Get Up, Stand Up.
Please, no voodoo. I humbly ask for your forgiveness before I even say a single word here, for I fear I'm going to say something wrong and seriously offend a fan of the late Bob Marley. You see, I know little to nothing about the man, his music, or his causes. In fact, everything I do know about him I learned tonight from watching this disc and reading some mildly informative liner notes in the packaging. I'll do my best not to come across as a dolt when speaking of the musical legend, but I can't absolutely promise that I won't. (Too late?)
Bob Marley Live in Concert is, in essence, a director's cut of a 1998 film of the same name. I haven't found a reliable description of the original version, but, in this update, director Stefan Paul has added an additional ten minutes of footage and had the audio track digitally remastered to Dolby Digital 5.1. This film is actually a combination of two different Marley performances: the first is his energetic 1979 appearance at the Sunsplash Festival in Montego Bay, and the second, one of his last appearances ever, was taped in Westfalen Halle in Dortmund, Germany, in 1980. The packaging purports this collection could be called "Marley's Greatest Hits Live." I won't argue with that as I found the songs featured here to be very good. While I'm certainly not a reggae fan, I found Marley's songs to be thoroughly enjoyable with pleasing music and good melodies. I found my toe tapping every now and again to the catchy tunes, and I even realized that I already knew a couple of his songs. (Will wonders never cease?)
Most of the film utilizes clips from Marley's Germany appearance, with just a couple of the songs being showcased from the Jamaica show. As alluded to earlier, the Montego Bay appearance has a bit more of an edge and liveliness compared with the later concert, which comes across just a tad more subdued—but Marley certainly does put on a great show in both cases. In either case, they both showcase Marley's innate talents. Because of the age of the footage, neither video presentation is something to get excited about—both are very soft, dull, and dirty with average color resolution and decidedly poor black definition. The earlier Jamaican performance is indeed the worse of the two and is somewhat difficult to watch because of the lack of lighting used during filming making it quite dark (with poor black color detail). But, you're not buying/watching this for the video transfers. As far as the audio portion of the disc, that too is rather sub-par, but it's expected, again because of its age. Given both a 5.1 or 2.0 Dolby Digital track, in this rare case I found the 2.0 track to be the superior listen of the two. The problem with the 5.1 track is that there really isn't any true surround sound. Instead, it sounds like some of the upper range treble was simple repeated out of the rear channels—so you get a slight echo off Marley's voice and the cymbals. When you listen to the 2.0 track, you lose that distracting echo and get a slightly fuller sound, which is more in line with what you'd hear from a normal CD and is thus more agreeable. Of course, as with the film, the older appearance at Montego Bay sports an audio track that is often more muffled with clipped, inaccurate musical reproductions. The problems with the transfers do not befall anything with the disc, but the inherent limitations of the film used some twenty years ago. Nonetheless, while mediocre, they aren't all that terrible or distracting.
In the middle of the concert comes a decidedly odd, yet extremely fascinating, break where you are shown rare footage from Marley's funeral. During this ten-minute scene, no Marley concert music is used as you watch an assemblage of scenes. It felt peculiar to have this footage spliced right in the middle of a concert film, yet I was absorbed to see this little piece of history unfold in front of me. It really added an unusual element and poignancy to the presentation.
There are a few additional bonus features on the disc, some of which fans may appreciate. First, there is a simple Marley biography (which I found of use, but I'm sure will be fluff to true fans). Then, more importantly, there is a Marley discography that shows all of the original albums covers, some light background information, and a complete track listing. This, I believe, will be appreciated most. Also, though why it's listed as a special feature is quaint, you can turn on subtitles for the film, which will give you all of the lyrics to the fifteen songs performed during the film.
For fans of Bob Marley and his work, I absolutely recommend this disc. While the film lacks any true finesse or polish in the presentation (and the picture and audio are less than reference), the performances by Marley himself are sure to be treasured by his fans worldwide. This is a very nice package and an excellent tribute to this pioneer.
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