Reprise Records // 2009 // 61 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // July 6th, 2009
Get up close and personal with Michael Bublé
The documentary included on the second disc of this release follows singer Michael Bublé as he heads to his historic first show at New York's famed Madison Square Garden. In this video he's everything I could hope for a pop star to be. He's charming without being oily, confident without being cocky, and he wants to please his audience but doesn't seem to pander. The documentary is a mixture of behind-the-scenes footage and performance clips from his Madison Square Garden debut. We get to see Bublé relaxing after a previous show, clowning around with his crew, going over last-minute musical details, and talking with his family. These scenes show him as a regular kind of guy, close to his family and pretty humble for a guy who sold out the Garden in less than two hours. However, the real treasure of this doc is the performance footage. When the footlights are on, Michael Bublé cranks up the charm, and it's easy to see that he learned a few tricks from his hero Sinatra. Part of the charm is his voice, which effortlessly evokes the bygone swing era, but his huge smile and sparkling eyes don't hurt either. He's also completely comfortable on the stage, which gives his presence even more power.
Sadly, I listened to the first disc, a CD documenting Bublé's performance, before I watched the documentary. Bereft of his visual charms (his resemblance it a young Matt Dillon helps), Bublé just doesn't cut it as a performer. Although he deserves some credit for bringing certain songs ("I'm Your Man" and "Crazy Little Thing Called Love") into a big band context, that's where his interpretations end. His "I'm Your Man" has none of the passionate ambivalence of Cohen's original which makes it a boring and faceless declaration of love, while his "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" swings hard but struggles to provide the personality that Freddie Mercury exuded effortlessly. It's not that he's bad, it's just that his performances are all surface, with his Frank Sinatra vocal stylings and smooth voice, and because of that he doesn't seem to want to work hard to get at the heart of a song.
Not all is lost on that first disc, however, as Bublé has surrounded himself with a crack team of musicians. Even when I'm not impressed with Bublé's interpretation of various songs, the band is never less than interesting. Their arrangements of the previously mentioned songs crackle both with technical sophistication and effortless cool. I hesitate to say that I wanted Bublé to be quiet so I could listen to his band, but it was pretty close on occasion.
Michael Bublé is a strong-selling recording artist, so obviously I'm in the minority about his singing; however, that doesn't mean this is a great release for fans either. The first disc doesn't include the entire concert from Madison Square Garden, which is unfortunate for those who want more of Bublé, and the second disc's performances show how amazing a Michael Bublé live at Madison Square Garden DVD would be. This hybrid release, with many songs on the CD with a few bonus cuts on the DVD feels scattered and unfocused. Considering how smooth his stage persona is, it's a shame that this package isn't quite so neat.
On a technical level, this release is serviceable. The CD is well mixed, with just enough crowd ambience to remind us that it's a live show. On the DVD the same attention to audio is present. There's a crystal clear PCM soundtrack, as well as a surround option. Both sound good with the dialogue and musical performances. The video of the DVD is only okay, looking like it was shot on video for the most part in less than ideal lighting, but it's far from unwatchable. If you don't count the whole documentary as a bonus, the only extras are a pair of songs not on the CD ("Stardust" and "You're Nobody 'Til Somebody Loves You").
Michael Bublé Meets Madison Square Garden is sure to please fans, even if it's not the most satisfying release that could have come out of the performance. I haven't listened to his studio albums, but considering the diversity material on display, this is probably a pretty good introduction to his work, even if it's not my cup of tea.
Despite a few shortcomings, Michael Bubleé's charm makes it hard to find this release guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Reprise Records
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* PCM 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 61 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Bonus Performances
* Official Site