Sade-Now See Hear (Lovers Live DVD/Lovers Rock CD) (2001)

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Released 7-Jul-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Music Menu Animation
Featurette-The Band Walking
Featurette-Sade Walking
Featurette-Message To Sade
Music Video-King of Sorrow
Gallery-Photo
Credits
CD-Lovers Rock
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 116:10
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (40:05) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Sophie Muller
Studio
Distributor

Sony Music
Starring Sade Adu
Paul S. Denman
Stuart Mattewman
Andrew Hale
Ryan Waters
Pete Lewinson
Karl Vanden Bosche
Leroy Obourne
Tony Momrelle
Case Amaray-Transparent-S/C-Dual
RPI $29.95 Music Sade


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    Note that this is not a new DVD release. It is simply a re-packaging of the 2002 DVD release Sade Lovers Live, but this time also backed with the music CD of Sade's 2000 studio album "Lovers Rock" - the album that spawned the Lovers Live concert tour.

    Helen Folasade Adu (Sade) is a fascinating woman. The fact that she is exotic, beautiful, classy and talented is only part of it. Sade's story and the circumstances under which she rose to fame are quite interesting. She was born in Nigeria but was brought up in England (she moved to London with her mother when she was only 4 years old). Growing up, she found listening to soul artists like Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye inspirational. However, not thinking herself a singer, she instead studied fashion in London, only experimenting as a vocalist by accident with a group of old school friends starting a band "until they found a proper singer". She continued singing in the early 80s with a Latin funk collective band called 'Pride', which included bassist Paul Spencer Denman, guitarist and saxophonist Stuart Mattewman and keyboardist Andrew Hale. It was about this time that Sade discovered a greater love of song writing (Smooth Operator was written during this time). It took Sade a long time to be convinced of her own talents centre-stage and it wasn't until about 1983 that she formed her own group with the aforementioned Pride members. The album Diamond Life was released in 1984. Best described as a "jazzy soul" sound, this album included the hit singles Your Love is King and Smooth Operator, and the career of Sade was instantly launched.

    Whilst off to a meteoric start, Sade's career was most unconventional. From an early stage she deliberately took greater creative control of the musical process, gaining production skills on the 1985 album Promise and continuing to hone those production skills with later albums. Much to the chagrin of the "suits" of the music industry, she and the band continued to become more and more of an autonomous unit, with a firm grasp on nearly all aspects of their recording process. Sade was emerging out of the mid 80s seemingly out of nowhere, beautiful and exotic, playing soul music with a hint of jazz, the epitome of cool and an inspirational female icon in a extremely male-dominated music industry.

    However, she continued to remain an enigma. Again much to the chagrin of the UK media, she believed in keeping her private life private and maintained a philosophy of only giving interviews when she had something to say. Starved of fodder to print to accompany numerous hit songs, the press mistook this unique approach and started bandying about terms like 'diffidence' and 'aloof'. Worse still, Sade broke the music industry mould by resisting the constant pressures to release albums with a predictable regularity, with gaps of 3 years between the 1985 album Promise and 1988's Stronger Than Pride, a further 4 years till 1992's Love Deluxe and then 8 years till Lovers Rock. Many have mistaken this as a need to re-invent herself with each new album, but in reality Sade has simply been remaining true to her ideals of not succumbing to the music-making machine of churning out product on demand and only saying something when she has something to say. As a result, Sade's songs are always very polished, very heart-felt and intensely personal.

    Above all else, playing music live is what this band lives for and hence music videos and interviews have always taken second priority. This genuine love for playing live and the strong connection the band generates with their rather eclectic audiences (in terms of age, race and colour) is certainly borne out by this DVD. The concert itself was recorded in California in September 2001 and features all of Sade's hits, including the newer Lovers Rock material.

    (Acknowledged source for the above background material is www.sade.com, which is well worth a look.)

