Title: MusiCares Person of the Year: A Tribute to Bruce Springsteen Blu-ray
HTS Overall Score:86.5
Bruce Springsteen is not only a rock-and-roll legend but an American icon, woven into the fabric of America’s culture along with apple pie, pink Cadillacs, blue jeans, and baseball caps. His recording career began over 40 years ago with the 1973 release of Greetings from Asbury Park, which instantly garnered him nationwide recognition. He has since released sixteen more studio albums, secured twenty Grammy Awards, won an Oscar, been inducted into the Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame, ushered two albums into the Grammy Hall of Fame, helped comfort and inspire a nation during its mourning of 9-11, and has committed time and effort toward charitable and philanthropic work to alleviate homelessness and hunger. He’s been a busy man.
Springsteen’s live musical prowess and stage presence are equal to his well deserved accolades. Anyone that’s had the opportunity to experience one of his marathon concert performances knows the passion and energy he brings to the stage. He frequently grimaces and strains as vocals explode from his lips and isn’t shy about thrashing his guitar. It’s nearly exhausting to watch. The man simply doesn’t know how to mail it in.
In 2013, MusiCares (a charity established by The Recording Academy) named Springsteen their “2013 Person of the Year” for his charitable work, adding him to a long list of well known winners including Bono, Tony Bennett, Neil Diamond, and James Taylor. With that award came a tribute concert in a round-table gala setting, where the wealthy and influential joined him in a night of Springsteen serenades performed by Pop and Rock musicians. This week Columbia Records released that concert in a single disc Blu-ray format paired with a small four page booklet detailing Springsteen’s career and MusiCares’ mission.
The event, hosted by political funny man John Stewart, is a slightly odd setting for a celebration of a rock-and-roll legend. Being a fund raising gala, the audience is full of movers and shakers, famous faces (Dennis Miller, Sean Penn, and Connan O’Brien, just to name a few), and plenty of Botox injected lips. The multi-stage setup is elaborate with colors bursting from gigantic screens, black walls covered in stars, special effects smoke, and a rotating middle-of-the-room stage for more intimate performances. There’s even a phantom Hollywood voice blandly announcing each act. Rock-and-roll, however is about letting loose, rebelling, and feeling the vibe...that notion and the stiffness of the crowd spend a good hour and forty minutes wrestling each other for control. In fact, there’s a moment when Stewart takes the stage and mockingly says: “I noticed at one point some of you almost starting moving, it was tough, very scary to have happen in the room.” And this is primarily true for the tribute part of the show; cameras sweep through the crowd, mostly capturing head bobbing, lip biting, stares of admiration, and the occasional person standing. As you’ll find, however, the vibe of good Rock can’t be avoided and the audience can only holdout for so long.
As detailed by the track listing (below), the make-up of tribute artists is impressive, full of many legends in their own right. They are joined by an arrangement of extraordinarily talented backing musicians and a choir group (Fred Martin and the Levite Camp of the Urban Entertainment Institute) that makes several appearances. It’s interesting to watch the musicians interact with the setting. There’s definitely a “glamor show” feel to the first few performances, where the artists struggle between unleashing the energy of rock and holding back for a seated prim-and-proper audience; luckily rock increasingly wins this battle as the show progresses. The artists came to play, with solid performances from start to finish and quite a few show-stopping moments. Ken Casey (Dropkick Murphys) enters as the fourth act and really kicks the show in motion with a thickly Irish version of “American Land.” It marks the first time Springsteen is shown rising from his seat to express appreciation. Mavis Staples and Zac Brown perform a soulful duet (backed by the choir) of “My City of Ruins” that reaches climactic majestic heights, followed by Mumford & Sons’ emotional acoustic quartet rendition of “I’m on Fire.” Several acts later Elton John takes the stage and rips-off a potent rendering of “Streets of Philadelphia,” flooding the audience with emotion and producing verbal approval from Springsteen (saying “That was beautiful...”), and it was beautiful, which instantly leads to pity for the poor sap that has to follow Sir Elton. It’s a task left to Juanes, a Columbian hard rock musician, who performs “Hungry Heart.” His act starts with an alteration of the song featuring a spat of lyrics in Spanish, followed by a show-stopping performance – easily the highlight of the guest artists – as he takes a power stance and drives the song forward with confidence and pizazz (receiving a notable standing ovation).
The evening eventually takes a break and Springsteen is honored on stage. He delivers an eloquent and interesting acceptance speech and then demands his guitar. With his telecaster in hand and band in place, Springsteen commands the audience to “eschew the wedding party” and approach the stage. “Don’t be scared,” says Springsteen “It’s just rock-and-roll.” With that, the stiffness of the gala collapses and Rock flows freely. The audience turns into a crowd and a bolt of energy is charged into the hall as Springsteen instantly takes control with his tough-guy image, unabashed confidence, and pure passion. He goes on to throw-down five classic Springsteen songs, culminating with an ensemble rendition of “Glory Days.” It’s a fantastic culmination of several hours of wonderfully familiar, yet uniquely altered, songs and a chance to experience what is most certainly a special event.
