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Where did the Time go? - A Blu Ray Review
on 6 May 2011
The release of 'Foot of the mountain' saw my wife & I take an interest in a-ha again. We saw this farewell tour at Nottingham's ice arena & I have to say were pretty impressed.
The release here of the end of the tour in, naturally enough, Oslo promises much.
The intro. see's a darkened arena lit by blue neon & laser and immediately the extra crispness of Blu Ray is highlighted with just a little shimmering of the light here and there. The sound of the audience surrounds the listener but quite subtly as left & right keyboard effects follow the band doing the usual 'heroic slo-mo' walk to the stage. Once the lights go up the sharp detail is evident everywhere and on occasion can be pretty unforgiving at showing just how many years it's been since 'Hunting high & low' was first released & the band were as popular as pin ups as for their music.
The opening track, 'The sun always shines on TV' is a little lacklustre, no surprise here, I remember the Nottingham concert took about 3 tracks to get going and here is no different with both the band & the audience not being fully warmed up until around track 4, 'Scoundrel days',. From here on in things motor along far more freely & less stiffly with vocals being stretched further and a stronger presence from the keyboard.
However it has to be said that while nicely detailed and deftly handling the old surround problem of where to place the audience sound & just how loud should they be, the surround mix fails to completely sparkle. The main problem is that the drums are far too recessed in the mix and so the driving rhythm is missing.The echo of the arena is not cancelled out enough in the sound edit and leaves things too lightweight. While earth shattering low frequency was unlikely this really doesn't ever get the sub. going and while it is fine on the quieter tracks it is unlikely to get anyone on their feet during faster & more pop oriented songs. Vocals are clear and centred nicely.
The picture is very good with primary colours lighting up the stage as the light show flicks away above the band. One regret is that more of the display cannot be seen. The visuals displayed on the screen were excellent, especially during 'Take on me' and the slow retrospective. Unfortunately too much of this would have spoilt the 'live' atmosphere but an optional 'angle' that showed the display would have been nice and not really too much to ask. A bit of a missed opportunity really.
The director gets things just about spot on. All the usual 'live' pitfalls are avoided, too much gawping at the audience, ridiculous angles, stupid effects, seeing what's going on backstage during the concert,(who cares?), and the headache inducing handi-cam are all dumped in the bin and this is so much better for it.
The concert track listing is different from the UK and sadly there is only 1 track from the excellent 'foot of the mountain' album, (the title track). The belting live version of 'Bandstand' seen in the UK was sadly chopped from this.
The Blu Ray itself has a low key menu that seems more like a DVD one.
The extras are a 15 minute last concert documentary and a photo gallery.
Audio is either stereo or DTS HD 5.1.
There are a lot of subtitles to choose from. French, Spanish, German, Norwegian, Russian, Japanese, Brazilian Portuguese & Latin American Spanish.
For the fans this is a pleasant enough farewell. I'm just left feeling that with only a little more effort this could have been so much more. Why no proper retrospective? The picture is top drawer but surely the sound is vital for a concert so why has this been mixed in such a lacklustre fashion?
There are times when I despair at the lazy approach that some companies have to Blu-Ray. There is so much potential but they just can't be bothered.
The picture, direction & editing and ease of use are all 5*. The extras & especially the sound are barely 3*.
For a band that has lasted so well and has such a large & faithful following both they & their fans had a right to expect better than this.