I am a music freak. When it comes to music, I am completely omnivorous. From AC/DC to Frank Zappa, Boredoms to Kylie Minogue, I like what I like and there's a lot of music I like. That being said, Barbra Streisand isn't really my cup of tea. For whatever reason, her songs never really hit me right. It didn't help that every female in my family adores her, which makes Streisand feel like grandmother music. But there's no doubting that the woman is an absolute legend in the entertainment industry.
The MusiCares Foundation, an organization within the Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences that provides aid for musicians in need, recognized Streisand's living legend status in 2011 when it named her their person of the year. Along with the award, the Foundation staged a tribute concert. Sixteen different artists took part to pay tribute to Streisand's multi-decade career. Classic artists like Stevie Wonder, Jeff Beck, and Tony Bennett shared the stage with younger artists like Nikki Yanofsky, LeAnn Rimes, and Faith Hill, performing the songs that Streisand made famous.
Diana Krall starts things off right with a syncopated performance of "Down With Love," and then Seal takes the ball and runs with it, impressing the crowd with an impassioned performance of "Guilty." Other highlights include Jeff Beck on guitar with LeAnn Rimes and BeBe Winans doing a dirty, bluesy version of "Come Rain Or Shine," Leona Lewis looking stunning and kicking ass on 'Somewhere', and of course Stevie Wonder doing Bab's most famous song, "People."
Not every artist hits these heights. Kristen Chenoweth and Matthew Morrison don't quite gel with their duet on "One Less Bell To Answer/A House Is Not A Home." Tony Bennett shows his age on "Smile." Faith Hill sounds good but looks stiff on "Send In The Clowns," and Lea Michele doesn't leave much of an impression with "My Man."
By far the worst part is Bill Maher doing stand-up. He comes out as a friend of Streisand, saying he wants to talk about her "as a citizen." He begins by discussing her film career, and then immediately proceeds into heavily partisan jokes. Now, there's probably a good chance that the attendees of the show are liberal anyway (especially given Streisand's politics), but it breaks up the rhythm of the show and stands out as subpar compared to the rest of the performances. Maher himself looks less than comfortable, and the laughter is often strained. A low point in what is an otherwise enjoyable show.
At the end, Streisand takes the stage and sings two songs. She looks and sounds good, and then a brief thank you and it's all over. That's it. No speeches, no presentation of the award, just music and appreciation. Simple, to the point, and surprisingly fun, even for this non-fan.
Shout Factory presents 'A MusicCare's Tribute To Barbra Streisand' in an AVC-encoded, 1080i 1.78:1 transfer. The show, shot with HD cameras, looks gorgeous.
Fine detail is exceptional. You can see the beads of sweat on the performers' faces, and make out small details in their outfits. Color balance and reproduction is strong, and the image is sharp. Stage lighting can often be tough, with harsh, deep colors, but it's a hurdle that this transfer clears and you can see plenty in the shadows. I didn't notice any encoding artifacts or other defects. During Herbie Hancock and Nikki Yanofsky's performance of "On A Clear Day (You Can See Forever)/Lazy Afternoon," there's one two-shot that looks very soft compared to the rest of the show, but it appears to be an issue with the focus on the camera, and not a problem with the encode.
In short, this transfer is beautiful.
'A MusiCares Tribute to Barbra Streisand' features two audio mixes, a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround mix and a PCM stereo mix. Without a doubt, the DTS track is the one to pick. With warm tones and a broad soundstage, the atmosphere is fantastic. Directionality is excellent, with the performer and the main instruments coming through the front trio of speakers, while the orchestra comes in through the rears, enveloping you in the sound of the show. LFE is solid but not overwhelming, and the mix has great dynamic range. There's no audible distortion, crackling, and the balance of instruments is perfect. Whether it be Seal's smooth vocals or Barry Manilow's swan song stylings, the DTS mix handles it all with aplomb.
Other than an information booklet and a pre-show advertisement for the MusiCares Foundation in full-frame standard definition, there are no extras on the disc.
Barbra Streisand isn't normally my cup of tea, but this MusiCares tribute concert won me over. A varied set of performers keeps things fresh, and at only an hour long, it doesn't wear out its welcome. The only misstep is Bill Maher's out of place political comedy set, but that's brief and quickly forgotten. This Blu-ray looks beautiful and sounds fantastic, but with no extras and such a relatively short runtime, 'A MusiCares Tribute To Barbra Streisand' would be best as a rental.