a-ha-Live at Vallhall: Homecoming (2001)
Booklet-Credits and Contents
Main Menu Introduction
Menu Animation & Audio
Featurette-Bonus Live Tracks
Music Video-Recent music videos (4)
Featurette-The Seven Year Itch (4)
Featurette-Backstage With A-Ha
Featurette-After Party Vallhall
|Year Of Production||2001|
|Running Time||101:29 (Case: 100)|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||None Given|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
a-ha formed in 1982 and achieved almost overnight international success in 1985 when their first US single “Take On Me” reached the number one position in the US charts. They followed through on this success with three additional albums and sold-out concerts around the world. After an unsuccessful attempt to move their music in a new direction away from synthesised pop, the band parted ways in 1994. Now seven years later, after moderately successful independent careers, a-ha are back together with new material and renewed energy. a-ha – live at vallhall marks the return of a-ha to their home town of Oslo, Norway and the first of two sold out concerts.
a-ha in concert are good, but they’re not great. They lack the sheer energy, performance and brilliant choreography of a true entertainer such as Madonna, for example. Their songs and tunes also lack the visceral impact and/or catchiness that marks the difference between enjoyable background music and music you simply can’t get out of your head. a-ha fall into the former category; however, that said, as far as general music concerts go this is a good one. It has all the elements of a successful concert, that being decent music, great sound, clean video, high energy and audience participation. It also covers the best of their original songs and much of their new material which has improved. In addition to the concert footage itself, this DVD also comes literally packed with tons of extras including several new video clips, interviews, history and a few extra bonuses such as live footage and some behind the scenes glimpses.
All in all, if you ever were a fan of a-ha or were simply wondering what happened to them after ”Take On Me”, then you will be very pleased with this DVD presentation. In fact, if you are a fan, then the only reason you haven’t rushed out to buy it already was because you were waiting for the review to see how good it was, right? Well, it’s pretty good and comes recommended.
|1. Minor Earth Major Sky|
2. The Sun Never Shone That Day
3. Little Black Heart
4. I've Been Losing You
5. Manhattan Skyline
6. Thought That It Was You
7. I Wish I Cared
8. Cry Wolf
9. Mary Ellen Makes the Moment Count
10. Stay On These Roads
|11. Early Morning|
12. You'll Never Get Over Me
14. The Sun Always Shines On TV
15. The Living Daylights
16. Hunting High And Low
17. Summer Moved On
18. Crying In The Rain
19. Take On Me
When you consider the difficulties of recording live concert footage, at night, under extreme flood lighting you’ll appreciate just how near reference quality this presentation is.
The main concert transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 fullscreen and is not 16x9 enhanced. I do not know what the source material was recorded on, and it was not immediately obvious from the presentation.
The transfer was, for the most part, extremely sharp with no evidence of any grain or low level noise. Detail was only sacrificed during some periods of extreme over-exposure due to a particularly troublesome combination of blue and orange-red spotlights aimed mostly at Magne Furuholmen (for example 16:39, 39:05, 41:12, 72:16 and 88:48). The concert was filmed at night and the black levels were pretty much spot on, reproducing deep blacks and resolving shadow details almost perfectly. The dynamic contrast in this transfer is simply incredible, ranging from the aforementioned midnight blacks of the sky to the extreme brightness of the powerful spotlights as they try to do their worst at over-exposing the stage. The full gamut of darkness, brightness and colour is present in abundance.
Colours are full, rich and vibrant, reproducing the intense spotlight colours of orange and blue faithfully. Skin tones also manage to hold up exceptionally well considering the intensity and nature of the lighting they are exposed to.
MPEG artefacts were not common and were only present in the form of some macro blocking, mostly affecting background areas such as 14:24 and 71:03. These occurrences never detracted from the presentation although they could have been avoided. Aliasing was somewhat of a problem but again it is to be expected in any stage concert given the number of nice chrome edges (14:11, 19:08, 21:02 and 86:43), guitar strings (52:55 and 57:10) and the like for this artefact to manifest itself in. Some posterization is present whenever the spotlights conspire to over-expose some poor sod or area (see examples mentioned above) but again this is to be expected and really does not detract in any way from the material being presented. I did not spot a single film artefact (cue the emails) and you would be forgiven for spotting moire effects on the ceiling panels at 45:52. It is actually a deliberate lighting effect, as is most of what appears to be macro blocking on the backlit panels during the presentation.
The English subtitles were always accurate at introducing each song and detailing the song lyrics and most spoken dialogue, even to the point of translating the Norwegian dialogue to English subtitles at times.
This disc is a dual layered disc with the layer change placed between the main concert material and the extras. I checked and each extra was located on the second layer of the disc with the concert and menu being exclusively located on the first layer.
This was a spectacular audio transfer that exhibited only a few minor problems, both of which are easily circumvented.
There were two audio tracks for this presentation. The default is a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. There is also a downmixed version of this track in Dolby Digital 2.0. I primarily listened to the 5.1 track in Surround-EX Matrix mode and sampled several significant portions of the 2.0 surround track in Dolby-ProLogic II Cinema, Music, Pro Logic and Stereo modes, with the Cinema mode producing better results.
