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Site created 12/15/97.


review added: 6/4/99



The Paris Concert for Amnesty International:
The Struggle Continues...

Recorded December 10, 1998 - Paris, France
(1999) Amnesty International (Image)


review by Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits

The Paris Concert for Amnesty International Film Rating: A+
A singularly unique and satisfying evening of live performances by a host of the world's top musical artists. This is just a great concert - period. And you even get the Dalai Lama for good measure. How can you go wrong? Here's a hint... you can't.

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/A+/C
The concert footage is shot on video, and looks as good as any I've seen on DVD. The Dolby Digital audio is provided in 2.0 and a full 5.1 mix, that perfectly recreates the ambience of the live experience. A discography of the various artists' work is also included.

Overall Rating: A+
If you're a big fan of live music, you just dig the concert experience, or you like any of these artists, this DVD is simply not to be missed. It's just a terrific show, and is presented on DVD in very nice quality indeed. I wish there were lots more concert DVDs just like it.

Specs and Features

171 mins, NR, full frame (1.33:1), single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 1:14:27 at the start of chapter 26), Snapper case packaging, artist discographies, program-themed menu screens with animation and music, scene access (49 chapters - see song listing below), languages: English (DD 5.1 and 2.0), subtitles: none

Review

Wow - I am just really impressed with this DVD. I'll elaborate more on the disc's quality in a minute, but first let me describe the contents of the concert contained therein.

On December 10th of last year, the highly-regarded human rights organization Amnesty International held a benefit concert in Paris, France, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Among the artists who donated their time and talents to perform for the evening, were Bruce Springsteen, Peter Gabriel, Alanis Morissette, Tracy Chapman, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, Shania Twain, Radiohead, Kassiv', Asian Dub Foundation, and Youssou N'Dour. And a very special guest, the Dalai Lama of Tibet, spoke to the crowd about human rights. It was simply an amazing evening of music, from some of the world's most talented performers. Thankfully, Image Entertainment has captured the feel of that evening perfectly on this new DVD.

In a word, the DVD is simply wonderful. OK, so that's two words. It would be easy to sit here and run down the merits of each of the artists' performances. Rest assured they're all excellent - everyone is in top form. I've seen the disc now some three times, and still haven't tired of it. You get almost 3 full hours of music - 171 minutes in all - including more than 28 individual songs. It's a unique mix of musical styles, from pulsating world rhythms, to the angst-ridden stylings of Morissette. You get acoustic, techno-grunge, a dash of pop country, and plenty of good old hard-edged rock - there's definitely something here for everyone. During the actual concert, various shorts, animations, interviews and PSAs were played on giant video screens over the stage, in between musical sets, and many of those are included on the DVD too, as transition pieces. And to be honest, for me at least, having Peter Gabriel and Youssou N'Dour's soulful rendition of In Your Eyes in 5.1 surround sound, is alone worth the price of the disc.

Yes, that's right - this disc is encoded in full Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound (a 2.0 track is also included). If you're looking for flashy panning and rear channel effects, you've come to the wrong place. That kind of audio trickery has no business here. For, unlike many concert DVDs that have included 5.1 sound thus far, The Paris Concert for Amnesty International boasts something far better - digital surround sound that strives to capture and preserve the natural ambience of the performance hall. Thanks to some very nice audio and mixing work, you'll get to experience the music as closely as possible to the way it was heard by the show's audience that night. You are positioned in the soundfield as if you were front row center, with all of the music coming from the front hemisphere, and only ambience and crowd noise filling in via the rear channels. The recording isn't studio perfect - you'll hear the occasional feedback from the house audio, just as if you were there live - and that's as it should be. But the quality of the audio is excellent, and the result is a very satisfying listening experience. And the DVD defaults to the 5.1 track when you put it in your player - a nice touch.

The concert was shot on video, and while it looks to have been mastered on analog videotape, it looks as good or better than any video I've seen presented on DVD. There is only minor ringing and edging in the picture, and very little digital artifacting. The picture is crisp, clean and nicely detailed. The blacks are deep, and color is overall excellent. I suppose if this had been shot on high-definition digital video, it might have looked a little better, but that's really splitting hairs - the disc just looks damn fine. In short, there's nothing here to distract from the performance. You can just sink into it and enjoy.

As extras go, one probably shouldn't expect too much from concert DVDs. This disc does give you probably the most important extra you'd want, which is a decent discography for the various artists included in the show. The DVD also features nicely styled animated menu screens with background music. Don't let the "C" grade for the extras mislead you. You get what you should, and given the quality, I don't think anyone will be left wanting.

I should also take a moment to note that proceeds from the sale of this DVD will be donated back to Amnesty International. For those of you unfamiliar with Amnesty, it's a Nobel Prize winning grassroots activist organization, that works to uphold human rights around the world. Founded in 1961, it boasts over 1 million members. Among the group's goals, are the release of prisoners of conscience, the proper treatment of political prisoners (including fair trials), and the abolition of torture, extrajudicial executions and “disappearances.” Noble goals indeed.

Bottom line

What more could you really ask? This is a simply a great concert, with lots of great talent and music, well preserved on a great DVD for all to enjoy. Just the benefit of having acoustically true and accurate 5.1 audio is a major plus. I've listened to far too many 5.1 concert DVDs and CD recordings recently that play loose with gimmicky surround effects. If you're looking for a first-rate concert recording on DVD, then look no further - this is one you'll definitely not want to miss. Very highly recommended.

Song Listing

Get Up, Stand Up (Gabriel, Chapman, Springsteen, N'Dour)
Baba (Morissette)
Hand in My Pocket (Morissette)
Thank U (Morissette)
Medley (Kassiv')
Se Dam Bon Jou (Kassiv')
Black White (Asian Dub Foundation)
Buzzin' (Asian Dub Foundation)
Free Satpal Ram (Asian Dub Foundation)
Signal to Noise (Peter Garbiel with Youssou N'Dour)
In Your Eyes (Peter Garbiel with Youssou N'Dour)
New Beginning (Tracy Chapman)
Fast Car (Tracy Chapman)
Baby I Can Hold You (Tracy Chapman)
No Surrender (Bruce Springsteen)
Born in the USA (Bruce Springsteen)
Working on the Highway (Bruce Springsteen)
When the World Was Young (Jimmy Page and Robert Plant)
Babe I'm Gonna Leave You (Jimmy Page and Robert Plant)
Gallows Pole (Jimmy Page and Robert Plant)
Rock and Roll (Jimmy Page and Robert Plant)
You're Still the One (Shania Twain)
Black Eyes, Blue Tears (Shania Twain)
Karma Police (Radiohead)
Bones (Radiohead)
Paranoid Android (Radiohead)
Shaking the Tree (Youssou N'Dour with Peter Gabriel)
7 Seconds (N'Dour, Gabriel, Chapman and Jocelyn Beroard)

Bill Hunt
billhunt@thedigitalbits.com




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