Shout! Factory // 1986 // 1020 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // November 16th, 2013
Let the chimes of freedom ring.
Between 1986 and 1998, Nobel Peace Prize-winning Amnesty International helped to promote human rights by staging a series of music concerts featuring the top artists in the recording business. Over 1.2 million people attended these concerts, each of them helping to raise awareness that people are still being tortured, maimed, and mutilated all over the world. After a one time television airing, many of these concerts have never been released on any kind of home video format. Amnesty International and Shout Factory have looked to correct this oversight with Released! The Human Rights Concerts 1986-1998, a massive six disc set that features four key concerts from the tours, along with bonus performances and backstage material on how these concerts helped promote a very just cause.
It's almost hard to wrap your mind around how many great artists came out of the woodwork to support Amnesty International on these tours. The roster is like a who's who of popular music: U2, The Police, Bryan Adams, Jackson Browne, Lou Reed, Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, Radiohead, Sinead O'Connor, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, Peter Gabriel, Miles Davis, Joni Mitchell, Tracy Chapman, New Kids on the Block, Shania Twain, Wynton Marsalis, Aaron Neville, Joan Beaz, Youssou N'Dour, Alanis Morissette, and Santana. By no means is this an exhaustive list; during the 13 years this concert footage covers, a lot of big names leant their time and talent to those in need.
Finally, fans can see four of these spectacular concerts the way they were meant to be seen (and heard). The four concert years included are 1986, 1988, 1990, and 1998. The music is as diverse as the list of superstars. I personally gravitated more towards the earlier concerts than the later ones because that's where my musical tastes flow. That being said, I was still impressed with the heart and sweat almost every performer injected into their short time on stage.
Here's a short breakdown/review of each concert (which is by no means exhaustive due to the amount of performers in this set)...
1986 (5 ½ Hours): This concert features some truly rollicking moments. Superstars U2 play some of their biggest hits ("Bad," "Sunday Bloody Sunday"). Jackson Browne offers up some fine renditions of his more obscure back catalog songs ("For Everyman," "For America"). Sting and The Police (before they broke up) offer up a great set of their biggest '80s hits ("Every Breath You Take," "Message in a Bottle"). Other artists include the late Lou Reed performing with gusto ("Walk on the Wild Side"), musical innovator Peter Gabriel plowing through his most well known tunes of the time ("Sledgehammer," "Shock the Monkey"), and a fine ensemble version of "I Shall Be Released" (along with over 40 other songs).
1988 (3 Hours): Bruce Springsteen and the mighty E Street Band show up to tackle "Born in the USA" (what else?), "I'm On Fire," and a scorching version of "The River." Sting goes solo on "Don't Stand So Close To Me" and "Every Breath You Take," while Tracy Chapman (whatever happened to her?) starts "Talkin' About a Revolution." The ensemble gathers together for Bob Dylan's elegant "Chimes of Freedom" and Bob Marley's raucously inspiring "Stand Up, Get Up" (along with over 15 other songs).
1990 (72 Minutes): As the '90s roll around, the concerts get a bit shorter. The star power wattage isn't as bright, but the songs are still blistering and rollicking. This 1990 tour features another appearance by Sting ("They Dance Alone"), an at-her-prime Sinead O'Connor ("Nothing Compares 2U", the highlight of the concert), Peter Gabriel ("Biko"), and jazzman Wynton Marsalis ("Jungle Blues"), as well as over 5 more songs.
1998 (2 ½ Hours): Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band make another appearance for "No Surrender" and "Born in the USA." Jimmy Page and Robert Planet reunite for a double dose of Led Zeppelin ("Babe I'm Gonna Leave You," "Rock 'n' Roll"). Other featured performers including Alanis Morissette ("Hand in my Pocket," "Thank U"), Youssou N'Dour ("Signal to Noise"), and Tracy Chapman ("Fast Car," "Baby Can I Hold You?"), plus another 20 songs.
Aside of the listed performers, a whole host of other lesser name talent show up, including The Hooters (remember them?); the folk group Peter, Paul, and Mary; Howard Jones ("No One Is To Blame"); The Neville Brothers; and Fela Kuti. Also, New Kids on the Block pop up for a few songs, but since this is a concert about human rights being violated, the less said about NKOTB the better.
Each concert on Released! The Human Rights Concerts 1986-1998 (spread over six DVDs) is presented in 1.33:1 full frame (the original aspect ratio during its initial television broadcast). The image quality for each concert is very good; not surprisingly, the older concerts don't look quite as good as the more recent ones. Colors are evenly saturated and black levels sufficiently dark. Each soundtrack is presented in a fine Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround mix in English (as well as Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo). The audio mixes are all superior and offer a very fine reproduction of what it was like being at the concerts. Your surround system will get a thorough workout (especially when U2 takes the stage).
Released! The Human Rights Concerts 1986-1998 includes a fair amount of supplemental material (spread across the last two discs of the set), including an in-depth and sprawling documentary on the concert series with interviews by key artists and promoters, a 20-minute interview with Bruce Springsteen, a 20-minute interview with Sting, some home movies shot by Peter Gabriel of the concert and tours, more interviews with multiple movie and music personalities, and additional concert footage featuring acts like Coldplay, Peter Seeger, Green Day, Ozzy Osbourne, and actress/sometimes singer Evan Rachel Wood.
Released! The Human Rights Concerts 1986-1998 gets a very high recommendation. Aside from the fact that proceeds from the sale of this DVD set go to a justifiable cause, you also get a lot of music for your buck...and maybe a really nice tax write-off.
This one deserves your attention.
Review content copyright © 2013 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 1020 Minutes
Release Year: 1986
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Home Movies
* Bonus Songs
* Amnesty International