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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.78:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL 40.06)
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • English: Dolby Digital Stereo
  Subtitles
  • None
  Extras
  • Additional footage - "Message To Sade" - 10 min
  • Photo gallery
  • Animated menus
  • Music video - "King Of Sorrow"
  • Behind the scenes footage - "The Band Walking", "Sade Walking" - 8 min total

Sade - Lovers Live

Sony Music Video/Sony BMG . R4 . COLOR . 116 mins . G . PAL

  Feature
Contract

Why on earth would you want to own a video recording of a live concert anyway? In the world of rock and pop music, where painstaking construction of songs in a controlled studio environment is the rule of law, the live concert recording is traditionally a ramshackle, raw affair. While concert sound systems have improved somewhat since the days when The Beatles couldn’t even hear each other’s playing and singing and instead had to guess (they usually got it right, too), the modern concert recording is loaded with potential problems. For starters, the show being taped is usually the 40th or 50th or 100th show of the tour, and the artist is either (a) bored or (b) a musical robot by this point. Having been on the road living out of a suitcase for weeks, the artist has forgotten what real sleep is like, has talked about themselves at press conferences and in media interviews on a daily basis to the point of distraction, and knows the disgusting habits of their fellow touring musicians so well it makes being in army boot camp seem like a society dinner by comparison. Needless to say, pristine musicianship and superb microphone technique are not the primary things on the artist’s mind by this stage, regardless of whether or not the thing’s being recorded for posterity.

People like to suggest that a live recording, however technically and artistically inadequate, will “capture the magic” of being at the performance. But while it does document a point in the artist’s career with clinical precision (assuming, of course, that the temptation to “fix” the tapes later in the studio is resisted) it’s extremely rare that a live album offers the chance to hear an artist or band sounding better than they ever have on a studio recording. Usually you just try and get caught up in the mood of it all, pretend you’re there and forgive the band their many bum notes and timing problems. But there are exceptions, however rare.

Nigerian-born, British-based singer Sade Adu (real name Helen, which doesn’t quite have the same evocative ring to it) has been consistently mega-popular since 1984 when she released her debut Diamond Life and introduced the world to her jazz-influenced soul with the single Smooth Operator. That song clicked perfectly with the pristine pop-soul trend of the time – an English “white soul” movement was picking up speed thanks to The Style Council and Level 42 along with a bevy of acts on Mercury Records including Swing Out Sister and Hipsway; even Spandau Ballet shamelessly reinvented themselves, transforming from kilt-wearing New Romantics to suave Bryan Ferry wanna-bes overnight to great success. In the midst of all that, Diamond Life sounded a lot more calculated than it actually was; listening to it today, it’s remarkable how well it’s stood the test of time while its contemporaries sound dated and cheesy. But then, Sade and her band (the core members of which still work with her today) weren’t in this to get a lift on a passing bandwagon; her subsequent albums have stuck to the same basic genre and mood while making distinct progressions within that framework; heard as a collection there’s a noticeable increase in sophistication with each subsequent record, with less reliance on the more obnoxious jazz elements. It’ll probably be a cold day in hell before a Sade album sells less than a couple of million copies within weeks of its release. And that’s because the woman and her band seem incapable of making a bad record.

She’s perfectly capable of taking her damn time with ‘em, though. Her most recent studio album Lovers Rock came out in 2000; its predecessor, Love Deluxe, appeared in 1992. And so when Sade headed out on tour in the US during 2001 to promote Lovers Rock, it was something of an event for her legion of Stateside fans. By the time the tour made it to California, though, America had drastically changed. The show at Arrowhead Pond in the Los Angeles suburb of Anaheim that was one of two chosen to be captured on film took place on September 20th, 2001, with the world outside still reeling. For the audience, Sade’s optimistic, love-infused world must have felt like pure release.

Certainly on the screen it all seems quite perfectly magical. Right from the opening song you know this is a different class of concert video. For starters, it’s shot on actual film, which is rare enough in itself; sure, high-def video can look truly spectacular with its crispness and day-glo colour, but one look at this and you’ll realise why celluloid film is far from obsolete. It’s not just the use of film that’s responsible for the visual splendour here, though – it’s the person using it. Director Sophie Muller is well known in the music video world (Blur’s Song 2 clip would be her best-known work in this country currently) and is well known for her innovative imagery. But it seems that she’s found her true calling in shooting concert films; it was Muller who directed Sarah McLachlan’s brilliant Mirrorball concert film a few years back, taking a visually static and straightforward live show and getting inside it. Watching Mirrorball was as good as being at the show itself – Muller’s camera team seemed to always find those little details that you’ll see when you’re there at the show, and her editing put it all together in a natural, kinetic flow of images that went beyond merely showing you the musicians playing and singing – it brought you into their world. Sophie Muller is easily the most inspired director currently working when it comes to capturing live concerts on film, and Lovers Live is her best work yet (incidentally, her 1994 Sade live concert collaboration is also available on DVD).

