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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 12/1/99

Sarah McLachlan: Mirrorball
1999 (1999) - Arista/Nettwerk/6 West (BMG)

review by Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits

Sarah McLachlan: Mirrorball Program Rating: B+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/A/B

Specs and Features

114 mins, NR, full frame (1.33:1), single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 1:06:16, near the end of chapter 14), Amaray keep case packaging, interview with Sarah McLachlan, multi-angle feature on 3 songs, artist biography and discography, lyrics to the concert songs, photo gallery, animated program-themed menus with music, song access (23 songs - mistakenly listed as 25 on the packaging - see song listing below), languages: English (DD 5.1 & 2.0), subtitles: none

Imagine if you had your own personal soundtrack playing in the background to accompany the events of your life. If I had a choice in the music, mine would have two voices: Peter Gabriel's and Sarah McLachlan's. Both artists create living, soulful music - music that you feel and experience, and that gets inside your skin. Their work is ergonomic and earthy, with pulsing rhythms, captivating melodies and chiseled, haunting lyrics that bewitch and enthrall. Unfortunately, Gabriel has recently been somewhat less than prolific (in the interview on this DVD, McLachlan herself even comments on this - "Come on Peter, put out your damn record!"). Thankfully, Sarah has been very busy in recent years. Not only has she released a number of albums and recorded hit songs for several movie soundtracks, she's toured vigorously and been the primary force behind the Lilith Fair music festivals. Not bad for a 31-year-old woman from Halifax, Nova Scotia (that's Canada for the geography-challenged).

McLachlan's last album release was a live concert disc, called Mirrorball. Though not the best live recording you'll ever hear (songs don't vary too much from their studio versions), it succeeded in capturing nicely the essence of her live performances. And the music sounded great. So I was extremely happy to learn that a video version of Mirrorball was in the works for DVD. And now that I've experienced the new DVD firsthand, I'm very happy with it.

Although it doesn't say so anywhere on the disc, the 14 songs on the CD version of Mirrorball were recorded over a number of nights on her recent tour. This DVD, on the other hand, seems to be a single live performance - the last show of the tour, judging from some of what McLachlan says to the audience. Sarah and her band are in top form, as they cover practically the full range of her work. I can't think of a single song you'd want to hear in a Sarah McLachlan live concert that isn't on this disc. And that's the real selling point for this DVD. The DVD version of Mirrorball features some 23 songs - 9 more than the original CD! That's over an hour and a half of music to satisfy you Sarah fans.

The concert video itself was shot on film, and the transfer looks simply wonderful in full frame. The color is lush and accurate, with vivid hues rendered at all times, both warm and cool. The blacks are deep and contrast is excellent, with very satisfying detail and shadow delineation. There is some visible digital artifacting and light edge enhancement, but nothing that really distracts from your enjoyment of the picture. But it's the audio that really shines. This is a wonderful Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mix. And when I say that, what I mean is that it does an excellent job of recreating a live concert experience. This isn't a DVD full of surround sound tricks - just good music presentation, with the musicians spread evenly across the front of the soundstage, the audience all around, solid bass and nice acoustic/ambient fill from the rear channels. In short, the presentation here is excellent.

The disc also includes some nice extras, given the fact that this is a concert disc - not a ton of stuff, but what you get is just what you're looking for. To start with, there's an interesting 20-minute interview with McLachlan herself, where she talks about her past and her career. You get a complete biography of the artist, along with a detailed discography of her work. There's even a photo gallery of McLachlan available here. Best of all, you get the complete lyrics to all 23 of the songs in the concert (see the full listing below). And to top it all off, the DVD allows you to use the multi-angle feature, letting you switch between a few different camera angles during 3 songs (Fear, Into the Fire and Sweet Surrender). One word of warning about the animated menus however - they look great and are easy to navigate, but the music that plays behind the main menu will get old fast if you let it sit for too long. A very small complaint.

For me, Sarah McLachlan: Mirrorball is a treat. Fans of the artist will love this DVD, and fans of music on DVD in general should appreciate the disc's high production quality and solid features. This one is definitely worth a look.

Song Listing

Building a Mystery
Hold On
Good Enough
Do What You Have to Do
I Will Remember You
I Love You
I Will Not Forget You
Path of Thorns
Into the Fire
Ice Cream
Sweet Surrender
Fumbling Towards Ecstasy

Bill Hunt
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