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A Concert by the Lake(2005)
Concert in aid of the charity HASTE (Heart And Stroke Trust Endeavour).
Gary Brooker of Procol Harum, Andy Fairweather Low, Mike Rutherford, Paul Carrack, Henry Spinetti, Eric Clapton, Katie Melua, Roger Taylor, Ringo Starr and The Drifters.
For more about A Concert by the Lake and the A Concert by the Lake Blu-ray release, see A Concert by the Lake Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on March 10, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
A Concert by the Lake Blu-ray Review
Perhaps the poshest charity gig ever.
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, March 10, 2010
If you're the sort that pays attention to the music scene in your city, you've likely noticed that members of one band will often turn up in recordings for another, and that groups will frequently dissolve and reform from a shuffling cast of familiar names and faces and playing styles. Every so often, if the musicians are renowned enough for their respective projects, they coalesce into a so- called supergroup. Obviously, this is no new phenomenon, but the idea of the supergroup really took off in the 1960s, as rock became the dominant musical force in America and England. While rock musicians can be a Byronic, temperamental lot—egos clash here more often than in any other artistic medium, I'd wager—sometimes these friendships and collaborations hold fast over the decades. Such is the case with former Procol Harum keyboardist Gary Brooker's casually assembled supergroup Band du Lac, which convenes every few years at the pastoral Wintershall Estate in Surrey, England, to put on a charity concert for a posh crowd of tuxedoed and evening gowned attendees.
Since 1988, Brooker has been throwing these charity gigs with the help of some big name friends and former collaborators. For this 2006 concert—which benefited HASTE, the Heart And Stroke Trust Endeavor—he formed a house band of classic rock veterans, including Andy Fairweather Low and Mike Rutherford on guitars, bassist Dave Bronze, keyboardist Paul Carrack, and drummer Henry Spinetti. No, not exactly a royal rock flush unless you're a huge fan of Genesis, Squeeze, Mike & The Mechanics, or a handful of other 1960s British rock acts, but Brooker does have a few musical aces up his sleeves. Special guests for the show include none other than massively influential fret-shredder Eric Clapton and drummer-turned-unlikely frontman Ringo Starr, arguably the fourth most famous Liverpudlian ever, after John, Paul, and George. Add to this lineup Queen's Roger Taylor, British bluesy jazz chanteuse Katie Melua, and a reincarnation of soul quartet The Drifters, and you have an evening of tame but enjoyable music, a kind of lakeside, black tie sing-along for England's white bread upper crust.
Together, the Band du Lac tear through twenty three once and former hits, starting with "Tequila," the instrumental dance number, and closing out the evening—complete with lasers and fireworks—with the foot-stomping, low-down dirty blues of Genesis' "I Can't Dance." In between, the special guests each get a chance to man the microphone for a few songs. Clapton is the brilliant highlight here, wailing through the prototypical blues heartbreak of "Reconsider Baby," letting "Lay Down Sally" roll with a rambling country backbeat, and pulling "Cocaine" out of his playbook for old times' sake. Ringo hams it up, as expected—he's got to, since he really doesn't have the vocal chops to sing lead—but his short set is fun and varied, from the showbiz naiveté of "Act Naturally," to the good old, universally recognized standby "With A Little Help From My Friends." Andy Fairweather Low leads a raucous rendition of "Lay My Burden Down," a very Appalachian-sounding hymn with a stair-step country bass line, and Gary Brooker sings his own "A Whiter Shade Of Pale," with its famously baroque organ intro.
There are, however, a few misses scattered in amongst the hits. Katie Melua's style is vaguely Norah Jones-ish, but her voice is nowhere near as smoky or intoxicating, and the three contemporary songs that she plays stand out somewhat awkwardly from the largely 1960s- themed set-list. Likewise, Queen drummer and occasional vocalist Roger Taylor's contributions bog down the middle of the show, especially "Say It's Not True," a song about HIV in South Africa that sounds like a 1950s tragedy ballad transplanted awkwardly into the 21st century. The strangest inclusion, however, has to be The Drifters. For one, there's not a single original member of the group present—probably because they've all passed away—and two, these young imposters are really, truly, honestly not very good. At least, not here anyway. They bungle through the worst version of "Under the Boardwalk" I've ever heard—the lead singer frequently warbles out of tune—and their take on "Stand By Me" simply isn't befitting of such a definitive classic. Still, the majority of A Concert By The Lake is worthwhile for fans of classic rock, especially those who enjoy that particular brand of British rock that's only one step removed from straight-up R 'n' B. These are just a bunch of old English rockers jamming together and the music reflects their friendship—it sounds tight but also incredibly relaxed, the product of professionals who've spent their lives getting to know their instruments and one another.
