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David Mallet
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On April 20th 1992, Roger Taylor, Brian May and John Deacon, the surviving members of Queen, took to the stage at Wembley Stadium for the start of one of the biggest events in rock history, which the band had organized to pay tribute to their former colleague the incomparable Freddie Mercury. Queen was joined by some of the greatest musical talent in the world to celebrate Freddie's life and work and to increase public awareness of AIDS, the disease that had prematurely ended his life the previous year. As well as being great entertainment, the concert raised a huge and still growing sum of money for the Mercury Phoenix Trust, a charity formed at the time whose charter is the relief of suffering from AIDS throughout the world. Now for the first time both halves of the concert are being made available on SD-Blu-ray along with additional bonus material in this special edition release.

Rated NR

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
English DTS-HD HR 5.1
English LPCM Stereo
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 191 min.
Price: $24.98
Release Date: 10/22/2013

• Rehearsal Footage
• “10th Anniversary Documentary”
• Photo Galleries
• Booklet


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert [Blu-Ray] (1992)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 29, 2013)

Though the band received little attention in the US during much of the Eighties, Queen remained hugely popular elsewhere in the world. That fact became abundantly clear on April 20, 1992, when the surviving members of the group staged a tribute concert to honor Freddie Mercury, the singer who died less than half a year previously.

The show brought out many notable acts to play, but they did so in an unusual manner. Rather than perform on their own, they worked with backup from the remaining members of Queen: guitarist Brian May, drummer Roger Taylor, and bassist John Deacon. The guests then trotted onstage and did their stuff along with Queen.

If you just watched the prior DVD from 2002, you would think that the show started with the performance of “Tie Your Mother Down” that features Def Leppard’s Joe Elliott on vocals and Guns ‘n Roses’ Slash on guitar. However, the concert actually provided some solo acts before the “Queen+” portion began.

Essentially a collection of big-name warm-up bands, this portion of the show included acts whose members later participated in the formal Queen segment. Of these bands, GnR and Metallica were the most prominent, but we also heard from Extreme, Def Leppard and Bob Geldof.

The Blu-ray restores these performances under the “Opening Acts” banner. All together, the segment runs one hour, 25 minutes and six seconds. I’m not a huge fan of any of these acts, but I’m really happy that the Blu-ray provides all this material; it’s good to have the ability to see the entire concert.

Not that I’ll want to rewatch most of this stuff. I do like Metallica’s “Enter Sandman”, and I enjoy GnR as well; it’s good to see (essentially) the original band again, as it’s been so long since Axl, Slash and the others played together.

By the way, if you wonder why Axl yells “shove it” early in “Paradise City”, I assume it’s because of the guy with the “Piss Off, Axl” sign that we briefly view in the crowd.

One might wonder why these acts aren’t considered part of the main program even though they mix a lot of Queen songs with their own work. I believe that’s because Queen is considered to be the “main act”, so even though the openers fit the spirit of the event via their performances of Queen tunes, they’re not viewed as “Queen”.

Once the openers finish, the three surviving members of Queen play with a rotating roster of guest singers. This appears under “Main Show” and lasts one hour, 46 minutes, and nine seconds.

As one might expect, this segment provides an erratic collection of renditions. For the most part, Mercury gets the crummier performances out of the way early. Unsurprisingly, Mercury starts with some of the less famous musicians and builds from there. I never heard of Zucchero before I got this set, and I never want to hear him again based on his miserable rendition of “Las Palabras De Amor”.

Otherwise, none of the early songs really seem terrible, but most fail to stand out from the crowd. To my surprise, I rather like the performance of “Hammer to Fall” by Extreme’s Gary Cherone. With all his physical posturing and hip-swiveling, he offers an obnoxious presence, but vocally, he delivers the goods.

As a huge Bowie fan, his segment was the reason I got the Blu-ray (and the DVD and the LD before it, for that matter). His renditions of “’Heroes’” and “Under Pressure” don’t seem particularly stellar, but it’s Bowie, so I’m happy.

Bowie’s on stage for three songs in all. He plays “Under Pressure” with Annie Lennox; naturally, she takes on Freddie’s vocals while Bowie sticks with his original lines. (By the way, has Annie ever explained why she dolled herself up like Pris from Blade Runner for the occasion?)

After that, Mott the Hoople’s Ian Hunter comes out for “All the Young Dudes”; for this Bowie-penned number, David plays sax. Bowie then finishes with “’Heroes’”. Former Bowie guitarist Mick Ronson performs on the last two numbers; while the two collaborated again in the studio prior to Ronson’s death in 1993, I think this offers their last pairing on stage.

The Bowie segment seems unusual in that it provides the only departure from the Queen repertoire. While “Under Pressure” was formally a Queen track – technically, Bowie was considered a guest on it – the other two offer no connection to the band.

However, they fit thematically for the concert. Other than these two tracks, the only time a performer echoes his or her own career comes during the intro to Robert Plant’s rendition of “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”; he does a short version of Led Zep’s “Thank You”.

As I noted, I pursued Mercury for the Bowie material, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy other parts of the show. I never could stand “Radio Ga-Ga”, and it remains a pretty lame song in the hands of Paul Young; his voice sounds hoarse and limited here. However, when I see tens of thousands of hands clap in unison for the song’s rhythmic counterpoints, I find it hard not to feel impressed.

The Brits in attendance at Wembley that day did their country proud. They provided one of the most responsive crowds I’ve ever seen, and their knowledge of the Queen material seems amazingly comprehensive. Stadium crowds usually suffer from “lowest common denominator” syndrome, but not this one.

Another weak song, “Who Wants to Live Forever” obviously seems predictable for the setting. However, Seal offers a pretty stirring rendition of it, and it also becomes quite effective. George Michael provides a very rousing take on “Somebody to Love”, and though the combination of Elton John and Axl Rose still sounds odd, their version of “Bohemian Rhapsody” works well. In fact, it rocks so hard that I couldn’t help myself and I indulged in some Wayne and Garth style head-banging when the opera segment ended.

Unfortunately, Mercury limps to a close due to the bizarre presence of Liza Minnelli as the final lead performer for “We Are the Champions”. I’ve never understood why Liza played a rock concert such as this, though I vaguely recall hearing that Freddie was a fan of her work. If so, I’m happy to have her play, but not as the closing act.

Granted, the rest of the acts form a chorus in the predictable conclusion, but Liza’s Vegas style crooning harms an otherwise rousing performance. (It also comes across as odd when she declares “stay safe” – I assume she meant this as a safe sex message for the crowd, but it sounds like she was speaking to Freddie, which then makes one wonder if she knew he was dead.)

Despite the weird ending and a few other missteps, The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert generally provides a satisfying experience. It packs many big names into a show organized for a good cause, and it moves at a nice pace. The concept seems solid, and the execution works well. You won’t like the entire piece, but you’ll probably find enough to make you happy.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture C+ / Audio C- (DTS-HD), B- (PCM stereo) / Bonus B-

The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Back when 4X3 TVs still ruled the marketplace, the 2002 DVD decided to crop the material for a 16X9 presentation. Now that most people own widescreen sets, the Blu-ray goes with a 1.33:1 image. Buh wha?

While this reversal surprises, it also pleases me. Mercury was shot 1.33:1 and should always have been shown that way; the decision to crop the DVD felt like “widescreen pan and scan” to me. I’m all about intended aspect ratio, so I’m really happy that the Blu-ray opts for the original 1.33:1

In terms of image quality, Mercury falls into “silk purse/sow’s ear” territory. No one should expect greatness from 21-year-old videotaped material, and the result becomes predictably flawed.

But that doesn’t make the result bad, especially considering its origins. Sharpness seemed erratic. Close-ups tended to look fine, but once the image went farther out, the picture tended to turn soft. Medium to wide shots looked fairly indistinct, though not terribly so. In any case, the program generally offered mediocre definition. Jagged edges and moiré effects created mild concerns, mainly in crowd shots, where I noticed a roughness less obvious in other spots. Edge haloes remained absent, however, and outside of some inevitable video noise, source flaws filed to distract.

Colors also came across as mixed. When songs featured clean lights, hues from onstage elements like clothes looked quite good. Unfortunately, colored lighting became problematic and runny. Those tones tended to appear heavy and murky.

Black levels mostly appeared nicely deep and rich, but shadow detail faltered. Low-light sequences were somewhat opaque and lightly impenetrable. All of this was inevitable and unavoidable. No one will ever use Mercury as a demo title, but it looked about as good as I could expect from 21-year-old video footage.

In terms of audio, Mercury gave us both an LPCM stereo mix along with a DTS-HD HR 5.1 track. In a situation like this, it’s my policy to regard the 5.1 version as the “main” one, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be superior, and in this case, the stereo edition clearly wins.

Frankly, the DTS track sounded pretty weak. As one might expect, the soundfield remained oriented toward the front speakers, but the audio producers poured on excessive reverb, apparently in an attempt to give it that “stadium feel”. The instruments displayed some stereo separation, but the track appeared fairly mushy, as I failed to notice distinct delineation of the different elements. Surround usage just echoed the front speakers and didn’t really feel like a concert setting.

This overuse of reverb simply made the music sound distant and boomy. Highs seemed tinny and meek, and those elements lacked any bite or kick. Vocals showed a hollow quality that made them small. Bass response was reasonably loud but seemed muddy and indistinct. Low-end didn’t present good presence or depth.

On the other hand, the stereo track seemed decidedly preferable to the DTS-HD version, though it still wasn’t anything special. Stereo separation remained somewhat fuzzy and indistinct, as instrumental placement appeared a bit loose and erratic.

Vocals benefited most from the loss of excessive reverb. During the stereo mix, these elements sounded significantly clearer and more natural. The audio still displayed too much midrange, with highs that appeared a little shrill and harsh at times.

Bass response appeared less heavy when compared with the DTS-HD mix, but it also felt more natural; louder isn’t always better, so the more restrained low-end of the stereo track became more pleasant. The LPCM stereo mix wasn’t any great shakes, as it could come across as a bit rough and “crunchy”, but it’s still by far the more preferable track; avoid the loose, unnatural DTS-HD version.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the 2002 DVD? Audio was a bit stronger, as the Blu-ray showed moderately improved clarity and punch. The image was tighter and better defined as well being the correct aspect ratio. While the Blu-ray has its flaws, it’s still a stronger version of the show than the DVD.

Most of the DVD’s extras repeat here. Under Rehearsals, we findthe following tracks: “Under Pressure” (three minutes, 59 seconds); “Days of Our Lives” (3:26), and “Somebody to Love” (4:54). This offers a nice little bonus look behind the scenes. (By the way, I’d forgotten how awful Bowie’s teeth looked until he had them fixed in the 90s!)

Next we find a 10th Anniversary documentary about the concert. Despite the title, the show was actually created in 1992; other than a 2002 intro from Queen’s Roger Taylor, the material comes from the time of the concert.

The 56-minute and 44-second program itself combines shots from the show and rehearsals, Freddie clips, and interviews hear from Queen’s Taylor and Brian May, Roger Daltrey, Robert Plant, Seal, guitarists Slash and Tony Iommi, Paul Young, Lisa Stansfield, David Bowie, Annie Lennox, ex-Manfred Mann’s Earth Band Chris Thompson, producer Mike Moran, Extreme’s Nuno Bettencourt and Gary Cherone, Liza Minnelli, Queen tour manager Gerry Stickells, Spike Edney, Ian Hunter, Mick Ronson, Zucchero, Def Leppard’s Rick Allen and Joe Elliott, George Michael, Elton John and Axl Rose.

I’m not sure where this documentary originally aired, but it offers a generally bland affair that mostly communicates what an important event the concert was. We hear a lot about the cause of AIDS awareness as well as much praise for Freddie.

Occasionally we get some good images from the rehearsals or backstage, and a little useful information appears, such as May’s remarks about how they chose “I Want It All” for Daltrey to sing. However, the program really feels like a promotional affair, and it doesn’t add a whole lot to the experience.

Photo Galleries splits into two areas: “Fans Photos” and “Official Photos”. Both offer filmed presentations accompanied by music. “Fans” runs one minute, 53 seconds and comes alongside “Somebody to Love”, while “Official” lasts four minutes, 31 seconds and plays with “The Show Must Go On”. Both sections feature some decent shots, but none of them seem terrific.

Mercury Phoenix Trust runs across five pages as it details the work done by that organization. Oddly, it does use a still frame function; it comes as a running program even though it just shows text.

Lastly, Mercury includes a 24-page booklet. This provides photos related to the event plus some of Freddie. It also features a little text and the song listing for the concert.

A memorable occasion for all involved, The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert offered a good remembrance for a popular singer. More than a decade after it occurred, the video provides a solid representation of the event, and it continues to demonstrate a pretty positive collection of performances. The Blu-ray offers erratic but acceptable picture and audio along with a few useful bonus materials. While not a technical showpiece, Mercury gives us a good representation of a memorable event.

To rate this film, visit the orignal review of FREDDIE MERCURY TRIBUTE CONCERT

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main