HD DVD
Highly Recommended
4.5 stars
Overall Grade
4.5 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
5 Stars
HD Video Quality
4 Stars
HD Audio Quality
4.5 Stars
Supplements
3.5 Stars
High-Def Extras
0 Stars
Bottom Line
Highly Recommended

Queen Rock Montreal & Live Aid

Street Date:
December 4th, 2007
Reviewed by:
High-Def Digest staff
Review Date: 1
January 2nd, 2008
Movie Release Year:
1983
Studio:
Eagle Rock Entertainment
Length:
138 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Unrated
Release Country
United States

Editor's Notes

Non-format-specific portions of this review also appear in our Blu-ray review of 'Queen: Rock Montreal & Live Aid.'

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

English rock sensation Queen first rose to prominence in the early '70s by audaciously embracing the excesses of the decade. Honing a bizarre balance of heavy metal and multi-layered progressive rock, Queen became famous for its lavish operatic vocals and stirring theatrics. The band won numerous awards and produced a total of fifteen studio albums, five live recordings, and countless other singles and compilations.

Of course, none of this would have been possible without Freddy Mercury, one the most celebrated frontmen in the history of rock. When Mercury lost his tragic battle with AIDS in 1991, he left behind a legacy of music that continues to influence musicians and rock itself to this day. The consumate showman, Mercury never forgot the fans who traveled the distance and paid good money to see his band.

Eagle Vision's cross-format release of 'Queen Rock Montreal & Live Aid' presents two legendary performances from the band. The 1981 Queen Rock Montreal concert was held in Quebec to record a live album of the same name, while their 1985 Live Aid appearance has since been voted the "Greatest Live Gig Ever." The Live Aid appearance is included as a supplemental bonus in standard-def (which I'll discuss in our "Supplements" section), but Queen Rock Montreal gets the full high-def treatment.

Queen Rock Montreal was performed before the band incorporated keyboards into their stage repertoire and is considered the last "raw" Queen concert. Recorded over two nights to a sold-out 18,000 seat auditorium, the Queen Rock Montreal show came at the height of the band's success. Mercury and crew wanted to make the recording special -- as such, they became the first group to shoot an entire show in 35mm film. The results are cinematic to say the least. There's something indefinably natural about the visuals that make the concert seem more more alive than other video-based recordings.

This performance showcases the band in top form -- Mercury is engaging, guitarist Brian May is on point, bassist John Deacon is having the time of his life, and drummer Roger Taylor doesn't lose steam once. The artists launch out of the gate with a rousing up-tempo rendition of "We Will Rock You" that brings the crowd to an immediate frenzy. After the 95 minute concert crescendos through hits like "Somebody to Love," "Killer Queen," and "Now I'm Here," it hits its stride with the relaxed bada-bum-bum of "Under Pressure." By the time they hit such fan-favorites as "Bohemian Rhapsody," "Sheer Heart Attack," and "We Are the Champions," Queen is in a euphoric state of pure rock that defines a great live performance.

Yes, the band's '80s shtick is on full display. Mercury's wardrobe changes multiple times over the course of the performance and everyone's pants are too tight. But anyone coming to this release (or any other classic rock performance) should expect nothing less.

As a longtime fan of Queen's music, I adored Queen Rock Montreal. Obviously, if you didn't dig the band before, you probably won't start here. But this release does everything a live recording should -- it features a band at the peak of its career, and an audience at the height of their fandom.

The full tracklist for Queen Rock Montreal follows below:

  • We Will Rock You (Fast)
  • Let me Entertain You
  • Play the Game
  • Somebody to Love
  • Killer Queen
  • I'm In Love With My Car
  • Get Down Make Love
  • Save Me
  • Now I'm Here
  • Dragon Attack
  • Now I'm Here (Reprise)
  • Love of My Life
  • Under Pressure
  • Keep Yourself Alive
  • Drum and Tympani Solo
  • Guitar Solo
  • Crazy Little Thing Called Love
  • Jailhouse Rock
  • Bohemian Rhapsody
  • Tie Your Mother Down
  • Another One Bites the Dust
  • Sheer Heart Attack
  • We Will Rock You
  • We Are the Champions
  • God Save the Queen

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

The HD DVD editon of this title presents Queen Rock Montreal with a 1080p/VC-1 transfer (identical to the Blu-ray) that looks quite impressive for a twenty-five year old 35mm film. Like other films of its era, fleshtones have a muted appearance, but the palette regularly comes alive as the stage lights flood the performers with color. Edges remain crisp and detail is exceptional. I continually marveled at the well-rendered glitter on the drums, individual strands of glam-rock hair, and the fine texture of clothing. Dimly-lit shots of the crowd can be soft at times, but the band rarely looks anything short of amazing. Black levels are deep, the image is three dimensional, and contrast is spot-on. Best of all, there's no troublesome source noise or artifacting.

