Unlike any Cirque du Soleil you've ever seen—unfortunately
As part of the 2004 anniversary celebration for the Montreal Jazz Festival, Cirque du Soleil put together a blowout musical performance with that twist of spectacle that's the trademark of the troupe's shows. Bombastic world music crashes together with acrobats, fire swallowers and numerous dancers to create a kinetic display that's spread across a stage and a lengthy runway that juts out into a teeming crowd in the night of Montreal.
That's bound to sound great to any fan of the Cirque, but this is not the Cirque fans have grown to love. Likely because it's part of the Jazz Festival, this show is focused primarily on the music that is such a big part of the troupe. Sure, there are parts that are familiar, like the silk-scarf acrobats and the loosely constructed storyline that holds things together. But they don't have the level of power and emotion that the other show's hold. Instead, it feels like a concert with some stunts thrown in.
One of the other problems with the show is the size. Something I've noticed in previous shows is the intimate nature of the performance space. In this case, a crowd of over 200,000 people and a "stage" as big as three city blocks makes what is otherwise larger than life into something significantly smaller. This especially hurts the way the acrobat's performances are perceived. There's also the matter of the stage, which is so miniscule that the performers can barely move more than a few feet. The German Wheel, which is normally full of momentum and speed, is limited to the precision movements that, while impressive, aren't that exciting.
On the plus side, the music is as good as it's ever been, the costumes are stunning and the stunts that are present are good ones. For a fan of Cirque's music, this is a perfect package, but for the average Cirque fan, it can frankly be a bit boring. It's unfortunate, as I've had nothing but good things to say about their DVDs to this point. In fact, I can't truly say this is a bad DVD, as it may just be a matter of taste. But when you build your reputation with one style and switch to another, you have to expect the fans might feel a bit cheated.
The audio, presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, is strong and clear, with bass-heavy music that pounds through the speakers. There's nothing in terms of panning or directionality that will make you say "Ahhh", but its all well-produced, making for an enjoyable listen, which is the most important thing with a show like this.
The other bonus is a photo slide show, set to music from the show, that runs just over a minute. The pictures change rapidly, so there's plenty to look at, but the photos aren't of the highest quality. It's going to be of limited interest to most.
The Bottom Line