The Who & Special Guests-Live at the Royal Albert Hall (2001)
Menu Animation & Audio
Featurette-Documentary w/ Roger Daltrey Interview: Teenage Cancer Trust
Multiple Angles-Pinball Wizard
Featurette-Backstage Footage: Let's See Action (2:03)
Featurette-Rehearsals (7) (14:01)
|Year Of Production||2001|
|RSDL / Flipper||
Dual Disc Set
|Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Dick Carruthers|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (1536Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.78:1||Miscellaneous|
|Smoking||Yes, in extras|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||Yes, during credits|
Not so long ago, Michael D and I had the chance to watch a short promo DVD of a few songs from a concert given by The Who at The Royal Albert Hall in London. I think that we both came to the same conclusion independently - it looked like it was going to be something special. Indeed, ever since seeing the promo DVD, I have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of the full concert. Well, the full DVD is now upon us and it is indeed something a little special. And it is special for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is a rare chance to see The Who perform live in recent times. In the sort of semi-retired category, it's nice to know that this bunch of oldish farts can come out and still rock as well as ever. Indeed, this is the sort of performance that demonstrates why The Who are one of the legendary bands of rock and roll. Secondly, some obvious care has been taken with the recording of the gig, for we get what might well be one of the best concert videos that we are likely to see on DVD. The video is almost perfect and the sound d*** well is. Thirdly, the concert has been presented in a very befitting way - the concert on one dual layer DVD, giving maximum space for the mastering of the concert, with the extras on a second DVD. Now why can't all DVDs be done this way? Fourthly, this is not your basic slap and dash 60 minute concert video - this is well over two hours of the best of one of the best rock and roll bands of all time, with a bit of help from some special guests. This is the sort of concert DVD that we all wished we saw a heck of a lot more often than we do.
Ranging across the whole career of the band, a couple of things stick out like sore thumbs here. Despite hardly being in the prime of their careers, the three surviving members of The Who still have significant command of their talents in just about every way. You want to hear great bass playing? Well John Entwistle will show you what great bass playing is all about. Pete Townshend can still play a mean guitar and demonstrates it with ease here. Roger Daltrey's voice might not be quite the instrument it was in the 1970s, but he can still belt out a tune pretty darn well. Before a very enthusiastic audience, they together put on a show that would leave many a bunch of pretender bands today cowering in the corner in total awe of what these guys can do. Simply put, you don't get to see great rock and roll bands nowadays, so take the opportunity to see this one in action. This is rock and roll entertainment that we rarely get to see today - in its purest form. A bunch of guys getting up on stage and making some great, loud music.
I am not going to proclaim this the greatest concert video that I have ever seen, but I will give you the strong tip: I have not seen too many that would put this in the shade. A great concert, given a genuinely deserving transfer in every way. I would certainly add this to my list of concert videos that should be an essential inclusion in any DVD collection. See one of the great bands of the rock and roll era doing what they do best - rocking the house down. Just get it!
The tracks on offer in this concert comprise:
|1. I Can't Explain|
2. Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere
3. Pinball Wizard
5. My Wife
6. Kids Are Alright
8. Magic Bus
9. Who Are You
10. Baba O'Reilly
12. Heart To Hang On To
|13. So Sad About Us|
14. I'm One
15. Behind Blue Eyes
16. You Better You Bet
17. The Real Me
19. Won't Get Fooled Again
21. Let's See Action
22. My Generation
23. See Me, Feel Me
The concert is terrific and the video transfer is pretty darn good too! I would hazard a guess that this is going to look even better on a widescreen television. The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.
