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David Mallet

INXS's July 1991 concert at London's Wembley Stadium.

Rated NR

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
English Dolby Atmos
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English LPCM Stereo
Supplements Subtitles:M

Runtime: 98 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 6/26/2020

• Booklet


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INXS: Live Baby Live [Blu-Ray] (1991)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 22, 2020)

Sometimes I encounter musical acts that I feel I should really like but don’t. They fit with my normal preferences and create decent work but just don’t light my fire.

Into that category falls INXS. The Australian band always seemed like a gang I should enjoy, but other than one song – “New Sensation” – their music never did much for me.

Nonetheless, I felt interested to get a look at them as a live act. Actually, I once saw them in person, as they opened for the Go-go’s way back in 1984. However, I’d not heard of INXS prior to that show, and I possess absolutely no memory of their performance.

Live Baby Live documents a July 13, 1991 INXS concert at London’s Wembley Stadium. The band’s summer tour found them in support of their X album, and the 22-song disc presents eight tracks from that record: “Suicide Blonde”, “Disappear”, “The Stairs”, “By My Side”, “Who Pays the Price”, “Know the Difference”, “Bitter Tears”, “Lately” and “Hear That Sound”.

1987’s smash hit Kick gives us a whopping ten tunes: “Guns In the Sky”, “New Sensation”, “Need You Tonight”, “Devil Inside”, “Mediate”, “The Loved One”, “Wild Life”, “Never Tear Us Apart”, “Kick” and “Mystify”.

That doesn’t leave room for many pre-1987 songs, but a few appear. We get the title track and “What You Need” from 1985’s Listen Like Thieves plus “Original Sin” and “Send a Message” from 1984’s The Swing. This means we get nothing at all from 1982’s Shaboo Shoobah, 1981’s Underneath the Colours, or 1980’s INXS.

For what it’s worth, Baby seems to capture INXS at their commercial and creative peak, and their confidence comes across well on stage. Actually, I’ll admit that they seem a little too pumped for the concert, as at times it feels like the musicians want hard to act like rock stars but they don’t really get there.

This is mostly true for the band and not singer Michael Hutchence, who clearly enjoyed a connection to the rock god muse. One can clearly see elements of Jagger, Morrison and Tyler in Hutchence, but he doesn’t come across as an imitator.

Hutchence had that big time rock singer vibe that helped tie together the band. With a lesser front man, the vamping of the others would have become unbearable, but Hutchence seems so relentlessly magnetic and watchable that he makes the experience much more enjoyable. Other than during his fairly inane between-songs patter, that is - shut up and sing, Mike!

To be sure, the band sounded pretty good this July night. Since I don’t count myself as a fan, I can’t compare this performance to earlier ones, but they seemed pretty “on” during this occasion.

The musicians annoyed me when I watched them, but if I sat back and simply listened, I could forget their posing and enjoy the tight connection they displayed.

Their clear bond helps make the music more enjoyable. As I noted, “New Sensation” is the only INXS song I ever really liked, and I can’t say this disc changed my feelings terribly.

I’ll probably need to let a few days lapse and see if any of the other tracks stick in my head. Right now, I can’t think of any that stand out terribly strongly, but I also can’t conjure any real duds. Instead, the songs represent fairly high quality rock.

The numbers definitely come to life better on stage than in the studio. Part of the reason I never cared for INXS’s albums stems from their sterility.

The band always felt cold and calculated on their records, and these lacked much spark or real visceral punch. On stage, however, INXS help make up for that. This performance infuses many of the songs with much greater power and punch than heard in their studio incarnations.

I doubt anyone’s directed more rock concert videos than David Mallet, and he provides pretty typical work here. Actually, the early moments seem somewhat choppy, as Mallet employs too much quick cutting among bandmembers.

However, Mallet soon takes his Ritalin and calms himself. Efficient and effective, Mallet covers the action well but the video never rises above that level.

Mallet is basically the “Old Reliable” of the filmed concert world. You won’t get anything fresh or innovative from him, but he gives you a clean and accurate representation of the original event, which seems fine with me.