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Track Listing

1. Cherish The Day
2. Your Love Is King
3. Somebody Already Broke My Heart
4. Cherry Pie
5. Pearls
6. Every Word
7. Smooth Operator
8. Redeye
9. Jezebel
10. Kiss Of Life
11. Slave Song
12. The Sweetest Gift
13. The Sweetest Taboo
14. Lovers Rock
15. Immigrant
16. Paradise
17. King Of Sorrow
18. No Ordinary Love
19. By Your Side
20. Flow
21. Is It A Crime
22. It's Only Love That Gets You Throug

Transfer Quality

Video

    This is a pretty decent video transfer, but it is let down by the amount of grain in the image, detracting from what would otherwise have been a great concert DVD visual.

    The transfer is presented in the original aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced. The concert was shot by director Sophie Muller on film, but with a 16mm film stock that would appear in retrospect to have been a poor choice, as the transfer suffers from a high amount of grain and a distinct lack of resolution, most noticeable in the wider/pull back shots. Admittedly, this concert is shot under very soft and subtle low-level lighting, but even accounting for this, the image resolution is soft and ill-defined. The earlier half of the concert is the worst for definition, with the image tending to improve a bit more as the concert progresses, no doubt due to the fact that the second half of the shoot benefits from more lighting, as the house lighting gradually increases to reveal the crowd more as the crowd starts getting into it. Despite the fact that this concert was shot on film rather than video, the definition in this DVD transfer does not stack up to other modern concert transfers, which is a real pity for fans.

    Apart from the sharpness issue however, the decision to use film instead of video does give the benefit of some nice deep black levels and a decent amount of shadow detail. However, low level noise does remain an issue in the transfer, owing to the amount of grain. Some of the worst examples are the low-light transition shots between songs when the lights have gone down, for example between Jezebel and Kiss of Life at 46:25 and between Slave Song and The Sweetest Gift at 56:23.

    The director has also opted for some very arty effects by interspersing the concert footage with shots of individuals in the audience. These shots do help to provide some emotional connection between the band and audience, however they are shot on poor quality hand-held 1.33:1 aspect ratio video cameras, so that as well as being appreciably more grainy than the concert footage, these images are also stretched across the screen, in what is meant to be an arty visual style but is just downright jarring. Thankfully, these in-audience video camera shots are few and far between, but as an example of something that is of such poor resolution that it shouldn't even have been considered - poor lighting conditions notwithstanding - see the shot of the man in the audience at 50:25.

    Chrominance is perfectly satisfactory, with the colourful soft stage lighting well saturated and well captured in the transfer. Skin tones are generally fine - maybe just a touch reddish on occasion, but granted it is very hard to get the colour balance exactly perfect in the harsh lighting environment of a live concert.

    The only MPEG artefact noted is posterization in many of the close-ups of Sade's face - I suspect this is a by-product of the grain in the material. Film to video artefacts are not a drama - there is not even any notable aliasing in this transfer at all - and there are no material film artefacts to note.

    No subtitle languages are provided on this DVD. You would think they would be a must-include on concert DVDs such as this, as the ability to read the lyrics as the songs are being performed will always add to the understanding and impact of the songs and potentially broaden the audience.

    The disc is RSDL-formatted, with the layer change occurring between the tracks Redeye and Jezebel. The change is a tad disruptive to the sound of the crowd noise, but there is no less disruptive place to put it on a concert DVD.

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

Audio

    The surround audio transfer offer clean sound, but is very reserved in its use of the surrounds. On offer is a choice of two tracks, a default Dolby Digital 2.0 mix (at 224 kb/s) and a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix (at full bitrate 448 kb/s). I reviewed the Dolby Digital 5.1 track.

    Before going on to comment on the quality of the mix, a few quick points. Firstly, note that if you play this DVD without going into the audio set-up menu, you will get the Dolby 2.0 mix as a default, so make a note to visit the set-up menu before you start to watch the feature. (As a general hint, it is always wise to visit any "languages" or "set-up" menu first to select the correct audio, just to be sure.)  Note also that if the main menu is left unattended for only a few minutes, it will automatically launch into the feature all by itself - with the default 2.0 mix. Next, note that whilst the back cover of this DVD clearly and correctly indicates that the disc contains a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix, the back cover also very misleadingly includes a dts logo on the bottom corner. Note that this disc does not contain a dts audio track.  The inclusion of the logo on the cover is highly misleading to buyers to say the least, but let's give the DVD distributor the benefit of the doubt and just put it down to perhaps an original intention to include a dts mix that was subsequently dropped.

