst the songs are being played - simply use the angle button on your remote control.

    This is a great extra and the best use of a multiple camera angle extra that I have yet come across on DVD. This extra allows you to "be your own director" of a half hour of the concert footage. The more interesting use I found for this feature was to concentrate on the instrumentalists when they are not in the spotlight or soloing, so you can watch them playing and interacting with the crowd more naturally whilst the spotlight is on Freddie singing, for example. It also allows you to watch scenes you have seen played out in the main concert feature (Gavin Taylor's cut), but this time from different angles and perspectives - a bit like Back To The Future Part II, for want of any better way to describe it. This is a lot of fun and this type of extra should be adopted and used much more frequently for concert DVDs. I would love to see all my concert DVDs come with this as an extra.

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

    Queen Live At Wembley Stadium will be a very popular choice as the next release in the Queen DVD Collection. It features the band at their peak performing at a venue now synonymous with Queen in their home town. As this would prove to be Queen's last ever tour, the massive scale and spectacle of this event is a befitting testimony to their popularity and we can be grateful the event has been captured for posterity. The concert benefits from an extensive set list that covers the majority of Queen's best known material and it is simply great to see this concert now finally released in its entirety.

    If you're a Queen fan then you've already got this DVD in your collection by now. For other rock music fans or just the curious, this is the perfect opportunity to see what all the fuss surrounding Queen's live performance is really all about.

    It is a pity that the video transfer on this DVD is marred by source issues, but still the transfer process itself has been well handled and the image remains eminently watchable. The audio transfer is a ripper, and the concert has never sounded better than in this new dts surround mix, effective in bringing out the power of Queen's live performance. A comprehensive DVD design and extras package rounds off the package.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Sean Abberton (read my bio)
Wednesday, July 02, 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)
Aspect Ratio - REPLY POSTED
Fullscreen picture - REPLY POSTED
Retaining Aspect Ratios - REPLY POSTED
DVD Rating Classification - James O REPLY POSTED
Fullscreen picture - REPLY POSTED
As Sean said though, with 16x9 Tv's - Zinzan (This is my.... bio) REPLY POSTED