Blu-ray
Give it a Rent
3 stars
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Overall Grade
3 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
3 Stars
HD Video Quality
3.5 Stars
HD Audio Quality
3 Stars
Supplements
2 Stars
High-Def Extras
0 Stars
Bottom Line
Give it a Rent

New Orleans Concert: The Music of America's Soul

Street Date:
October 3rd, 2006
Reviewed by:
Peter Bracke
Review Date: 1
April 12th, 2007
Movie Release Year:
2006
Studio:
Concert Hot Spot
Length:
94 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Unrated
Release Country
United States

Editor's Notes

Non format-specific portions of this review also appear in our HD DVD review of 'New Orleans Concert: The Music of America's Soul.'

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

I don't mean to sound like a musical Grinch, but benefit concerts tend to be a mixed bag. Not that I don't appreciate and support such charitable sentiments, but purely in terms of a captivating, cohesive performance, they often fall short. The talent rosters are all over the place, often bringing together a disparate clutch of acts so wide in appeal that there is little continuity from one performance to the next. We may want to tune in to support the cause, but do we actually want to tune in to watch the show?

Unfortunately, 'New Orleans Concert: The Music of America's Soul' suffers from this syndrome. Quite frankly, I recognized few of the acts on the guest list, and there seemed little rhyme or reason behind their selection. The lack of any truly A-list talent is also a problem -- this is no Live Aid-style, global spectacular, but instead more of an assemblage of local artists barely known outside of the city. And while that's certainly interesting in its own right, it does limit the audience for a home entertainment release of its sort.

To be fair, 'New Orleans Concert' does have its share of moments. Standouts include a couple of great duets -- including Allen Toussaint and Jon Cleary's "Tiptina," and Irma Thomas and Toussaint again on "It's Raining," which opens the show. I also liked Joss Stone's "Dirty Man," and a nice version of "Amazing Grace" from Aaron Neville. On the opposite side of the coin, many tracks here are quite forgettable, and Keith Richards' "I'm Ready" is simply godawful. And though no fault of the organizers, I have to admit to being excited to see The Dixie Chicks, until I realized it was actually The Dixie Cups, a group I'd never knew existed. Bummer.

Needlesstosay, we can all be in agreement on the importance of the cause. Hurricane Katrina wiped out much of New Orleans and its surrounding areas, and despite the government initially throwing a bunch of money at the problem, a few weeks after the devastation it was back to business as usual. The 'New Orleans Concert' was quickly organized and raised an admirable amount of dollars for those most in need. Unfortunately, that alone can't elevate this benefit show to the level of the must-see, unless you happen to be a really huge fan of a few of these artists.

The track list: 01. "It's Raining" - Irma Thomas & Allen Toussaint / 02. "Dirty Man" - Joss Stone / 03. "Amazing Grace" - Aaron Neville / 04. "Tipitina" - Allen Toussaint & Jon Cleary / 05. "Chapel Of Love" - The Dixie Cups / 06. "Lawdy Miss Clawdy" - Lloyd Price / 07. "Southern Nights" - Allen Toussaint / 08. "What Is Success" - Bonnie Raitt / 09. "Rip It Up" - Ivan Neville & Earl Palmer / 10. "Barefootin'" - Walter Washington with Poppa Funk's Boys / 11. "Land of 1000 Dances" - Walter Washington with Poppa Funk's Boys / 12. "I'm Ready" - Keith Richards / 13. "Come On" - Snooks Eaglin & George Porter Jr. / 14. "I Hear You Knockin'" - Snooks Eaglin / 15. "Ohh Wee Baby" - Art Neville with Steve Jordan / 16. "Trick Bag" - Aaron Neville / 17. "Yellow Moon" - Neville Brothers Band / 18. "Fire On The Bayou" - Neville Brothers Band / 19. "Hey Pocky Way" - Ensemble

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

'New Orleans Concert' comes to us courtesy of indie distributor Concert Hot Spot, the same company behind the previously reviewed 'A View from Space with Heavenly Music.' Like 'A View from Space,' this one is also available on both Blu-ray and HD DVD, giving early adopters their choice of format.

Both releases share an identical 1.78:1 widescreen 1080i/MPEG-2 encode. And while the concert was shot-live-on-HD, unfortunately it's a bit softer than most, lacking the pop of the best next-gen music titles out there. As is often the case with less choreographed benefit concerts like these, the show's lighting is fairly straight-forward (with little variation in intensity or cool visual effects), which further flattens out the image. At least the performers are always brightly lit, so poor detail is never really a problem. Colors are also fairly vivid, although noise can be a frequent problem in dark areas. Happily, there are no major compression problems (such as macroblocking).

The Audio: Rating the Sound

The Blu-ray includes a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track at 640kbps. (Unfortunately, Concert Hot Spot did not supply any bitrate info for the HD DVD, though I can only surmise it's identical to the Blu-ray, as a direct compare of the soundtracks reveals no detectable differences.)

Simply put, this is not the best recording of a live event I've ever heard. There is a slightly distant quality to the mix, as if the technicians had placed the microphones just a hair too far away from the instruments. The muted crowd noise also cuts both ways -- never distracting from the music, but also putting a damper on the apparent energy level. Tech specs are solid, if unspectacular. Bass is good if not up there with the best next-gen audio I've heard, such as 'Nine Inch Nails: Beside You in Time' or 'John Legend Live at the House of Blues.' Same goes for frequency response, which feels a tad flat. Surround use is typical for a live recording, reserved primarily for crowd noise and only minor bleed and separation of instruments.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

Concert Hot Spot has also provided identical extras for both the Blu-ray and HD DVD.

The main attraction is probably the four cut musical performances -- "Hey Little Girl" by Henry Butler, "Feet Can't Fail Me Now" by the Dirty Dozen Band, "Bah Duey Duey" by Big Sam's Funky Nation," and "Sew, Sew, Sew" by Monk Bordreaux and the Mardi Gras Indians. To be honest, I've never heard of a single one of these artists, though a couple of the numbers, particularly Butler's, would have fit perfectly well into the main set.

Also included are two interviews, with New Orleans' musical veteran Earl Palmer and blues session player Jon Cleary. Both total a little less than ten minutes. Palmer, in particular, projects a rich sense of the city's history -- his short chat is definitely worth watching.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

There are no Blu-ray exclusives.

Final Thoughts

'New Orleans Concert: The Music of America's Soul' is fairly typical of charity concerts in that it's a mix-and-match of artists of generally negligible connection. As such, I enjoyed some performances, while others I did not. The quality of this Blu-ray is also good but not exceptional, with a somewhat soft, static transfer and only decent audio. Still, if you like the roster of talent, this one's certainly worth a watch. Either way, this title serves as a reminder that there are those in New Orleans and its surrounding areas who are still struggling following the devasting wrath of Hurricane Katrina, and that every penny helps. Why not consider making a donation to a Katrina-related charity today?


Technical Specs

  • Blu-ray
  • BD-25 Single-Layer Disc

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080i/MPEG-2

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 1.78:1

Audio Formats

  • English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (640kbps)
  • English PCM 2.0 Stereo

Subtitles/Captions

  • None

Supplements

  • Bonus Tracks
  • Interviews

Exclusive HD Content

  • None

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