New Orleans is a town with soul. Whether you are sipping coffee and eating a beignet in the French Quarter or riding the street car through St. Charles there is no denying the beauty of this town. Unless you've been living under a rock since 2005, then you are aware of the storm that decimated the city and took out the levees holding back the lake. Some thought that the soul of New Orleans would die as that water receded, but that didn't happen. The music returned to the streets and the clubs, and where there is music, people followed.
The New Orleans Concert: The Music of America's Soul bring together some classic talent from the New Orleans and from around the world. The lineup is a somewhat interesting mix of outstanding jazz and blues with standouts like the two song set from legendary Snooks Eaglin and George Porter Jr (of The Meters), and the excellent demonstration of the New Orleans piano style early in the concert from the renowned Allen Toussaint and Jon Cleary. Even the young outstanding British soul songstress Joss Stone takes to the stage and turns in an dazzling performance on one of her earlier songs; unfortunately the same can't be said about Keith Richards and his cover of the Fats Domino tune, I'm Ready.
With other performances from various Neville brothers, Bonnie Raitt to The Dixie Cups who treat the crowd with a rendition of their smash, Chapel of Love – this is one concert that can win over almost any fan of music, regardless of taste in music. Yes there are a couple songs that tend to disappoint, but the ratio of hits to misses is a large one – and thanks to the wonders of technology songs that are disappointing can quite easily be skipped over.
How's it look:
Even though this title was apparently filmed in HD I found the picture to be not quite up to par with some other concert BD titles I've viewed. Overall the image seemed a little soft especially in shots from further out in the audience. Close up shots too were a little dull and didn't pack the visual punch I had hoped for. As mentioned in his HD DVD review of the same concert, there were times when the source of the video seemed to change bringing some unsightly grain into the image.
Sometimes the colors and the image were fantastic to look at, and the sharpness was dialed in, but on the whole it was below expectations.
How's the Sound:
Two audio tracks are present for your listening pleasure, but realistically both are quite underwhelming when we are all aware of how audio on the new formats can sound. The two channel option is a flat track that is missing a lot of depth of field and the separation of instruments is lacking. Unfortunately the Dolby Digital 5.1 track doesn't fair that much better. Yes there is better separation of the instruments and the vocals stand out a little more in comparison, but overall the audio falls short of expectations. The second-rate audio tracks didn't do justice to the dueling piano of Jon Cleary and Allen Toussaint, or the drums of Earl Palmer.
The New Orleans Concert does actually throw on some special features to the tune of acts which didn't make the cut of the full concert footage. Four additional tracks are included from Henry Butler, the Dirty Dozen Band, Big Sam's Funky Nation and Monk Boudreaux and the Mardi Gras Indians. These tracks do lend to capturing the feel of New Orleans and really could have been included in the concert footage without breaking up the show too much, especially the extremely colorful and energetic Mardi Gras Indians.
Two interviews are also included, on a nice piece that talks with New Orleans legend Earl Palmer who discusses his role in music in New Orleans and how it's changed from the early days. A second interview with John Cleary is also included but doesn't quite have the same impact as the Palmer feature, as Cleary doesn't quite have the history of his compatriot.
It's unfortunate that the quality of the presentation of this disc doesn't live up to the performances that are contained within it. With the same content available on standard definition DVD, and more than likely very little in term of noticeable difference in the audio presentation it's tough to recommend that someone shell out the extra money for the Blu-Ray version. Sure the video may pack some more detail, but when it comes down to convert films such as this it's truly the sound that matters, and considering the sound is somewhat disappointing for a Blu-Ray disc here, it may far a little better on the little brother of the format. Even still, fans of the New Orleans sound should definitely give this title a shot as you'll be toe tapping and swaying before you know it. I suggest this concert as a rental before making a decision on it.