Frank Sinatra's legendary Concert For The Americas was a pay-TV special shot over a single performance that he gave on August 20, 1982 in the Dominican Republic at the Altos de Chavon Amphitheater in the city of Romana. Though Sinatra's music did sometimes have a tendency to get pretty patriotic, here the legendary singer makes no qualms about telling the audience that, yes, this is a concert for 'The Americas' not just for 'America.' There's a sense of warmth and acceptance to this performance that hints at the appreciation he had for the audience that had gathered to see him perform that night. In fact, that's made all the more apparent during a moment where, in the middle of the show, and audience member yells out 'We love you, Frank!' only for Sinatra to retort with 'Hey, I love you too, pal.' Sinatra is having a good time on stage here, and it shows.
Though Sinatra was in his late sixties when this special was shot, here he shows no signs of slowing down. He may not have quite the same level of energy as some of his earlier performances do, but he counters that with the smooth professionalism that made him the legend he's remembered as. Here he's always in key, always on cue, and he literally does not miss a beat. Of course, it doesn't hurt that he's surrounded by an obviously very skilled group of musicians. Backed by the Buddy Rich Orchestra, Sinatra's vocals ooze class overtop of some very tight playing which makes for a very full sound whether they be belting out a powerful song like New York, New York or a softer crowd pleaser like Send In The Clowns.
The entire set list that Sinatra performs
I've Got The World On A String / I Get A Kick Out Of You / Come Rain Or Come Shine / When Your Lover Has Gone / The Lady Is A Tramp / The House I Live In / Prologue/ Jet Song (Buddy Rich Solo) / Searching / My Kind Of Town / Something / The Best Is Yet To Come / Strangers In The Night / All Or Nothing At All / The Gal That Got Away / It Never Entered My Mind / I've Got You Under My Skin / Send In The Clowns (with Tony Mottola On Guitar) / Quiet Nights Of Quiet Stars (Corcovado) / I Won t Dance / Theme From New York, New York
A quick look at the set list shows that Sinatra's repertoire of old favorites is pretty well covered here. He knows these songs so well that he introduces each one to the audience by telling them who wrote it and arranged it, often giving praise to those who laid that groundwork for him. He's very definitely got his wits about him here as well, cracking some jokes for the audience and while he and the band are both obviously giving 100% there's a welcome and playful atmosphere to the whole performance that just makes it completely enjoyable.
Obviously Sinatra is the main attraction here, but special mention has to be made of the drum solo (Jet Song) that Buddy Rich comes out to perform. Rich doesn't perform with the orchestra named after him at all here except for this one single track, but when he does, it's easy to see how and why he became the respected musician that he is. It's rare that you'll ever see a man's hands move as fast as Rich's do here, and the man is amazing to watch, his solo here as impressive as any other you're likely to ever see. Sintra is also joined by Tony Mottola towards the end of the set. Mottola, accompanying Sinatra on acoustic guitar, helps adds some added and welcome depth to Send In The Clowns and Corcovado before Frank brings the show to an end with some rousing renditions of two of his best known tracks.
Concert For The Americas arrives on DVD in a decent 1.33.1 fullframe transfer, preserving the original aspect ratio of the special when it was first broadcast on pay-tv. The transfer was culled from a video master, so the image is a bit soft at times, but given that this was shot on video, you can't fault Shout! Factory for that. Overall, however, the picture is about as good as you could realistically expect it to be. Color reproduction is fine, though some trailing is obvious from the lights above the stage in some shots - again, a source related issue rather than a problem with the disc itself. Honestly this looks about as good as an old video master probably can.
The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix is a good one, through and through. Sinatra's vocals are crisp and clean sounding and the levels are consistently well balanced. Rear channels are used primarily for audience response but there are a few spots where the music gets spread out quite nicely. Bass response is good but never overpowering and you can make out most of the different instruments in the orchestra fairly clearly. There are no subtitles provided, though an optional English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix is also included which probably sounds truer to the special's original mix and which is also quite clean and crisp sounding.
There's an insert booklet containing a brief essay that puts the concert into historical context inside the keepcase, but the disc contains only a simple menu with song selection and a 'play all' option.
There's a reason Sinatra's legacy is so enduring and why his popularity remains so rampant and his performance in Concert For The Americas is a pretty great example of why that is. Sinatra's at the top of his game here and he, along with the backup orchestra, delivers a fine performance full of energy, spirit, and enthusiasm. Shout! Factory's DVD is almost completely devoid of extras but it looks and sounds quite good and comes recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.