Apart from the odd few obligatory, and almost understandable, lapses in focus, this is one terrific transfer. Quite sharp, without resorting to over sharpness nor edge enhancement, you would be hard pressed to find anything significantly better than this in any concert video seen in Region 4. Even the obligatory problems of intense stage lighting can barely impinge upon the quality of the transfer in this regard. But added to the sharpness is some rather wonderful detail, and detail that is not ruined by artefacting problems in the main. Shadow detail is about as good as we could reasonably expect in a concert video, and certainly there is no cause for complaint about what we have been given in general. The stage smoke creates some problems as far as giving the transfer a very minor grainy look, but this is inherent in the source material. There is only one place where any noticeable grain comes into play (107:40), and even then it is not that bad. The overall look of the transfer is very good indeed, as the transfer is nice and clear and there is nothing in the way of low level noise.
Aside from those times when the stage lighting gets really intense, this is a wonderful looking transfer as far as the colour is concerned. Plenty of rich, vibrant colours with only the slightest hint of slight oversaturation under some of the more intense red lighting (which I admit is not at all frequent). Basically this a gorgeous looking concert video, with only the usual problems of stage lighting to deny this a place amongst the sort of high quality colour we would expect in the best modern films. The most impressive aspect of the colour is probably the fact that the colours are very solid and consistent throughout, something that is not always the case with concert videos.
There did not appear to be any MPEG artefacts in the transfer. The main issue with the transfer is the presence of film-to-video artefacts in the form of aliasing. Now I hasten to add that in general this is really minor stuff and depending upon what your display device is like, you may well not even notice it unless you are really watching out for it like a hawk (as we reviewers unfortunately must). The most noticeable examples, and the term noticeable is very much overstating the situation, are in the lighting gantry over the stage (see 4:13 and 25:18 for examples) and the obligatory guitar strings (check out 17:21 and 72:38). Overall though I would have to say that the most noticeable example of the issue for me was around 33:17, when John Entwistle's shadow of all things aliases rather noticeably. However, let me stress that in general this issue was far from being a disruption to the enjoyment of the concert and in all the circumstances is miles better than your average concert video. There were no film artefacts noted in the transfer.
This concert is contained on the first DVD in this two DVD set and it is an RSDL formatted DVD. The layer change comes rather noticeably at 72:23 but as usual the concert environment does not give any really great chances to insert an unnoticeable layer change. Whilst noticeable, it was not really disruptive to the flow of the concert, since it was in a sweeping shot of the audience before a song commences. The second DVD is a single layer, single sided effort.
The lack of an English subtitle option for our hearing impaired readers is somewhat disappointing.
Whatever you do, do not crank the volume all the way up to eleven on this DVD! Building foundations are bound to crumble if you do. This is a very rare instance where we have been given three soundtracks on a DVD and all are excellent. In fact, the Dolby Digital 5.1 effort would have to rank as one of the best I have heard on a concert video, and if you love bass, then prepare thyself for some serious, serious addiction. Whilst I cannot crank the audio all the way up due to certain constraints, if you get the opportunity to do so, you will enjoy what you hear - believe me.
There are the three soundtracks on the DVD, being an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, an English Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack and an English dts 5.1 soundtrack. I listened to both of the 5.1 soundtracks whilst only indulging in a briefish (twenty odd minute) sampling of the Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.
There are some inherent problems in the recording, where Pete Townshend is sometimes difficult to hear owing to miking problems, but otherwise dialogue and vocals come up very well in the transfer and everything is easy to understand. There is no problem with audio sync in the transfer. It should be borne in mind that the sound was turned down a little for the review session, and at more normal listening levels, the slight issue with the soft dialogue might well be a non-issue.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack is a pearler, and if this is your only option for listening then I doubt that you will be disappointed. Just crank this up a little and you will immediately notice that it is a nice, clean, open sound that hides nothing and that has a very natural sounding balance to it. Obviously in comparison to the 5.1 soundtracks, it is about as wimpish as the Australian dollar, but in itself it really is a very good effort indeed. I would have no complaints here at all.