I went into Live Baby Live without much affection for INXS, and I can’t say the disc radically changed my mind. However, I did find a lot to like about the band’s work from this fairly fiery and exciting live performance. The show brought their music to life about as well as one could expect, and it seemed like a good document of a notable concert.

Note that the Blu-ray brings a slightly extended version of Baby, as it integrates “Lately” into the program. That tune appeared on the DVD as a bonus track, but here it becomes part of the concert, and it does so in a seamless manner.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus D

Live Baby Live appears in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Remastered from the 35mm source, this became a pretty solid presentation.

Sharpness seemed largely strong. Due to the nature of the shoot, inevitable soft spots materialized, but these remained infrequent and non-intrusive.

The ugliest elements came early in the film, as whenever we saw aerial shots of Wembley, these looked terrible. Clearly taken from a video source, these appeared rough and messy. Happily, they didn’t pop up more than a handful of times, so they created no real drag on the production.

Blacks seemed deep and dark, while shadows mostly seemed positive. Because the concert went from daylight to night, some dusk crowd shots could be a bit dense, but those didn’t turn into an issue.

Jagged edges and moiré effects failed to occur, and I saw no edge haloes. Print flaws failed to mar the presentation.

In terms of colors, some red clothing worn by a few bandmembers became the only real bright element. Other outfits focused on black and white, so other hues came from stage lighting. All the tones felt well-rendered and full. The concert looked very good overall.

Downconverted to Dolby TrueHD 7.1, I felt reasonably pleased with the show’s Dolby Atmos audio, and the soundfield seemed pretty active. As one might expect from a concert presentation, the forward channels dominated and offered mostly music.

Hutchence’s vocals stayed nicely centered and the instruments created a good stereo image around him. These elements seemed appropriately placed and melded together well to form a nice impression of a live performance.

The surrounds offered some instrumental reinforcement but mostly focused on crowd noise and general reverberation to give us a stadium feel. It did this well and lacked and obvious and distracting gimmickry.

Audio quality seemed mostly good. Vocals occasionally suffered from a little too much “stadium reverb”, but they remained largely well-rendered.

Instruments came across as accurate and portrayed the appropriate sounds. Guitars buzzed and jangled, while drums punched across well.

Bass response provided reasonable depth. I would’ve liked a bit more oomph from low end, but I found no strong reason to complain. Overall this became a generally satisfying take on the material.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the DVD from 2003? The lossless audio seemed a bit fuller, but the visuals became the most obvious upgrade.

Because it came from 35mm, the DVD looked pretty good for the format, but it still showed the lackluster definition that comes with DVD, and the source demonstrated print flaws. Those went away during this clean transfer.

In addition, the Blu-ray offered improved definition, colors and blacks – ie, everything. This turned into a substantial visual upgrade.

Note that the Blu-ray and the DVD brought differing aspect ratios, as the 1.33:1 DVD developed into the 1.78:1 BD. A comparison of the two revealed clear cropping for the 1.78:1 version.

This usually involved the elimination of footage on the bottom part of the screen, but the tops of head occasionally got cut off as well. It seemed clear that the concert was meant to be 1.33:1, as that version seemed better framed overall.

That said, when I watched Live as a 1.78:1 product, I didn’t think the framing seemed poor. When compared, the 1.33:1 felt more natural, but the 1.78:1 suffered no clear sins. I’d prefer the original 1.33:1 but the cropped edition still showed fairly appropriate framing.

Alas, the Blu-ray loses the extras from the DVD, so we find nothing more than a booklet. It provides notes from the surviving band members as well as journalist Jamie East.

It’s a nice addition, but I miss the two good documentaries from the DVD. I can’t claim to feel sad the awful band commentary got the boot, though it should remain here for archival reasons, useless as it was.

I went into Live Baby Live with a lukewarm attitude toward INXS, but I rather enjoyed this solid 1991 concert nonetheless. It didn’t win me over to their cause, but I liked most of what I heard and saw and thought it demonstrated their strengths well. The Blu-ray offers good picture and audio but it lacks supplements. Overall, Live Baby Live provides a fine concert experience, even if it’s a shame the Blu-ray drops the DVD’s bonus materials and alters the original aspect ratio.

To rate this film, visit the prior review of LIVE BABY LIVE

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