And the music – well, suffice to say that if you’ve avoided Sade’s records in the past because you thought they sounded too clean and precise, then this disc may very likely change your mind. Her band, all excellent musicians, know these songs backwards but aren’t averse to a bit of improvisation when the need arises. They also do choreographed dance moves, something you won’t see Roger Waters’ band even contemplating any time soon. Most of the hits are here, along with key album tracks; the greater musical sophistication of the later songs is quite apparent here, too, and the Lovers Rock material is a revelation compared to the studio versions of those same songs.

With a total running time of 116 minutes, Lovers Live includes the following songs:

  1. Cherish The Day
  2. Your Love Is King
  3. Somebody Already Broke My Heart
  4. Cherry Pie
  5. Pearls
  6. Every Word
  7. Smooth Operator
  8. Redeye
  9. Jezebel
  10. Kiss Of Life
  11. Slave Song
  12. The Sweetest Gift
  13. The Sweetest Taboo
  14. Lovers Rock
  15. Immigrant
  16. Paradise
  17. King Of Sorrow
  18. No Ordinary Love
  19. By Your Side
  20. Flow
  21. Is It A Crime
  22. It's Only Love That Gets You Through

Above all else, this is a purely celebratory performance, and that mood is captured well on this DVD. It could so easily have come across as stagey and pretentious, but thanks to some inspired directing and a winning performance, Lovers Live is almost guaranteed to leave you with a smile on your face, regardless of whether you’re a fan or not. It’s our new favourite music disc, no contest. Grab one.

  Video
Contract

Sony Music’s DVD releases to date have been patchy at best in terms of technical quality, but the UK-sourced material has been a far better proposition, with Sony opting to import glass masters from Europe to ensure we get an identical product to our Northern Hemisphere counterparts. Lovers Live is no exception, and is offered here exactly as it was mastered by the remarkably talented Metropolis DVD in London.

Beautifully transferred from film at the intended 1.78:1 aspect ratio (and of course 16:9 enhanced) the images here have been extensively colour-timed and corrected in much the same way as they were for Muller’s Mirrorball film, which was also shot by the same cinematographer (if you have that disc you can see what we mean by comparing the main program with the non-colour-corrected additional angles during the multi-angle sections). The result is an extremely cinematic, almost oil-painting-like visual style that relies heavily on the solid colours created by the stage lighting, with the huge rear-stage video screen a key player. DVD is the ideal format to reproduce material like this, and the resulting images are truly evocative. There’s simply nothing mundane here at all – every shot looks magnificent. Purists will notice that there’s some dirt in the gate of one of the cameras and the brief appearance of a hair in another, but these are minor problems and difficult to completely avoid when using film in a live concert environment.

There’s no nasty edge enhancement going on here, but you will notice an amount of grain on occasion. This was quite obviously an artistic decision on director Muller’s part, though, and it simply adds to the visual sumptuousness of it all. Some of the footage both of the audience and from their point of view appears to have been shot on non-anamorphic home video cameras and then transferred, stretched horizontally, to film. It’s an odd effect, but we’ll put it down to the pursuit of art!

Lovers Live is stored on a dual-layered disc, with the layer change arriving at the 40 minute mark right before the song Jezebel. It’s no easy task to shoehorn a layer change into a live concert film, and unless you have one of those rare players that can do transparent layer changes (all players should, but hardly any do) you will notice a startling interruption in the crowd-noise audio at this point.

  Audio
Contract

You’re given a choice of a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track (which is the default) or a Dolby Digital Surround 5.1 mix here, though the two tracks aren’t as different from each other as you might expect. While the stereo track is perfectly serviceable, the 5.1 is a better option even for those listening in downmixed mode (it’s noticeably crisper in the top end, for one thing, and is slightly better in terms of instrument positioning). Heard in its true 5.1 configuration, this track might surprise you; the centre channel is barely used at all, in common with quite a few recent 5.1 music mixes. There’s a very slight murmur from the centre that most won’t notice, and a slight delay for ambience use in the surrounds. Aside from that, though, it’s basically a stereo mix with stereo-surround crowd noise (and the occasional sound effect, including a gratuitous Roger Waters-style helicopter) mixed in when needed. During the brief bit of backstage footage before the encore, the centre channel suddenly becomes the only game in town, which actually makes perfect sense even if it sounds a little startling in contrast to the rest of the show.