    On to the 5.1 mix itself and it is quite a well-balanced concert audio mix, albeit very front-weighted and with uninspiring use of the surrounds. The most pleasing aspect of the mix is the clean, deep bass. Stand-out tracks for Paul Denman's great bass guitar work are King of Sorrow, No Ordinary Love and The Sweetest Taboo. As well as helping to fill out the bass notes, the subwoofer is also called upon well to deliver extra punch to the kick drums in tracks such as Paradise and No Ordinary Love, amongst others.

    Importantly, dialogue quality (vocal quality) and audio sync are both fine on this disc. The vocals are mixed across all three front speakers, rather than using either approaches of centre speaker only or disbursing to front left and front right only (this latter technique is often employed for live concert 5.1 mixes). The use of all three front speakers for vocals emphasises the rich sultry sounds of Sade's voice and provides a big frontal soundstage.

    This audio mix in fact delivers well across the entire spectrum, with the percussion and high-frequencies sweet, the vocals and mid range soulful and resonant and the bass clean and prominent. There is no material audio hiss to speak of in the quieter moments - an issue that can bring other live concert audio mixes unstuck - so this concert has indeed been well-recorded and is well mixed. Perhaps the best tracks to show off the full range of the audio mix are Paradise and Redeye, the latter being a great instrumental jam, where the band really has some fun.

     Unfortunately where the mix falls short is in its reserved nature and uninspiring use of the surrounds. The mix is principally weighted across the front for the duration of the concert, with the rears only drawing attention to themselves for the sound of the crowd applause in between songs (including some very annoying "Whoo-Whoo" cheers!), the occasional vocal reverb/echo and only one or two more precise locational sound effects (like a helicopter and some lightning sounds). Whilst these seldom-used vocal reverb effects in the surrounds are effective when they are used to highlight the power of Sade's voice, having the rear speakers roar to life only very briefly once or twice for this purpose is also a bit distracting.

    There is only one notable sound drop-out issue and that is a problem with the centre speaker use during the very first song, Cherish The Day. The audio transfer in this song is marred by some annoying audio clicks and a temporary strobing of the centre speaker audio in and out (from about 2:38 onwards). The centre speaker is in fact lost entirely for a good portion of this first song, however the problem seems to rectify itself by the beginning of the second song and I did not note any further problems. (The only other thing is an extremely minor and brief sound scratch at 87:24, hardly worth mentioning.)  I did not note any other sound level anomalies, however it is worth mentioning that the mixing of the crowd's applause from the rear speakers does start to become slowly and appreciably louder during the second half of the concert. This was probably a conscious decision in the mixing, to highlight the effect of the crowd warming to the band and becoming more involved as the concert progresses, so this louder applause mixing does add to the excitement of the event and to that extent works well.

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

Extras

    There is a selection of extras on this DVD, but certainly nothing meaty. The extras comprise behind the scenes footage of Sade and band, a music video, some photographic stills and interview footage with some fans before the concert.

Menus

    Menus are in the appropriate aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced, commensurate with the feature. None of the menus has audio underscoring, but that's fine as they are actually quite effective without it. The menus are well themed, drawing on images projected during the concert.

    Note the above comment that the main menu launches into the feature with default audio track if left unattended for only a short time. Another rather annoying feature of the main menu is that you have to wait for about 15 seconds whilst the image materialises and the menu options are slowly flashed up on the screen one by one, all before being able to select anything. Artistic yes, but this soon becomes tiresome and annoying when flicking between menus.

