Judge Eric Profancik could really use his own lady in red.
"But these are only boys, and I will never know
Chris de Burgh, or CdeB for his fans, is one of my favorite artists; oh, who am I kidding, he is my favorite artist. Admitting this adult contemporary star is number one on my list is sometimes embarrassing because we're supposed to like more energetic singers lest we be classified old fuddy-duddies. Many have no idea who CdeB is, and most of those who do know him can only name his biggest hit, "The Lady in Red." That song started my twenty-year love of his music, and it has been quite an odd road. Those who know me would think my affection is more than odd, for much of Chris's music is romantic and that is not an adjective many people associate with me. While I may agree with that sentiment, I still love his music, his voice, and his works. I own all of his studio albums and many of the greatest hits compilations he's released. It's hard to follow his work here in the United States because, simply, he just isn't that popular. But across the pond, he's pretty big in Europe—bigger than David Hasselhoff even! For many years I've hoped to stumble across a CdeB DVD but have never had the fortune. Finally, after several PAL DVD releases, we Americans have a chance to enjoy Chris on our favorite digital medium. Fans of Chris de Burgh, our moment has arrived!
Facts of the Case
Filmed on May 28, 2004, in Stadthalle Bielefield, Germany, Chris de Burgh—Live in Concert: The Road to Freedom presents an acoustic set from the performer. Using only a guitar or a piano and his incredible voice, Chris sings 21 of his songs, many classics and many from his latest album, The Road to Freedom:
• "When Winter Comes"
I wish Chris de Burgh were more popular in the United States. It would be far easier to buy his new CDs—all of which have to be bought at import prices—I would have more DVDs to choose from, and I'd actually have a chance to see the man in concert. I am not a fan of live concerts—this is based on a silly notion I have that artists suck in concert and aren't as good as they are in the studio; although, as I've been to two concerts in my life, I have no definitive basis for this conclusion—but if CdeB were to come strolling anywhere near Cincinnati, Ohio (near being within a thousand miles), I'd be buying myself a ticket (hopefully two, even though none of my friends share my passion for CdeB). Alas, we American fans are left only with his CDs, his website, and now our first DVD!
Let me review the pros and cons of this release. It's going to appear wildly imbalanced, so make sure you read the conclusion.
It's a DVD from CdeB! Finally having a DVD from the man is reason enough to buy it. If you are a fan of Chris, then you know what kind of music to expect, and you know you want to hear it in, hopefully, surround sound. (And, yes, there are glorious surround sound options for you to choose from, but I digress and will get to that later.) I guess the far more important implied factor here is that it is Chris de Burgh. Chris is at the top of his game in this concert. His voice is strong and steady and captures all the emotion laced in his music. He never misses a note, he connects with the audience, and I found myself wrapped up in his melodies. Chris is an excellent artist, writing and performing all of his own music, and he never misses a beat. It's Chris de Burgh!
I bet you thought this section would be blank. Au contraire, mon ami. Several things bothered me as I watched this disc:
• Boring Presentation: If this concert is any indication of how Chris puts on a show, then, while he's one awesome singer, he's also one boring stage presence. His act has no zip or excitement. He just stands with his guitar or sits at his keyboard and sings. He's good at that but he needs more energy in the show—even though his music doesn't necessarily reflect that. In the bonus items, I learned that his show goes on for about two and a half hours but this disc runs only an hour and a half. Take out thirty minutes for a break, and that leaves another thirty. Is it possible that's where all the good stuff is? I wanted to see Chris do more: maybe dance a little or talk with the audience more, anything more than just simply singing to me. But, the nature of the acoustic set coupled with a boring stage seems to be what Chris wanted to do this time. (This is discussed in the bonus features.)
• Cheesy Cinematography: Seeing as the performance was a bit dull, how do you liven up a film of that act? You do silly things with the cinematography: overlays of scenic backgrounds, multiple angles of Chris and the audience on screen at once, and many shots of "bored" audience members. None of it works, and it ends up distracting. Put my first two complaints together, and the next time I put in this disc, I'll turn up the stereo and turn off the television.
