Queen-Rock Montreal & Live Aid: Special Edition (1982)
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary-Brian May & Roger Taylor
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Live Aid Rehearsal Footage (10:55)
Featurette-PM Magazine, 1982 (6:45)
Additional Footage-Live Aid Concert, 1985 (25:11)
|Year Of Production||1982|
|RSDL / Flipper||
Dual Disc Set
|Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Saul Swimmer|
Eagle Eye Media
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 (1536Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (1536Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||Yes, some beverage brands.|
|Action In or After Credits||Yes|
Captured in front of a crowd of 18,000 screaming fans in Montreal's Forum Theatre, this live concert showcases Queen during their musical peak, having finally scored a number one hit in North America and broken concert attendance records in Brazil with 131,000 seeing them play at a gig in Sao Paulo. There are a lot of great moments captured in this concert, but the production wasn't without its share of drama.
The concert was filmed in 1981 over two nights; November 24th and 25th. The production had been planned quite far in advance and was originally scheduled to coincide with the band's appearances in either Mexico City or New York City, but Toronto was finally chosen because the band had not performed there for more than twelve months. The production was wrought with technical hurdles and heated back-stage arguments between Queen, their management (Jim Beach) and Director Saul Swimmer.
The idea of committing one of their concerts to film was initially pitched to the band by Saul Swimmer. This was to be the first rock concert filmed in double 35mm and Swimmer intended to display the finished product via his new Mobilevision enterprise; a sort-of travelling IMAX theatre with a screen five stories high. The trouble was, Mobilevision was still yet to get itself off the ground and Queen were understandably hesitant to commit to such a project. In the end it took twelve months of persistent hounding on Swimmer's part to get the go-ahead for the project, only to find the band tired and belligerent on the nights of the shoot. In the band's defence, this was the tail-end of their year-long tour and they were frazzled, frustrated and fed-up with it all. Understandably, the last thing they felt like dealing with was a stage crowded with cameramen. The unbridled anger comes across clearly in their performance and most songs are played at break-neck speed.
Logistically, the production was chaotic to say the least. The technology at the time limited camera magazines to only ten minutes each, which meant in the space of a one-hundred minute concert each camera could be expected to reload film up to ten times. Also, camera start-ups had to be coordinated like clockwork and staggered so as to avoid a bulk of cameras needing to reload all at once, which could risk missing an important piece of the show. Over the two nights, more than 250,000 feet of film was consumed, which would have amounted to an extremely daunting editing and syncing task.
While the resulting quality may be great, the actual product we have on hand here is a mixed bag as far as concert films go and, as pointed out by Brian and Roger in the accompanying commentary, was not really planned too well from the outset. Guitar solos, guitar introductions and other parts come and go with no direct visual accompaniment. It should be commonsense for a director to show the guitarist in action during his solo, but no such logic was applied here. Unfortunately, after editing of the film was completed back in 1982 the camera negatives and all surplus footage was completely destroyed. Had they have kept the excess footage, a new edit could have been made to correct these oversights.On the upside, the original multi-track audio masters have been found, and given the Pro Tools HD treatment come across very nice indeed. Unearthing these master tapes yielded two deleted tracks from the film; Flash and The Hero, which can be found on the new Double CD and Triple Vinyl LP editions of this show. As I noted above, the video accompaniment to these tracks has been long destroyed. For the completists out there, these two deleted songs actually slotted in the set list just before Crazy Little Thing Called Love.
It's interesting to note that this concert marked the first public performance of Under Pressure, a song that at this time had only just been released as a single. Another rarity for Queen, Jailhouse Rock is a cover song that was scarcely rehearsed by the band, and was thrown into the set at short notice in an attempt to upset the filmmakers. The band's efforts to thwart the production extended to back-stage antics as well. Freddie was never the type to resist a wardrobe change, but it has been said that for these shows he went out of his way to change costume regularly and in great contrast to the previous show, so as to deliberately destroy the potential for any continuity between footage of the two nights. A very sneaky strategy indeed!