It actually sounds more realistic and natural than you’d expect, despite the lack of a centre anchor; this is the sound configuration you’d get if you were in the audience at the actual show, after all, and despite the lack of surround-sound fireworks it’s a very involving mix. Actual sound quality is first-rate (the music was mixed by Sade’s regular studio engineer Mike Pela).

Some may find the audience noise a bit distracting at times; as far as concerts go, this lot aren’t too bad, though they still insist on cheering loudly when something familiar happens or someone does a solo. And that phenomenon unique to the USA – the audience members that can’t stop themselves screaming out “we love you Sade!” or “whooooo!” or “yeahhhhh!!!!” – is well in evidence here. Ultimately, that was all part of the experience of being there, though, so it’s right that it should be heard on the recording.

The keen-eyed will notice the tiny DTS logo on the back cover and on the disc; no, there is not a DTS audio track here, and there isn’t one on the UK version either (not surprising, as this effectively IS the UK version). Maybe Sony intended to include one, but then ran out of space; the dual-layered disc is nearly full to capacity as it is. Regardless, the Dolby Digital tracks sound just fine.

  Extras
Contract

A very welcome trend with UK-mastered music DVDs is the complete absence of obnoxious copyright notices and company logo trailers at the start of the disc, and this one’s no exception. Put the disc in your player and within seconds the main menu appears – in this case a beautifully designed, ultra-stylish animated 16:9 main menu that wisely does not contain audio. It looks absolutely brilliant, and the only complaint we have is that there’s no override for its slow, graceful transitions when an option is selected. If you’re navigating your way around the extra features and chapter selection menus, this can get a little frustrating.

A small but useful set of extra features is included, all accessible directly from the main menu:

The Band Walking: That’s “walking” as in “heading to the stage”. Sade’s band alternately do a silly dance and get ready to start the show, all under the watchful video eye of the Polish Brothers (who some will be familiar with via their 1999 movie Twin Falls Idaho, a film for which longtime Sade guitarist and co-writer Stuart Matthewman wrote the music score). Shot on videotape, this is letterboxed but not 16:9 enhanced; picture quality is excellent. About four minutes long.

Sade Walking: Sade walks more purposefully to the stage than her band does, and so the Polish Brothers have time to catch a glimpse of the tour support, Motown artist India.Arie, performing on stage. In full frame 4:3, this runs three and a half minutes.

Message To Sade: The Polish Brothers wander around outside the concert venue and invite audience members to leave a message for Sade; these range from a proposal of marriage from a self-confessed “smooth operator” to a 79 year-old woman with Cure-calibre lipstick and more energy than most teenagers. Often hilarious, this ten-minute assemblage is great fun to watch and proves conclusively that Sade has a sense of humour. In full-frame 4:3, this is about ten minutes long.

King Of Sorrow, Video: Sophie Muller’s typically beautifully-photographed music video for the studio version of King of Sorrow from the Lovers Rock album. 4:3 full-frame, with absolutely stunning picture quality.

Photographs: 16 black-and-white backstage shots from the tour, accessible either directly or as a slide show. Accessing a picture directly gives you a nearly full-screen larger version (but oddly in 4:3 mode) with navigation controls to go back or forward in the series via a super-stylish fade out. The slide show gives you the same pictures displayed in a sequence, but much smaller and with the video remaining 16:9.

  Overall  
Contract

Lovers Live was simultaneously released as an audio CD, but you’d have to be crazy to buy that – it only has 13 songs in 2-channel stereo while the DVD offers 22 in either stereo or surround, and audio CD customers of course miss out on Sophie Muller’s superb visuals. It’s a no-brainer – if you’re going to buy this album, make it the DVD version, especially as it's now available under the title Now See Hear in a great value package also featuring the CD Sade Lovers Rock.

Boasting a brilliant two-hour performance that’s been exquisitely captured on film, Lovers Live is a must for Sade fans – and it also serves as a great introduction for the uninitiated. Sony Music’s DVD is pure class all the way – no bells and whistles, just an ultra-stylish presentation of a near-perfect concert film.


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  •  DVD NET Gold Review List 
      And I quote...
    "...an ultra-stylish presentation of a near-perfect concert film."
    - Anthony Horan
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Sony DVP-NS300
    • TV:
          Panasonic - The One
    • Receiver:
          Sony STR-DB870
    • Speakers:
          Klipsch Tangent 500
    • Centre Speaker:
          Panasonic
    • Surrounds:
          Jamo
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          Monster s-video
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