Some may be bothered by the abundance of grain when the stage lights flare, but I found it to be a consistent element of the presentation that for the most part wasn't distracting. The transfer suffers at times from black crush (look at Mercury's hair when it's bathed in red spotlights), faint color banding (watch the stage fog), and a handful of softer-than-average long shots. These minor issues aside, the overall the video is excellent and is a clear step-up from the standard DVD.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

The audio quality is even more remarkable than the video. Eagle Vision provides two options -- a linear PCM stereo track (48 kHz/24-Bit/2.3 Mbps) and a DTS HD 5.1 mix (96 kHz/24-Bit/1.5 Mbps). To be honest, I found the LPCM track to be phenomenal. I missed the immersive multi-channel crowd roar of the 5.1 DTS HD mix, but the LPCM track offered astounding fidelity, deep bass, and crisp lyrics.

Quite frankly, this may be the best some of these songs have ever sounded. The heaviness of the drums in "We Will Rock You," the guitar riffs in "Under Pressure," and the light dance of piano keys early in the performance combine together for a dynamic presentation that makes this release an audio standout. The age of the source has no bearing here -- the track has been meticulously remixed to perfection and has been spared the hollow sound of over-processing. When Mercury's voice hits the rafters, it never causes any peaking issues or distortion in the soundscape. When operatic choir harmonies erupt in "Bohemian Rhapsody," the sound is stable and clean. When the crowd sings along to "We Are the Champions," their cheers pepper the experience with well-prioritized details.

In fact, the only thing I missed during the experience was a DTS HD Master Audio or PCM 5.1 audio track. I found myself wishing there were immersive crowd surrounds in the LPCM stereo track, and higher quality sound in the 5.1 mix. When it comes to music titles, I'd rather get the best of both worlds than have to pick between two tracks based solely on what aspect of the sound production I'm willing to forego. Still, this release hovers close to perfection and will certainly please Queen fans on either side of the ocean.

(Note the audio options and quality of the HD DVD and Blu-ray versions of 'Queen Rock Montreal & Live Aid' are identical. Also note that both the Queen Rock Montreal and the Live Aid performances feature remixed LPCM and DTS HD tracks.)

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

The HD DVD edition of 'Queen Rock Montreal & Live Aid' includes all of the special features available on the 2-disc standard DVD. It's certainly a nice collection of bonus material that even includes something you rarely see on a live concert disc -- a commentary.

  • Live Aid Performance (SD, 43 minutes) -- Queen's Live Aid appearance gets right down to business with an opening volley of "Bohemian Rhapsody" before Mercury delves into songs that didn't appear in Queen Rock Montreal like "Radio Ga Ga" and "Hammer to Fall." Moreover, Mercury entertains the enraptured crowd with his showmanship -- he interacts with the fans, dances with a cameraman, and brings everyone to their feet in song. Eagle Vision even includes Mercury and May's late evening Live Aid performance of "Is This the World We Created" which features the crooning strings of May's nylon-stringed guitar. The only downside is that it's presented in standard definition. Since the Live Aid presentation includes remixed LPCM and DTS HD audio tracks, I'm curious as to why the video wasn't remastered as well.
  • Audio Commentary -- Guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor talk through the Queen Rock Montreal performance. After watching the braggart reactions of typical rock stars in bonus materials, I was surprised to find both May and Taylor to be both humble and reflective. Each of their comments is candid, describing the highs and lows of the performance without resorting to mean-spirited jabs. I loved hearing about the intrusive 35mm cameras swirling around the band during the performance and the resulting anger that came through their rendition of several songs. If the commentary lacks anything, it's a moderating voice to keep things moving. May and Taylor have a great self-deprecating humor, but they tend to mill about when there's plenty of things I wanted to hear about. A moderator would have been able to ask questions and really drive the conversation somewhere. Still, fans will certainly enjoy the feature and I had a great time listening to a breezy chat between old friends.
  • Live Aid Rehearsals (SD, 11 minutes) -- This archive video combines backstage rehearsals, on-stage warm-ups, and interviews with the band members. It's a well made (but dated) fly-on-the-wall look at that night.
  • TV Interview (SD, 7 minutes) -- This is a laughable report from an American television show called "PM Magazine" that features interviews with the band after a family-friendly summation of the band's style and performances. I'm assuming this is meant to be a sort of joke, a look at the way middle America reacted to the bizarre antics of an English progressive rock band. Very funny.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

Nothing.

Final Thoughts

'Queen Rock Montreal & Live Aid' was easily my favorite live concert high-def release of 2007. This HD DVD edition features an outstanding remastered video transfer, faithful LPCM and DTS HD audio tracks, and a great collection of supplements that include a commentary, the legendary Live Aid performance, and some fun archival video. An easy recommend for any Queen fan.

Technical Specs

  • HD DVD
  • HD-30 Dual-Layer Disc

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/VC-1

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 1.78:1

Audio Formats

  • English LPCM Stereo (48kHz/24-Bit/2.3Mbps)
  • English DTS HD 5.1 Surround (96kHz/24-Bit/1.5Mbps Core)

Subtitles/Captions

  • Subtitles for Commentary & Bonus Materials
  • English Subtitles
  • Spanish Subtitles
  • French Subtitles
  • Italian Subtitles
  • Netherlands Subtitles
  • Portugese Subtitles
  • Dutch Subtitles

Supplements

  • Audio Commentary
  • Bonus Concert
  • Rehearsal Footage
  • Featurette

Exclusive HD Content

  • None

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