Of all the Queen DVDs in my library, this concert has always been my favourite. I imported the Region 1 Pioneer release of this show, titled We Will Rock You, at great expense when it was released back in 2001, and with its THX-approved transfer I always rated it pretty highly as far as concert DVDs go. There are considerable differences between the two versions, most notably restoration to the introduction of Now I'm Here, which had been quite butchered in the original version. With the help of some careful video editing, the song has been restored to its proper glory for this new release. I've compared the two versions in greater detail below, for those of you like me who already own the Pioneer disc and are curious about the need to upgrade.
This package has the added bonus of Queen's classic set performed at Live Aid in 1985. This brief twenty-minute appearance has been voted as one of the greatest live performances of a rock band, ever (so it says in the accompanying booklet). For the purposes of this review, I've covered disc two in the extras section below.
2. We Will Rock You (Fast)
3. Let Me Entertain You
4. Play The Game
5. Somebody To Love
6. Killer Queen
7. I'm In Love With My Car
8. Get Down Make Love
9. Save Me
10. Now I'm Here
11. Dragon Attack
12. Now I'm Here (Reprise)
13. Love Of My Life
|14. Under Pressure|
15. Keep Yourself Alive
16. Drum and Tympani Solo
17. Guitar Solo
18. Crazy Little Thing Called Love
19. Jailhouse Rock
20. Bohemian Rhapsody
21. Tie Your Mother Down
22. Another One Bites The Dust
23. Sheer Heart Attack
24. We Will Rock You
25. We Are The Champions
26. God Save The Queen
The presentation of music DVDs has been a consistent issue for me as a PAL-region reviewer. Unless the concert has been captured and produced in a native PAL frame rate, it is inevitable that some kind of sacrifice has to be made to conjure a PAL DVD for local release. I still don't understand why, in this day and age, distributors are so reluctant to release NTSC material. It seems that as a PAL region we are constantly met with a double-edged sword. Create a perfect frame-by-frame rendition of the source, and the audio needs to be manipulated to match the faster PAL video frame rate, which means an increase in pitch- a very undesirable thing to do to a music title. Alternatively, in order to preserve the audio pitch in a format conversion you must corrupt the video stream, which leads us to the DVD in question.
Erudite readers will recall my review of Whitesnake's Live In The Still Of The Night DVD last year, which cleverly duplicated individual video frames in order to maintain video sync with the intended audio pitch, thus creating a PAL presentation with pristine audio and annoying, jittery video. For this Queen DVD, a simpler method has been applied that overlaps a small number of frames per second. This process can make fast movement on screen appear ghosted, not to mention the additional stress it puts upon a normally efficient MPEG compression process, trying in vain to render corrupt frames of ghosted video. An example of the video corruption that has occurred in our PAL transfer can be seen in a still I've captured from the feature, below.
The new restoration of this film is credited to dts Digital Cinema. I can't help but wonder what their opinion would be of their intensive, glorious restoration work being converted to a PAL frame rate for the DVD market. The 35mm film source has been matted to form an aspect of 1.78:1, which has been 16x9 enhanced for DVD. As you would expect from an NTSC source, some jagged edges are evident and the limited resolution of the source restricts the level of visible detail. The shot of Brian playing at 59:03 is so lacking in detail, there are no strings visible on his guitar. The majority of the stage is very brightly lit, the only shadowy moments come about when the cameras turn to the crowd. Shadow detail appears to be realistic, but tends to suffer from slight grain and noise intermittently.
Detail also suffers in distant shots of the stage, which is a common issue for concert titles. I'll be very interested to see how this concert scrubs-up on HD DVD.
Colours are a little washed out, which I suspect is not the fault of the transfer, but rather the bright stage lighting. The colouring is pretty intense at times and the bright lights do produce some very attractive camera flaring in the lenses that have been used. I didn't notice any issues with colour rendering or inconsistency throughout the transfer.
MPEG compression issues do arise from time to time, usually in the form of grain during sequences with thick stage smoke. Some film artefacts are present, but never anything beyond the odd small spec of dust. A slight flicker can also be seen in image now and then, usually when the image is at its brightest.
An English subtitle stream is provided for the Audio Commentary only, along with several other languages. Disc two is also subtitled.
