Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Full Review: "Beach Boys 50 - Live in Concert" Blu-ray

The Film:

The first document of the 50th Anniversary tour dedicated solely to concert footage is here, and what we have is a "better than I expected" but far from perfect article.

Culling 21 songs from the band's stop in Phoenix during their 2012 "50th Anniversary" tour, the unimaginatively titled "Live In Concert" delivers excellent video quality with solid peformances.

The main bone of contention among fans here was the fact that the release contains only 21 songs, despite the band putting together a setlist that started out around 44 songs, then quickly built by the end of the tour to shows showcasing up to 50 songs or more per show. It even culminated in their gig at the Royal Albert Hall where they performed 61 songs, touching on every single song they had peformed over the course of the tour.

A few fans were so angry that they posted negative reviews of the release on Amazon prior to having even seen it. Unfortunately, we can't do anything about the edited nature of this release. Whether budgetary concerns or time constraints or any other factors played a role, what we have here is a 21-song setlist.

On the plus side, they surprisingly managed to include at least some non-obvious selections. When fans heard we were only getting 21 songs, most of us imagined the 21 most obvious hits would be selected. But mixed among many obvious hits, we also get more interesting fare such as "Heroes and Villains", "Sail on Sailor", "All This Is That", "Marcella", and two songs off the new album. How they came up with the track selection is a mystery, as we get some major hits, but also somehow "Rock and Roll Music" instead of something like "Surfin' Safari" or "Surfin' USA."

As for the performances themselves, they are pretty solid overall. This was done after the band had been on the road for a couple of months, so they sound pretty tight. The backing band is top notch as always, and the lead vocalists (meaning mostly Mike, with some Brian, and a bit of Al, and then no leads from Marks or Johnston) sound about as good as they're going to get. There is a bit of audio fudging on the two songs off the new album. The fudging (in the form of elements of the studio versions playing alongside the live performance) is less prevalent than on some of the other things we've heard/seen, but it's still there.

The audio seems to be largely live and from the actual show we're seeing, but there seem to be some vocal bits either overdubbed or flown in from other live recordings, as on occasion the visuals don't match the audio. Thankfully, this was not too prevalent.

"Help Me Rhonda" also reaffirms yet again that Al has the most intact voice of any of these guys; it's a shame they couldn't get another Al lead vocal or two on this thing.

As for the camera work and editing, it's surprisingly tame. Most noticeably, there are *not* excessive crowd shots, and the overall editing pace from shot to shot is not too bad. The camera angles are largely fine. The use of a slight fisheye lense look from one of the cameras (perched at the floor of the stage) is a bit distracting, as is the almost exclusive use of extreme close-ups of Brian. Some wider shots of Brian and his piano would have been nice. The actual angle choices used in this edit aren't always the best pick. We probably get a bit too much in the way of extreme wide shots taken from the other side of the arena, and a few shots from the band's behind that don't seem to serve a great purpose. The editing usually focuses in on the correct vocalist or person of note, but occasionally goes a bit off. This is all rather nitpicky stuff, though. Compared to what I anticipated (see, for instance, Paul McCartney's horribly-edited "Back in the US" DVD from 2002), this was a nicely put together presentation.

The main drawback by far is the paucity of songs. More songs would have made this thing a killer release instead of just a really nice souvenir of the tour.

Video Quality:

The show was shot with multiple HD cameras, and the footage looks pristine here. With only 68 minutes of video content and no extras, there shouldn't be any compression or loss in video quality, and that is definitely the case here. The varied lighting throughout the show is rendered faithfully here. Occasional crowd shots sometimes look a bit murky due to low lighting, but this has to be hands-down (and sort of by default for lack of much else out there) the best *looking* Beach Boys concert we have on home video presently.

Audio Quality:

The disc comes equipped with both 2.0 and 5.1 soundtracks. Both sound quite solid. Surprisingly, considering recent trends with live audio and video releases, there is not excessive reverb/echo or crowd noise here. In some cases, the mix is so dry and upfront that it's surprising that what we're hearing was peformed live. You can hear acoustic guitars during "Marcella" for instance. The balance is adequate overall. Foskett's falsetto is occasionally mixed a bit low. As previously mentioned, a bit of sweetening is present on a few songs, but this soundtrack at least does a better than usual job of making it all sound relativey cohesive.


Once again, none! If the presence of only 21 songs and no extras isn't enough indication of the apparent low-budget nature of this release, also witness that this Blu-ray disc is not even authored with a pop-up menu to navigate between songs while the film is playing as most Blu-ray discs are. Further, it literally does not even have a static "home menu" to navigate songs/chapters. The menu screen offers a "Play" option, and an "Audio" option. You literally don't even see song titles anywhere on the screen or menu. If you didn't have the actual case the disc came in, you wouldn't be able to get song titles. Again, as I mentioned with "Doin' It Again", this is allegedly/hopefully only a "sampler" ahead of further, more substantial live video releases coming in the future.

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