• The Same Songs: There are some songs that Chris always has to perform. I'm not certain if that's what Chris wants or what the audience wants. Still, almost every "best of" album and now this DVD include "The Lady in Red," "High on Emotion," "Borderline," and "Don't Pay the Ferryman." These songs are Chris's biggest, but as much as I like them, give me something else. This DVD is your first in the states and my first taste of one of your concerts, yet I already want some of your older music. Give me "Hold On," "Carry On," "New Moon," or "I Had the Love in My Eyes." I want some early CdeB, the stuff I never hear except when I pull out those campy CDs from the '70s. (Also found in the bonus materials are what appear to be additional songs not included on this disc. Maybe he does do some other, older stuff.)
• An Acoustic Concert: What I really miss in this concert is the backup. I wanted to hear his band and an orchestra on his songs. I wanted the grand, magnificent sound from his albums to surround me at home. And while his voice is strong and his singing is superb, I missed that extra kick that the additional musical accompaniment would have delivered. In the few instances with studio cues, I was in heaven. I guess I'll just have to hope his next DVD will have what I'm hoping for.
If you look at my list above, you'd think I hated this DVD. That is not true. Chris de Burgh performs beautifully, and I am thrilled to finally have a DVD release. After all the years of hoping, I was disappointed it wasn't everything I wished it would be. As such, my cons are really just nitpicks against a very enjoyable experience.
When you do end up buying this DVD, you'll be pleased with the transfers. The 1.85:1 anamorphic print is crisp and clean without a defect to be found. As stated above, there's not much to look at during the show and the spotlights often add an unflattering hue to Chris. On the audio front, there are three choices: a DTS, a Dolby Digital 5.1, and a PCM track. I listened to all three, and while there are no major errors to be found and all are clear and hiss free, each has a minor drawback. The PCM track will remind you of an aggressive CD, except that the upper register is a tad tinny. The DTS and DD mixes have a discernible and annoying vocal echo in the mix. It was distracting at first, but I eventually learned to ignore it. Additionally, I felt the rear speakers, which mostly carried the instrument Chris was playing, were a bit too loud. Still, it was wonderful to hear Chris in surround sound.
The disc comes with just a few bonus items. First up is an amazing interview with Chris de Burgh (22 minutes). I've never taken the time to research my favorite singer, so I enjoyed this casual, fun, and informative interview. Chris is a laid back, normal, everyday guy. As rich and famous as he is, he has simple tastes and simple pleasures and, most shockingly, irons his own shirts before each show! I would have loved a longer interview. Next up is the slightly disturbing "Fans Stories" (17 minutes). Here we meet two different families who love CdeB and are about to go to his concert. We watch them go through their days, profess their love of Chris's music, and go off to the concert. This item could easily have been jettisoned for more interview time with Chris. Last is a photo gallery (one minute) that runs automatically (without use of the arrow keys) and cannot be skipped or fast-forwarded once you start. There's not much here, but that interview is the saving grace.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
As I said, I don't really go to concerts, so I was a bit baffled by the behavior of the audience—they were such an odd mix. On one side were legions of adoring fans, swaying and clapping to the music. Then, on the flip side, were many bored husbands who appeared to have been dragged to the show. Hmm, why even show these guys? Further, this German audience was very subdued. They all sat in their chairs, quite politely, until track 17 ("The Journey"), when they all rushed to the front of the stage. But what I really found odd was the abundance of lighters. I thought people didn't do the "lighter thing" anymore. Isn't it passé? I guess not since there were so many and there were also "flashlights" being used in the same fashion. I think I need to attend a concert one of these days. I'm quite out of touch.
Do you like Chris de Burgh? Do you own any of his albums? If you answered no, then obviously this disc is not for you. But if you said yes, then go out and buy this DVD. CdeB is a fantastic artist, and you will enjoy this performance, quibbles and all. Convince Chris there is a North American audience and he should release more discs on this side of the pond. Perhaps sales will be so strong that he will even grace us with a tour date someday. Then we'll have the chance to enjoy his music in person, see him perform and walk out into the audience, and we can all go home happy.
Chris de Burgh—Live in Concert: The Road to Freedom is found not guilty of being overly sappy and romantic. Mr. de Burgh is free to get to know that beauty by his side.
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