2. Over My Shoulder (feat. Paul Carrack)
3. Reconsider Baby (feat. Eric Clapton)
4. Lay Down Sally (feat. Eric Clapton)
5. How Long (feat. Paul Carrack)
6. Willie & The Hand Jive (feat. Eric Clapton)
7. Crawling Up A Hill (feat. Kate Melua)
8. My Aphrodisiac Is You (feat. Kate Melua)
9. The Closest Thing To Crazy (feat. Kate Melua)
10. Lay My Burden Down (feat. Andy Fairweather Low)
11. Say It's Not True (feat. Roger Taylor)
12. These Are The Days Of Our Lives (feat. Roger Taylor)
13. I Want To Break Free (feat. Roger Taylor)
14. This World Is Rich (feat. Gary Brooker)
15. Act Naturally (feat. Ringo Starr)
16. Photograph (feat. Ringo Starr)
17. With A Little Help From My Friends (feat. Ringo Starr)
18. A Whiter Shade Of Pale (feat. Gary Brooker)
19. Stormy Monday (feat. Eric Clapton & Chris Barber)
20. Under The Boardwalk (feat. The Drifters)
21. Stand By Me (feat. The Drifters)
22. Cocaine (feat. Eric Clapton)
23. I Can't Dance (Everyone!)
A Concert by the Lake Blu-ray, Video Quality
Shot on high-definition video and given a 1080i/AVC encode, A Concert By The Lake is as clear as unmuddied waters on Blu-ray. I've reviewed a number of similar concert discs recently, and this one has been the best of the bunch in terms of picture quality. For these kinds of releases, it's not unusual to see errant aliasing, weak contrast, and angry swarms of video noise, but this is one is largely free of any compression-related problems, has inky and consistent black levels, and looks quite clean throughout. The only real oddity that I noticed was a kind of rippling mirage effect, presumably caused by whatever hidden heaters were keeping the performers warm on stage. Not a transfer issue, obviously, but it does look somewhat strange the first few times you see it. There are a few slightly soft shots here and there, but in general, the image is nice and crisp. Sharpness indicators like skin textures and fine clothing details are easily apparent in close-ups, and the picture rarely looks overly—i.e., artificially—edgy. Colors are also natural, and the picture is splashed by the vivid reds and blues and greens of the stage lights. Overall, the image looks as classy as the audience's gussied up attire.
Do note that as it was nearly impossible to capture screenshots in 1080i, all of the stills included in this review were captured in 720p and do not represent the transfer's full visual quality.
A Concert by the Lake Blu-ray, Audio Quality
For some reason, the disc defaults to a Linear PCM 2.0 stereo mix—which is strong—but the meatiest offering here is its DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track. This soundboard mix is tight, clean, and undeniably "live," with an open, airy quality that captures the concert's outdoors ambience. That's not to say it isn't grounded, as the various instruments all have heft and presence, from Eric Clapton's sweetly overdriven solos to the rock solid bass, which is deep and defined. The horn section is crisp, Paul Carrack's organ gently weeps, the acoustic guitars are bright but never brash, and the vocals are powerful and poised. It's all mixed together well, with ample distinction between instruments and a constant and effective use of the surround channels to put you right in the middle of the crowd. The drums could be punchier at times, but other than that, I really have no complaints. The disc also includes a lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 track.
A Concert by the Lake Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Interviews (SD, 9:50)
The only bonus feature included on the disc is this short featurette, which includes interviews with nearly all of the musicians involved with the concert, as well as footage of the Band du Lac practicing in what looks to be an elementary school auditorium.
A Concert by the Lake Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
A Concert By The Lake is a solid night of cover songs by an all-star house band of middle- aged British rockers. Obviously, this isn't for everyone, but if you like concerts on Blu-ray and you're a fan of Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, or Gary Brooker, you might want to give this one a rental at least. A portion of the sales of this release goes to HASTE, so if heart health is a cause that's near and dear to you—as it likely is for these aging rock stars—you may want to consider a purchase. Casually recommended.
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