Growing up in a small southern California desert town, one of the only FM channels I picked up clearly was 102.3 with its standard easy listening format. Fearing my life would be terminated prematurely should I ruin one of my old man's records, I usually went with Y102 whenever I wanted to listen to music – despite really wanting to listen to The Cars or Dire Straits. That's how I became familiar with Amy Grant and Peter Cetera. To this day, when I hear their tracks from the '80s, I'm still taken back to my childhood.
Although this disc makes it out to be a joint concert with Peter Cetera and Amy Grant, it's really just a 2003 episode of the PBS series 'Soundstage' featuring a three-song 14-minute set from Amy Grant followed by a nine-song 40-minute set by Cetera that includes them performing their hit duet "The Next Time I Fall." Anyone expecting a lot of Amy Grant isn't going to get it here.
Grant takes stage first. In her 40s at the time, she showed that she's been aging quite well – both physically and vocally. She could still do everything onstage that she did in her prime. She starts off with her biggest hit "Baby Baby," followed by two other popular tracks – "Simple Things" and "El-Shaddai." While "Simple Things" continues the energy from "Baby Baby," "El-Shaddai" takes the overall energy level down a notch. Truthfully, Grant's is the best segment of the concert because Peter Cetera hasn't aged so well and isn't capable of performing like he used to.
Cetera struggles belting out those higher notes. Because of the straining effort required to hit the high notes, he cannot hold them out. Any long notes held on the studio version of these tracks are shortened during the live performance. Luckily, Cetera is accompanied by back-up vocals along with a fantastic small orchestra that take some of the weight off his shoulders.
Just like Grant's final song, Cetera opens with a low-energy track, "One Good Woman." (Mind you, these tracks may have been shuffled around by the creative minds behind 'Soundstage'). Thankfully, track two of Cetera's set moves into the territory of well-known songs with "Glory of Love" (which will always remind me of 'The Karate Kid, Part II'). From there out, the concert is filled with his standard easy listening hits – "Restless Heart," "If You Leave Me Now," "After All," "The Next Time I Fall," "Baby, What A Big Surprise," "You're the Inspiration" and "Have You Ever Been In Love."
When the concert concluded and the credits began rolling, I realized that the mystery track that plays over the main menu was never played during the show. I was drawn to that unknown song because it sounded so classy and appealing with a mellow jazzy piano and great orchestra accompaniment. When I started watching the bonus performance tracks in the special features section of the menu, I found it – "25 or 6 to 4." Odd lyrics aside, the musical performance during this track is far superior and lively to anything in the main feature. The audience is more lively during this song than at any other Cetera moment during the main feature. My one complaint with this entire concert is that "25 or 6 to 4" should have been included with the bulk concert, not just a mere special feature.
If you're a fan of Cetera, you'll enjoy seeing him still performing. If you're expecting a Grant-heavy concert Blu-ray, you'll be sorely disappointed by her three tracks and one duet.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Image Entertainment has placed ''Peter Cetera with Special Guest Amy Grant' on a Region A/B/C BD-25 in an eco-friendly blue keepcase. After a forced FBI warning, the disc takes you straight to the main menu, which includes the standard fanfare of moving images from the concert set to "25 or 6 to 4."
'Peter Cetera with Special Guest Amy Grant' has been given a 1080i live transfer with a strong AVC MPEG-4 encode in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. As with most live transfers, the disc features a few minor video problems, but nothing fatal, just a few hiccups.
Concerts and other Blu-rays filmed in live settings frequently fall victim to a few unforeseeable and uncontrollable issues. With this concert, the overuse of fog on the brightly lit stage during Grant's set causes a lack of deep blacks and clarity. Given that Cetera's set was shot following Grant's, it appears the camera settings corrected to ease the fog were never reset for normal shooting after the fog dissipated, causing blacks overwhelming bleed into solid dark masses. The fog also removes a bit of the vibrancy of the colorful stage lights, but it's vastly improved during Cetera's set.
Aside from the fog issue, the picture quality is quite noteworthy. The picture is sharp and highly detailed. The slight creation of crow's feet is noticeable to the side of Grant's eyes. Each individual strand of hair is visible. Even tiny beads of sweat are noticeable on Cetera's scalp through his hair. The rich detail is especially impressive for an eight-year-old concert.
Noise, edge enhancement, banding and artifacts are absent, although there are occasional traces of aliasing on stringed instruments. One camera in particular (the stage-right crane) is rarely fully focused, which is completely inconsistent with the rest of the superb cameras used for the shoot – presumable due to operator error.
'Peter Cetera with Special Guest Amy Grant' offers two listening options – Uncompressed PCM Stereo and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. The PCM track is well-mixed and perfectly decent, but the Master Audio is the dynamic setting you should be listening to.
Although imaging doesn't usually play a factor in concert Blu-rays, the fact that the main menu kicks off with a great use of it is a sure sign of good things to come from this disc. When Grant takes the stage with her biggest hit "Baby Baby," she's accompanied by a few back-up singers. Of all the concert Blu-rays that I've reviewed so far, none have used the full space-filling back-ups in the effective manner in which this Blu-ray does. The same goes for Cetera's back-up singers who make up for his aging voice. The vocal harmonies during Cetera's set sound so good that if you didn't know any better, you would believe that he was still playing with Chicago.
The music is dynamically spread throughout all channels. Grant's songs barely engage the sub woofer, but Cetera's large band and orchestra strongly put it to good use. Whenever a concert Blu-ray features an average-size band, each instrument is typically miked, but when you get into orchestras and symphonies that are miked per section, a few individuals tend to get lost. Such is the case for Cetera's orchestra. It's not a terrible issue, but one time a cellist is given a good amount of screentime and not a note of his efforts is audible.
Thetwo special features included on this disc are bonus tracks with strong 2-channel Master Audio tracks.
As with most concert Blu-rays, this disc is fan-specific. If you're not a fan, you're not going to purchase it no matter how good it is. However, if you are a fan, then you'll get the additional bonus of it featuring mostly fantastic video and audio qualities. You'll see and hear both Cetera and Grant in the best possible format aside from seeing them live. The initial use of fog creates a clarity and contrast issue that causes black to be too strong during Cetera's set, but aside from a few inaudible instruments, the audio quality is top notch. This concert Blu-ray is recommended for everyone, but a must-own for the fans.