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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Phil Collins: Live at Montreux 2004 Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Sean Ferguson
Filmed in high definition, recorded in Dolby Digital Stereo, Dolby 5.1 Surround and DTS, with a running time of approximately three and a half hours, Live At Montreux 2004 includes all the greatest hits of his legendary career.  The 25-song 2004 concert encapsulates the essence of this great artist, who has performed on the Montreux stage numerous times.  One such time, in 1996, was with a Jazz Big-Band.  Thirteen songs from that ’96 performance—including one with Tony Bennett (“There’ll Be Some Changes Made”)—serve as a bonus feature (in standard definition).  From “In The Air Tonight” “You Can’t Hurry Love” and “Easy Lover” to “A Groovy Kind Of Love” “Another Day In Paradise” “One More Night” and “Against All Odds” the set-list accentuates the wildly fluctuating amount of genres and styles that Collins has smoothly assimilated within his own personal flair.

Film (4 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

Having already seen Phil Collins live in concert twice, I was happy to review this new release of two of his past concerts that were held at the Montreux Jazz Festival back in 1996 and more recently in 2004.  I was struck by how similar the 2004 concert was to the one that I had seen, but at the same time I was pleasantly pleased as I had really enjoyed it.  Collins show started like it had before, with Collins doing an amazing drum solo which reminds the audience of his roots, but it also supercharges the show from the start.  This sequence listed on this disc as “Drums, Drums, & More Drums,” also includes the regular drummer Chester Thompson joining in and then percussionist Luis Conte follows suit which is pretty cool to see all three perform a high energy synchronized performance.
For this stop along his “First, Final Farewell Tour,” Collins is in fine form and this set-list showcases the majority of his many hits, both as a member of his off and on band Genesis and his own successful solo career.  The majority of songs in this concert like “Something Happened on the Way to Heaven” and “Another Day in Paradise” among others, are from his “But Seriously” album which was a massive hit as just about every song dominated the airwaves. The rest of the songs are handpicked ones from his later albums such as songs like “Dance Into the Light” and “Can’t Stop Lovin’ You.”  Every one of these songs are very close to their original arrangements from the albums although of course the duets are sung by different partners than the originals.  For example, Amy Keys replaces Marilyn Martin on “Separate Lives” and Arnold McCuller fills in for Philip Bailey on “Easy Lover”  and both of them are excellent as is the backing band.
The 1996 concert is a lot different than the 2004 concert as it’s mostly instrumental due to being arranged as a big band performance.  There’s a few songs that include vocals such as “Always” and “Do Nothing ‘Til You Hear From Me” and guest star Tony Bennet’s “There’ll Be Changes Made.”  The majority of songs however are big band versions of Collins’ past hits and the band is conducted by the legendary Quincy Jones.  Another guest star is saxophonist David Sanborn who lends his talents to “In the Air Tonight.”  While I prefer the 2004 concert, I did really enjoy the 1996 concert too as it was interesting to hear the songs reworked with a jazzy big band sound.
Here is the set-list for both concerts:
2004
  1. Drums, Drums and More Drums
  2. Something Happened On the Way to Heaven
  3. Against All Odds
  4. Don’t Lose My Number
  5. You’ll Be in My Heart
  6. One More Night
  7. Can’t Stop Lovin’ You
  8. Hang in Long Enough
  9. True Colors
  10. Come With Me
  11. Groovy Kind of Love
  12. I Missed Again
  13. Another Day in Paradise
  14. No Way Out
  15. Separate Lives
  16. In the Air Tonight
  17. Dance Into the Light
  18. You Can’t Hurry Love
  19. Two Hearts
  20. Wear My Hat
  21. Easy Lover
  22. Sussudio
  23. It’s Not Too Late
  24. Take Me Home
1996
  1. Two Hearts
  2. That’s All
  3. In the Air Tonight
  4. Invisible Touch
  5. West Side
  6. Against All Odds
  7. Hand in Hand
  8. There’ll Be Some Changes Made (featuring Tony Bennett)
  9. Milestones
  10. The Los Endos Suite
  11. Always
  12. Do Nothing ‘Til You Hear From Me
  13. Sussudio

Video (4 out of 5 stars) 

Eagle Rock Entertainment’s 1080i (1.78:1) transfer of Phil Collins Live at Montreux is for the most part excellent.  The transfer is sharp and full of nice detail that shows every bead of sweat on Collins’ head.  Colors are nicely reproduced but the show’s lighting does cause some minor issues from time to time.  Flesh tones are natural and consistent even with the varied lighting on display.  Black levels are solid and dark and the contrast is fairly good as well.  Overall, this is a very nice transfer with only the smallest of issues from lighting that plague many of the live concert shows.

Audio (4 out of 5 stars) 

In a fairly generous movie, Eagle Rock Entertainment has three different audio options available on this disc including lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and LPCM 2.0 mixes, as well as a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix.  All of these tracks sound good with the songs all sounding clear and intelligible.  The aforementioned drum sequence in particular sounds impressive in all of its percussive glory, but every instrument comes through clearly and is well balanced with the rest. These are excellent tracks and they do a nice job of making it feel like a live experience.

Extras (4 out of 5 stars) 

In a rare and very cool example, there is an additional full length concert included from the earlier 1996 show.  It’s in standard definition which is a shame, but it’s still great to have and the big band format provides an alternative way to appreciate Collins’ songs.
  • Phil Collins Big Band Live at Montreux in 1996 – See above for the set-list and details about this bonus concert.

Summary (4 out of 5 stars) 

For fans of Phil Collins, this Blu-ray set provides two great concerts to watch that shows off his songs in different styles in an affordable single set.  The concerts look and sound great and having an extra concert included as a special feature is pretty cool too.  While these concerts may not be the same as Collins’ usual arena concerts with all of their extra production, but they do offer a more intimate kind of show that’s equally good in a different way.
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