Featurette - The Band Walking (4:15)

    Presented in 1.85:1, not 16x9 enhanced, and with Dolby Digital 2 channel audio, this is basically just some footage of the band members back stage before the concert goofing around. It is shot on hand-held camera, is very grainy in the darker scenes and is a touch oversaturated, but is generally OK for this type of extra. There is no dialogue, as it is set to some Sade remixes to very good effect.

Featurette - Sade Walking (3:26)

    This one is 1.33:1 and has Dolby Digital 2 channel audio. Much of the same sort of hand-held footage, but more dizzying hand-held this time. Quality is the same as above. This footage is not set to music but is actual dialogue (quite muffled and hard to hear), as we get a more candid look at Sade behind the scenes just before walking on stage. Whilst it is interesting to see Sade and band being guided around in the dark backstage in readiness to go on, it's not a super exciting featurette and one wonders if more time couldn't have been taken to edit and show something more interesting. A bit of a waste of a featurette, really.

Featurette - Message to Sade (10:15)

    This one is 1.33:1 and has Dolby Digital 2 channel audio. It is a series of short interview snippets with fans, waiting outside and then inside the venue before the concert starts. I really wish they hadn't bothered at all with this featurette. The interviews are boring and the fans are mindless devotees with nothing interesting to say other than to gush about "their lady" and sing their favourite Sade songs for the camera (badly). It always annoys me with this sort of stuff that rock/pop concert fans are stereotyped in this way. Yes, some fans will be mindless devotees, but surely there would have been at least some more interesting and intelligent fans out there to interview who might have had some more meaningful commentary to make about Sade's music and its influence on them? As it is, I think this extra is just embarrassing to both Sade and her fans. If I wasn't reviewing this disc, then the scene of one fan getting down on his knees to "propose" to his idol would have definitely had me reaching for the menu button! 

Music Video - King of Sorrow (4:47)

    Again 1.33:1 and with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio, this is a great music video, with good quality video boasting nice colour saturation. A nice inclusion as an extra. Pity we didn't get another couple of music videos from "Lovers Rock".

Gallery 

    16 black and white photographs. You can select them one by one or opt for a slide show option. The only trouble is that the slide show only gives you very small thumbnail images, smaller than if selecting the photos individually, so this tends to defeat the purpose completely. Also, they are not overly interesting photos.

Bonus CD: "Lovers Rock"

    This is the 2000 album that spawned the Lovers Live concert tour. It is a great album. A complaint of this "Now See Hear" packaging concept, however, is that you do not receive the original CD details. That means no CD booklet, no lyrics (if the original CD had lyrics printed), no details on who the musicians are or who wrote the songs, and no details on the album's production credits. You don't even receive a separate CD case.

R4 vs R1

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

   This music DVD is multi-zoned and there is no difference between regions other than standard PAL/NTSC differences. Opt for Region 4 for price and the PAL resolution.

Summary

    Sade is a very popular and enduring singer, thanks to her silky smooth vocal talents, heartfelt music and genuine approach - of course, having very talented musicians in her backing band doesn't hurt either. It is no surprise then that Sade has won wide appeal across different ages and audiences, for she is talented, stylistic and cares about her music. This concert captures the warm atmosphere of the Lovers Rock concert tour in the US in 2001. The band have fun, the crowd have fun and it's a great concert.

    The DVD offers a decent quality video transfer, albeit grainy, and clean dynamic audio, albeit very front-weighted. A few decent extras are also on offer, but nothing meaty. Overall, fans can probably be satisfied to have this great concert released on DVD, but not overly excited at the quality.

    Whether this new repackaging of the Sade Lovers Live DVD appeals to you or not will no doubt depend on whether you already own - or want - the "Lovers Rock" CD. If you already own the CD, then the original 2002 DVD release will be the preferred option (it has now been reduced in price). If you don't own the CD, but you do want to be able to experience the studio recordings of many of the songs performed live in the concert, then this new packaging should appeal on pricing grounds (provided that you don't mind missing out on the original CD packaging).

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Sean Abberton (read my bio)
Wednesday, July 23, 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

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