Disc One is DVD9 formatted, with a layer transition placed during the feature, between the songs Love Of My Life and Under Pressure. The pause wasn't noticeable on my equipment, but at the absolute worst it would only interrupt audience applause. Disc Two is DVD5 formatted.
You'll be happy to know that this section contains all good news! There are three audio options included, and in keeping with the pattern of past Queen DVD releases there is no Dolby Digital 5.1 alternative. The audio options available are:
The disc loads directly into playback of the feature, in an alternate angle that occupies only the first thirty seconds or so. This alternate angle contains an audio setup menu; if no selection is made by the conclusion of the setup menu then playback continues seamlessly with the default audio. This is a very handy option for those who wish to view the concert as audio only- just put the disc in the drawer and the rest is automatic.
As I established above, the video stream has been manipulated so as to retain the correct audio pitch. Rest assured that there are absolutely no pitch issues or inconsistencies present in the two main audio options. Both have been remixed from the multi-track master tapes and sound like they were performed yesterday. There don't appear to be any overdubs as far as I can tell. If there are overdubs present, they are very well disguised.
One of the first things I noticed about these soundtracks is that they have been mastered loud, much louder than I am accustomed to. I had to reduce my listening level much lower than normal to begin with, but the temptation to touch it up a notch proved too great. These soundtracks really do pack an amazing punch when given adequate volume. I'm impressed.
Vocals and vocal harmonies are crystal clear and easy to make out above the other instruments. I didn't note any sync issues in the slightest.
This audio restoration has been overseen by Justin Shirley-Smith, the same man responsible for numerous other Queen releases. The dts 96/24 option is essentially a 4.1 effort, due to the front centre channel being dormant. The front left and right channels to the bulk of the work, carrying all vocal harmonies, instruments and percussion. Cymbals are nice and bright, without ever becoming overpowering. Separation between instruments is excellent; Brian's guitar tends to sit to the right while Freddie's piano leans to the left. Roger and John occupy a solid front centre, with tom-drums panned from right to left across the front soundstage. The LFE channel adds weight to the kick drum and bass guitar with great effect. The pyrotechnics also make good use of the subwoofer.
The surround channels are utilised for crowd noise and cheering, as well as mild echoes replicating the live venue acoustics. Some creative application of the rear channels is noticeable (of which I particularly like), vocal harmonies and echoes, especially Freddie's vocal effects during Dragon Attack. Brian's guitar swirls about the room during his solo, which is a nice surprise, and a good respite from the usual audience chanting.
The default PCM audio is very clear, crisp and surprisingly similar to the dts option. Personally, I preferred the dts because of its high level of immersion and the additional LFE activity, but both are certainly more than acceptable. Both have been mastered at the same volume level.
|Surround Channel Use|
This is a generally informative commentary from the two gents, if you're familiar with their commentaries on past Queen DVDs then you should know what to expect here. They discuss their preparation for the show and of course vent their frustration with the quality of the film's Direction. Brian goes into some detail describing his dissatisfaction with the original Mobilevision version. The commentary does become a bit repetitive at times with the men bagging-out the editor's choice of camera angles and the dodgy camerawork. The audio commentary has been subtitled in an array of languages, including English.
Recorded on July 13th, 1985, this appearance was staged only a few years after the Montreal gig, but the band are sure in full flight. This is a blistering performance, very energetic as a proud Freddie struts the stage, pouting and commanding the massive audience's attention with extreme confidence. I've never seen such professional showmanship from the frontman of a rock band as Freddie displays here.
The analogue videotape source has been very well restored, with audio options in standard dts and PCM stereo to match the feature on disc one. It sounds to me like the sound has been matrixed from a stereo source, as the depth and overall clarity is not even vaguely comparable to disc one. The drum tones are thin and very top heavy and as a consequence Roger's cymbals are way too overpowering. The piano has an almost abrasive edge that is in great contrast to the superb warmth of the audio mix we witnessed on the Montreal gig. Having said that, all instruments are relatively audible, but a little more bass guitar would have been ideal. They've clearly done the best they possibly could with the material available.