The audio was perfectly synchronised to the video, displaying no audio sync problems at all.
The default sound pressure level of this recording was so high however, that I was forced to tone it down a few decibels to prevent my neighbours from reporting an unlicensed concert to the authorities. Related to volume levels I also felt that the centre channel level in the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack was slightly lower than optimal and was definitely quieter than the corresponding Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. This allowed the music at times to drown out the lyrics.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix was superb. The front sound stage was precise and wide, regularly extending well out into the surrounds. Overall the surrounds provided a wonderful, full ambience and presence, creating an immersive sound environment that justifies the money spent on so many speakers. Crowd effects were also present in all the channels front, side and even wrapping around into the rears, providing a heightened sense of being present at the live event. The Dolby Digital 2.0 mix was much flatter by comparison and lacked the body of the 5.1 mix. Although it too expanded out into the surround channels, it did so much less aggressively and less naturally.
The subwoofer was alive and well for this transfer. Both tracks carry significant sub-80Hz information which, whilst well integrated with the music and never inappropriately calling attention to itself, lacks definition and tightness. The bass was very loose and most likely reflects the over-emphasised bass present at the live performance as a result of the bass towers that are typical at live concerts.
|Surround Channel Use|
A very basic booklet simply listing the contents of the DVD and production credits.
There is a small section of menu animation that leads us nicely into the main menu.
The menus themselves whilst animated are on short, 30 second loops with accompanying audio that does not fade seamlessly. The menu itself is simple to navigate.
Includes 8:00 minutes of additional live footage from the Benefit concert, Grimstad, Norway May 19th 2001. Presented in 1.33:1 fullscreen with a Dolby Digital 2.0 224kbps surround encoded track. Also includes subtitle for the dialogue but not the song lyrics. Includes the tracks "Early Morning" and "Summer Moved On".
A collection of music videos from their new album presented in a variety of aspect ratios. The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio was excellent and of reference quality.
Summer Moved On: Duration 4:04 minutes. Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and not 16x9 enhanced. There are some minor audio sync problems due to lip syncing errors. This song shows just how lucky we are in Australia to have such great summers.
Minor Earth Major Sky: Duration 4:27 minutes. Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and not 16x9 enhanced. This clip is really unusual in many respects and well worth checking out at least once. It contains several deliberately induced artefacts including colour bleed, film artefacts, white levels washout and colour desaturation as special effects. Lip sync is slightly off.
Velvet: Duration 4:07 minutes. Presented fullscreen 1.33:1. This video is very macabre in its presentation. It’s a little disconcerting to watch a video clip where all the artists are literally singing and playing whilst obviously stone dead (murdered to be more precise). Interestingly, the lip syncing was excellent and almost always perfectly timed.
I Wish I Cared: Duration 3:33 minutes. Presented fullscreen 1.33:1. This clip uses deliberate and severe posterization as an effect reducing the image to only two, sometimes three colours. Lip sync is almost impossible to determine.
Duration 4:37 minutes. Ian Wright describes what Morten Harket has been doing over the past seven years. The video quality is a mixed bag of footage from various sources, ranging from unacceptable to extremely sharp. No music clip is included. Subtitles are mostly accurate although they have a tendency to skip large sections of dialogue as though they were never there.
Duration 10:23 minutes. Similar look at the last seven years for Magne Furuholmen. Includes music clip for “Oyenstikker” from his solo career.
Duration 6:54 minutes. Again looking at the last seven years, this time for Paul Waaktaar-Savoy. Includes music clip for “I’m Not Stupid Baby” from his independent band Savoy.
Duration 21:50 minutes. Ian Wright interviews each band member exploring the early days before a-ha, the forming of the band, the ride through the eighties, the break-up, their solo careers and finally now a-ha reforming again. If you’re an a-ha fan you'll be extremely interested in this interview so I won’t spoil any of the details further; suffice it to say that the interview covers an enormous amount of ground. Subtitles had a tendency to paraphrase the spoken dialogue so listen carefully.
Duration 6:13 minutes. Takes a quick look offstage at a-ha preparing for their return concert in Oslo. The audio and video quality was lacking in this extra as it was mostly shot on video cam. No subtitles.
Duration 5:03 minutes. After Vallhall concert party with special guests and dedicated fans. Ian Wright interviews a wide sampling of a-ha fans from all over the world and all walks of life. Lots of opinions but very little content. A veritable mixed bag of video quality and audio quality. Subtitles are mostly accurate.
Eight pages of facts summarising the beginning, success and reforming of a-ha.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
This disc is not available in R1 yet.
a-ha live at vallhall is an excellent transfer and will no doubt find a comfortable home in many people's collections.
The video quality was near reference quality considering the material presented.
The audio quality was also of near reference quality.
The extras are what all extras should be - excellent.
|DVD||Sony DVP-S525, using Component output|
|Display||JVC Interiart Flat 68cm Display 16:9. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.|
|Speakers||Front LR - NEAR MainMast, Center - NEAR 20M, Surround LR - NEAR Spinnaker DiPoles, Rear LR - NEAR MainMast-II, Subwoofer - NEAR PS-2 DiPole|