I always love a good concert video, and that's what is delivered here on Blu-Ray with "Paul Anka Live in Switzerland." The prolific Canadian singer/songwriter performs a number of his own songs (some which were hit records for himself and others which he wrote for other artists) as well as some inspired covers, with a full band at the AVO Session Basel in the town of Basel.
The show is very lively, with Anka moving frenetically across the stage most of the time without seeming to break a sweat, and a couple times he even ventures out into the audience weaving about through their tables while singing, and stopping to dance with a few lucky ladies. The best numbers during this show include an upbeat cover of "For Once In My Life" with a brief segue in the middle into "Come Rain or Come Shine", a whispery rendition of "Mack the Knife," and a big-band "swing" style performance of Van Halen's 1984 hit "Jump", with a few audience members doing just that.
One of Anka's 1970s hits was "Times of Your Life" which he originally recorded for a Kodak camera commercial. As he begins this song, he tells the audience to ignore the pre-show announcement about not taking any pictures and just go ahead and take them anyway. (As a sign of the times, all of the cameras we see being pulled out are digital, not a single film camera. From here we see the audience continue to take pictures for the remainder of the show. In concerts I've watched that attracted a much younger audience whom often went crazy with their phone cameras, I found it amusing seeing these older folks doing the same here.) Video screens onstage begin to show some pictures of Paul Anka's family members, as the band segues into "The Way We Were".
A nice surprise is a performance of "This is It", which Anka co-wrote with Michael Jackson around 1980. He begins this song while playing solo on piano, then as the rest of the band joins in an accompanying vocal from Jackson himself is also integrated seamlessly. There's a tribute to Buddy Holly with a performance on guitar with three other guitarists joining him, of "It Doesn't Matter Anymore" which Anka wrote for Holly, and a very interesting rendition of John Fogerty's "Proud Mary" done in the style of ZZ Top's song "Legs," with a few bars of "My Way" worked in as well.
The show is shot on HD video at 24 frames per second, with excellent detail including every individual thread of Paul Anka's grey suit. I personally don't care for the use of this lower frame rate on concerts (if the producers prefer a more film-like appearance, my opinion is they should just shoot on film or its digital replacement) but your mileage may vary. (HD cameras can be set to shoot in either 24 or 30 frames per second, so this is still preferable to the number of concert videos I've seen that were shot on standard-def video and then had the frame rate tweaked in post-production.)
This Blu-Ray disc offers a 2-channel mix in PCM and a 5.1 mix in DTS-HD Master Audio. I watched the concert twice, once with each mix and prefer the 2-channel mix as the vocals are centered with good left and right channel separation for the instruments. The 5.1 mix seems to add an echo to the vocals that I didn't notice in the 2-channel mix- here the vocals echo into the front left and right as well as the surround channels. This may be a more accurate representation of what it was like to actually be at this performance, but it's good that two mixes were included here.
No extras are included, in fact the concert automatically starts over after being played through to the end (like an 8-track tape, but at least stopping the disc after it begins to repeat will not force you to start it from the same point later!) An 8-page insert is included however with some color photos from the concert as well as some liner notes in both English and German with a brief history of Paul Anka and the AVO Session Basel.
Complete song listing is as follows:
For Once in My Life
You Are My Destiny
Mack the Knife
Times of Your Life
This Is It
Put Your Head on My Shoulder
She's a Lady
A Steel Guitar and a Glass of Wine
It Doesn't Matter Anymore
Oh Lonesome Me
Bye Bye Love
New York, New York
Twist and Shout
This is a very enjoyable concert showcasing Paul Anka's diverse songwriting and performance styles with some creative (although I'm thankful his 1974 hit "(You're) Having my Baby" was excluded, one of the most godawful songs of all time!) This Blu-Ray disc should please Anka's many fans and should win him some new ones as well.
Jesse Skeen is a life-long obsessive media collector (with an unhealthy preoccupation with obsolete and failed formats) and former theater film projectionist. He enjoys watching movies and strives for presenting them perfectly, but lacks the talent to make his own.