If the Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack is a pearler then the Dolby Digital 5.1 sound is almost beyond description. Awesome might not be pushing the point too much at all. Whilst my aversion to bass is well known, I have to say that here the engineers have done an excellent job indeed. The whole soundtrack is superbly engineered so that you get the distinct feeling that you are centrally located about ten rows back from the stage and getting the full effect of those huge suspended speakers belting out at the audience. But it is not just the great bass channel that gets noticed here: the rear surround channels are also excellent, so that when you get audience participation it really sounds as if it is going on all around you in the concert hall. It has been a fair old while since I got this sort of effect from a concert video. Wonderful stuff indeed. When the band is playing without audience participation, then the soundscape rightfully switches to a predominant frontal effort that really does a good job of capturing the concert experience. Overall, lovely, lovely stuff indeed.
Funnily enough, there is not much difference between the two 5.1 soundtracks, but the higher transfer rate of the dts 5.1 soundtrack certainly seems to produce a slightly more fuller sound, as well as a slightly more analytical sound that positions the instruments just a tad better. Overall though, it does not produce as wonderful a soundscape as the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, as the rear channels are not quite so well defined. Still, if you crank this soundtrack up a tad (well okay, the whole hog), you can be guaranteed of as good a headache as the real live concert would have given you.
Overall, I would have to say that I have never heard three such excellent soundtracks on a single concert DVD. Someone took a lot of trouble with these and it darn well shows - and shows up well the shortcomings of most concert DVDs that we get to review. As near to perfect sound as I have heard in quite a while.
|Surround Channel Use|
After the main concert, I suppose the extras were always going to struggle to compete, even though they are sensibly presented on a second DVD. The only puzzler for me is the fact that a second DVD for about 28 minutes of extras seems a little on the pointless side. Surely if the expense is worth going to, plenty more could have been found for inclusion here?
Nicely done with some decent audio and animation enhancement throughout the package.
The Teenager Cancer Trust is the charity that was benefiting from The Who's tour, of which the concert was the last night of I believe. As such, this is less a documentary or featurette and more an explanation of what the trust is trying to achieve and why. Sneaking in some footage of Roger Daltrey handing over a cheque for one million pounds (a staggeringly large sum of money in Aussie pesos), it is hardly the most essential effort that I have ever seen. I cannot help but feel that something better than this could have been presented. Like all the extras on the DVD, it is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. This one comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Nothing much wrong with it technically.
This allows you to watch the song in any one of seven angles, albeit one that is not full ratio size. The format is one larger panel, with seven smaller ones to the left and to the bottom that show all seven angles simultaneously. Your selected main angle is shown in the larger panel as well as in one of the smaller panels. I suppose any use of the sadly underutilised angle function is to be welcomed, but frankly the presentation here is a tad cluttered. You get all the same soundtrack options as in the main feature. Does that make this the first Region 4 DVD with an extra in dts sound (excluding the dts trailers)?
Presented to the accompaniment of Let's See Action, this is not terribly exciting stuff at all. Technical quality is okay but not spectacular. The sound is Dolby Digital 2.0.
The seven segments comprise Sanctuary Studio rehearsals, Eddie Vedder (of Pearl Jam fame), Nigel Kennedy, Bryan Adams, Paul Weller, Noel Gallagher and Pete and Roger. The other special guest Kelly Jones (of Stereophonics fame) must be something special since they have no rehearsal footage of him! Mildly interesting in showing how the rehearsal process does or does not work. The technical quality ranges from excellent to awful, with some sections being quite grainy and in the case of the Bryan Adams segment, severely attacked by aliasing about half way through. The sound is Dolby Digital 2.0.
As far as we have been able to ascertain, there are no significant differences between the Region 4 and Region 1 releases.
What more needs to be said? Excellent concert with a generally excellent video transfer and some superb audio transfers. The extras package is a bit of a waste of time, but overall The Who And Special Guests - Live At The Royal Albert Hall is one essential purchase for any DVD collection. The expectation was for something rather special - the reality lived up to the expectation.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-515, using S-Video output|
|Display||Sony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL|