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