The video quality is exactly as you would expect from a twenty year old analogue source. The image is presented in its original 1.29:1 aspect, full frame. Microphony is rampant, with horizontal banding visible throughout most of the performance. A couple of minor analogue tape hiccoughs can be seen on occasion, but aren't a dominant issue. The bright stage lighting does generate comet trails (persistence of image) quite a bit, but is simply a flaw inherent in the camera technology of the day.
One aspect of the show that did strike me as surprising, especially after viewing the Montreal gig, was how ecstatic the band were to share the stage with countless cameramen. In complete contrast to the Montreal show, Freddie can be seen here joking-about and wrestling between songs with a bearded camera-guy who stands nearby his piano. Perhaps it is easier to be jovial when millions of people are watching, but on the other hand, I guess the circumstances here are pretty different.
The song list is comprised of a brief cross-section of hits. The band are documented as saying that they wanted to play familiar songs that anyone in the global audience would recognise, which is fair enough. The final track, Is This The World We Created, was performed acoustically later in the evening by Brian and Freddie on their own, and is a fantastic closer to the short set.
The band work their way through portions of Hammer To Fall, Bohemian Rhapsody and Radio Ga Ga. A brief band interview is in the middle, as they discuss their support for the event and their problems agreeing upon a twenty minute set list. Decisions, decisions!
"Brought to you from Tower Records in West Hollywood", the introduction to this show is cheesy to the extreme and absolutely hilarious. This short promotional piece includes interviews with individual band members and some discussion about why they work well together as a unit. Nothing overly substantial, but worth a look.
A glossy colour booklet, with extensive credits, track listings and photos from the Montreal gig.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
We hope to have a review of one of the HD formats for you very soon, but at the time of writing there has been no definitive Australian release date. As I noted above, the Double CD edition includes two bonus songs that were edited from the Montreal concert film.
So, you're not HD capable, you already own the old Pioneer release and you want to know if the new Region 4 is worth the upgrade? In short, if you give a hoot about audio quality, I say make the upgrade. The new mix leaves the old one for dead, just be prepared for the PAL video issues- they're especially noticeable on a big screen. Alternatively, you could import an NTSC version, which I presume would be void of video glitches.
These images below (captured from the same video frame during the middle-eight section in Under Pressure) illustrate the differences between the original Pioneer THX release of 2001, and the new, remastered Region 4 Eagle Rock disc of 2007.
Region 1 Pioneer, NTSC (2001) (48:47)
Region 4 Eagle Rock, PAL (2007) (49:26)
As you can see, we have two identical frames from two very different transfers. In the "THX approved" Pioneer transfer we can see poorer matting of the 35mm source, as well as an overall lack of brightness and vibrancy in the image. The old transfer contains much more film artefacting, dust and dirt, even a few scratches here and there.
The corrupted PAL transfer is easy to pick and is very unfortunate. On the up side, the remastered version of 2007 centres the figures properly in the video frame, so I would guess that some kind of vertical Pan & Scan has been performed on the 35mm source for the new remaster. The new version also replaces the garish, bright pink Mobilevision opening titles with smooth, metallic titles- much more preferable in my opinion. The new opening titles run a little longer than they did originally, but only by ten seconds or so.
A bit of info about the original version. The North American Pioneer disc of 2001 (titled We Will Rock You) was released in two editions; one a standard edition and the other with an additional dts soundtrack option. These both included the following special features:
The audio on the Pioneer disc was derived from the Mobilevision mix, which aimed to recreate an echo-laden, resonant, live auditorium experience. The overall sound is not nearly as deep, cymbals are extremely harsh and the guitar is overloaded with reverb. After listening to the new remastered dts mix, the old one made my hairs stand on end. Yuck!
The PAL video transfer has been derived from an NTSC source.
The audio transfer cannot be faulted.
The extras represent great value. I find it amusing that the Director's commentary of 2001 has not been included here. Touché.
|DVD||Denon DVD-3910, using HDMI output|
|Display||Sanyo PLV-Z2 WXGA projector, Screen Technics Cinemasnap 96" (16x9). Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to DVD player. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.|
|Amplification||Denon AVR-3806 (7.1 Channels)|
|Speakers||Orpheus Aurora III floor-standing Mains and Surrounds. Orpheus Centaurus .5 Front Center. Mirage 10 inch powered sub.|