South Africa Freedom Day – Concert on the Square was a festival style concert, held in London’s Trafalgar Square in 2001 to celebrate the freedom of South Africa and to honour Nelson Mandela. This is a highlights package of that event, covering the many performers and the man himself. With a statue of himself overlooking proceedings, special guest Nelson Mandela takes the stage and gives a speech along with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Firstly we shall look at the good things about this show. The Corrs were very good, as were R.E.M. Both bands performed three songs each and seemed to be really on top of their game. Billy Ocean was very good also, but almost unrecognisable. He now has dreadlocks tied up in a sort of ponytail. Not a good look at the best of times, but when the dreadlocks are grey, it looks very odd. Aside from the way he looks he sounds terrific. There were a few other artists that did a good job, but the three previously mentioned are by far the standouts.
Now the negative elements of the show and there are a few. The first point to be made should be that some artists only get a matter of seconds on this DVD, basically showing that they were there and offering nothing more for their respective fans. With most of these acts however it is a blessing. The opening performers Mbawula are said to be performing The Lion Sleeps Tonight, I’m sorry but the only lyric I heard was “I”. The two main forgettable performances for me were Gary “Mudbone” Cooper performing a version of the U2 hit One with Dave Stewart. I have to ask why a professional performer, singing a very well known song, would need to read directly from a lyrics sheet? Has he not heard of rehearsing?
The cream of the crop though would have to be Mel B. First of all she is miming, something a few of the acts do and something I personally find intolerable on such a stage. The most noticeable aspect of her performance however is her choice of clothing. This is not an attempt to be recruited into the fashion police, but for a performer that is going to be doing a high energy dance routine, why would someone choose to wear a top that is struggling to keep everything within its confines? She spends the majority of her act pulling the top up to cover her nipples, failing on more than one occasion, very Scary indeed. As is the case with all of the performers mentioned in the “negative” section, the level of amateurism is unworthy of such a stage.
For some viewers the speech by Nelson Mandela may be a highlight, but it just goes on and on and on. The man is without doubt one of the greatest men alive, but this speech should have been cut down as were the majority of performers.
Mbawula - The Lion Sleeps Tonight
The Corrs – What Can I Do?, So Young, Breathless
Lisa Roxanne – No Flow
Baaba Maal – Fanta
Commonwealth – That’s The Way It Goes
Lebo Mathosa – Lord
Billy Ocean – When The Going Gets Tough
Dave Stewart and Gary “Mudbone” Cooper – One Love
Atomic Kitten – Whole Again
Mel B – Feels So Good
Hugh Masekela – Thanayi
Beverley Knight – Greatest Day
Ladysmith Black Mambazo – Congratulations South Africa
REM – Imitation of Life, Losing My Religion,
Man on the Moon
Labi Siffre – Something Inside So Strong
Running for 77:14 and taking into account the ten-minute speech of Nelson Mandela, this performance is of value only to fans of R.E.M. and The Corrs. Some may get pleasure from seeing Mandela, but this concert doesn’t do him justice.
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and 16x9 enhanced, this transfer is adequate. Being a concert and also being outdoors, there are the usual problems encountered. Detail varies, but is generally good. Colours are vibrant and do struggle with some over-saturation and bleeding. Blacks are generally good and there are many instances of aliasing. These are in the usual places, but there is constant aliasing from the big screen used behind the performers.
Audio supplied is a choice of Dolby Digital 2.0, DD 5.1 and DTS. The track of choice for me was the DD 5.1. Sound overall is reasonable, but the choice of the DD 5.1 was simply to reduce the echo. Dialogue is clear at all times and synch is only a problem when performers are miming, not the fault of the transfer. There is little in the way of separation apart from crowd noise and the spreading of music across the front speakers. The DTS track is perhaps slightly better than the DD 5.1 and 2.0, but due to that minor problem of echo, it isn't the track of choice. Generally the sound is more than sufficient and doesn't cause any real problems.
There is nothing in the way of extras apart from track selection.
Overall this is not a great concert. R.E.M. are very good along with a few other acts, but I would suggest fans of those artists would not find this reason enough to purchase this release. This is worth a rental for most as you may get some pleasure out of it, but don't expect a concert on the same scale as previous fundraisers held by the likes of Bob Geldof.