1. ALABAMA SHAKES - "Adam Raised a Cain"
2. PATTI SMITH - "Because the Night"
3. NATALIE MAINES, BEN HARPER, and CHARLIE MUSSELWHITE - "Atlantic City"
4. KEN CASEY - "American Land"
5. MAVIS STAPLES and ZAC BROWN - "My City of Ruins"
6. MUMFORD & SONS - "I'm On Fire"
7. JACKSON BROWNE featuring TOM MORELLO - "American Skin (41 Shots)"
8. EMMYLOU HARRIS - "My Hometown"
9. KENNY CHESNEY - "One Step Up"
10. ELTON JOHN - "Streets of Philadelphia"
11. JUANES - "Hungry Heart"
12. TIM MCGRAW and FAITH HILL - "Tougher Than the Rest"
13. TOM MORELLO and JIM JAMES - "The Ghost of Tom Joad"
14. JOHN LEGEND - "Dancing in the Dark"
15. STING - "Lonesome Day"
16. NEIL YOUNG & CRAZY HORSE - "Born in the U.S.A."
17. NEIL PORTNOW - MusiCares Award Presentation,
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN & THE E STREET BAND
18. "We Take Care of Our Own"
19. "Death to My Hometown"
20. "Thunder Road"
21. "Born to Run"
22. "Glory Days" with Cast Ensemble
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/news/bsc3.jpg[/img]Columbia Records does just about everything right in the video department, with an incredible 1080i High-Def transfer of A Tribute to Bruce Springsteen presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The last several concert Blu-rays we’ve reviewed have suffered from flicker, blocking issues, and a few other annoyances...not Springsteen. The image is razor sharp and absurdly detailed with absolutely zero evidence of nasty image intrusions or artifacts. Details literally pour from the screen and are downright jaw dropping, especially as the cameras zoom-in on the faces of performers, audience members, and the Boss, himself. Shadow details are equal to the task, as is contrast, making images with dark back drops and flickering lights appear rich and deep. Colors are perfectly balanced with a neutral palate that sports crisp whites, blacks that are slick and dark, and reds that pop. The only fault with the presentation are a few brief images shot with a camera on the rotating center stage; these images appear to be standard-def (so detail and sharpness take a hit).
All-in-all, viewers are treated to a total feast for the eyes which boosts that “feeling like you’re there” factor to extraordinarily high levels.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/news//bsc4.jpg[/img]Columbia Records offers three different audio selections on A Tribute to Bruce Springsteen, including Uncompressed 2.0 PCM Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, and Uncompressed 5.1 PCM Surround sound. After a few trial comparisons, the Uncompressed 5.1 PCM Surround track separated itself as the preferred track of choice due to a much richer and dynamic experience. Both the Dolby Digital and PCM Surround tracks use the rears to add ambient sounds like audience applause and chatter, the occasional fork clanking on a plate, and the echo of amplified sounds from the musicians and their instruments. This helps to give the sound stage quite a bit of depth and width. None of the audio options run particularly hot, so be prepared to take your volume close to reference settings. Dialog delivered by John Stewart, the announcer, and other participants is clear and audible. Songs material is quite good, using the front three to position sounds from the performers as they visually appear on stage. There are a few times where the presentation is a tad heavy on the right side with guitars that sound slightly too loud, but this is a minor issue. Bass, specifically the lack of chest thumping bass, is disappointing, with the low end making a weak appearance for the majority of the show. Also, on several occasions a brief popping noise can be heard in the left rear channel (this sound is reproducible at specific points in the presentation).
Despite a few blemishes, the audio presentation is solid and will undoubtedly satisfy all but the pickiest of listeners.
MusiCares Person of the Year: A Tribute to Bruce Springsteen is one release Springsteen fans should add to their collection. While the setting of the tribute is a tad stuffy, the music isn't held back, allowing unique performances of Springsteen anthems to be delivered by exceptional musical talent. The run of tribute tunes nears one hour and thirty minutes in length, followed by another twenty minutes of Springsteen, himself. The quality of the video's image is phenomenal; it’s razor sharp and entirely revealing. The audio is a tad lacking on the lower-end, but its overall quality is above average (especially for a live event). Fans of Springsteen (even casual fans) will appreciate this collection of material, making it easy to recommend.
Starring: Bruce Springsteen, John Stewart
Directed by: Leon Knoles
Written by: Bruce Springsteen (music)
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English: Uncompressed PCM Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, Uncompressed 5.1 PCM Surround
Studio: Columbia Records
Runtime: 135 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: March 15, 2014
Buy MusiCares Person of the Year: A Tribute to Bruce Springsteen Blu-ray on Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Watch It!