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Universal Studios Home Video presents
Robbie Williams: Live at the Albert (2002)

"Tonight's a very special show for me. It's the night that I'm gonna pay tribute to some of the coolest men that have ever lived."
- Robbie Williams

Review By: Brian Calhoun  
Published: May 21, 2002

Stars: Robbie Williams
Other Stars: Jon Lovitz, Jane Horrocks, Jonathan Wilkes
Director: Hamish Hamilton

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (strong language and adult themes)
Run Time: 01h:13m:20s
Release Date: April 23, 2002
UPC: 724349269095
Genre: music


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- A-B+A A-

DVD Review

Robbie Williams: Live at the Albert is one of the more enjoyable concert experiences I have had recently, and it all took place in my living room. Though nothing could recreate actually attending this legendary concert, the magic of DVD will bring those who couldn't be there as close as they can ever come. Even I, who knew nothing about Robbie Williams prior to viewing this concert, was bowled over by the spectacle that unfurled before my eyes.

Williams puts on one of the most entertaining performances I have seen in recent history. As he bursts onto the stage he immediately sheds his familiar pop rock persona and adopts the suave and debonair swinger lifestyle as if it were second nature. For the duration of the show he carries the audience in the palm of his hand. His over-the-top showmanship and relentless energy allow him to stand out above other entertainers in his class. Not only does he put on a musical extravaganza, but a fully developed comedy show as well; even his facial expressions are those used by the most talented comedians. Whether he is bellowing out the upbeat tempos of Have You Met Miss Jones? or delicately emoting on the slow ballad One For My Baby, he always remembers to exhibit a subtle comedic charm.

Though Robbie is the focal point of the night's entertainment, he gets plenty of help along the way. The full orchestra surrounding him never misses a beat, while the abundance of scantily clad dancers prove they are more than just a feast for the eyes. The majority of the musical numbers are tunes made famous by Robbie's mentors, particularly Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. However, Robbie performs several of his own compositions with exuberant flair. A standout of his is I Will Talk and Hollywood Will Listen, an emotional yet tongue-in-cheek disclosure of Robbie's desire to be a movie star. These solo songs are wonderful, but the true highlights of the night come from the many duets. Actress Jane Horrocks tenderly accompanies Robbie on Things, while Saturday Night Live genius Jon Lovitz helps Robbie bring the house down with a playful rendition of Well, Did You Evah.

Robbie Williams is always confident and cocky, which could be his one flaw. He is not shy in exclaiming his opinions towards the indulgences that many entertainers often downplay or deny, such as drug use and sexuality. These adult themes combined with his occasional use of strong language unfortunately assure that this concert is not fit for younger viewers. Additionally, I found the concert to be much too short. A 75-minute performance with no encore feels like a bit of a letdown, regardless of how powerful the show is. These faults aside, Robbie Williams is a bold entertainer, and 99 percent of the time his act works like a charm. He may not have the articulation that made Sinatra so influential, but his voice is strong enough to contend with the greatest crooners of all time. From the opening moment where he humorously stomps through the expensive tympani heads to the moment he leaves the stage in joyous tears, Robbie Williams' show is more than a musical concert; it is a fantastic fun-filled event.

Song List:

Have You Met Miss Jones?
Mack The Knife
Straighten Up and Fly Right
Let's Face the Music and Dance
Well, Did You Evah
The Lady is a Tramp
Things
One For My Baby
Mr. Bojangles
I Will Talk and Hollywood Will Listen
Do Nothin' Till You Hear From Me
Beyond the Sea
Me and My Shadow
Ain't That a Kick in the Head
It Was a Very Good Year
My Way

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: I was fully expecting a 4:3 transfer, and thrilled to find that not only is the image 1.78:1 widescreen, but anamorphic as well. Colors are beautifully saturated and blend in seamlessly with the thick black backgrounds. The picture displays a soothing film-like quality, yet it is plagued by several deficiencies that I have come to expect from videotape. Shimmering is frequently noticeable in fine details, and even more obtrusive are jaggies around sharp edges. These problems are most noticeable in the shots from a distance. In contrast, the close up shots are so stunning that they almost look like 1080i high definition. The good portions of this transfer are so remarkable that it truly saddens me to mention the bad.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes
PCMEnglishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack accurately recreates the thrill of a concert experience. The music is mostly balanced towards the front soundstage, while the roar of the crowd realistically flows through the surrounds. The method in which the orchestra has been recorded is one of the more natural live recordings I have heard, with the brass section appearing at a phantom location somewhere between the front and surround speakers. Every instrument sounds remarkably clean and lifelike, and audibly appears exactly where it should throughout the wide soundfield. Each instrument blends in delicately with the next, leaving nothing muffled or indistinct. Robbie's vocals shine through the three front channels with incredible depth and realism; not once were the lyrics unintelligible. The 5.1 soundtrack is a fantastic way to experience this concert in the comfort of your own home.

A Dolby 2.0 stereo mix is also offered. While it does stretch expansively across the front speakers, it does not hold a candle to the spaciousness and dynamics of the 5.1 mix.

Audio Transfer Grade: A

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
2 Documentaries
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Photo Gallery
  2. Music Video
  3. After Show
Extras Review: A concert-only disc would have been just fine, but the producers have gone above and beyond to give us the entire experience and then some. Right down to the packaging, this truly is a collector's item. The disc is housed inside a slim cardboard keep case with an attached program booklet. All of the extras on the disc are presented in beautiful anamorphic widescreen, with the exception of The Day Job, which is nonanamorphic widescreen.

Even though it is not part of the main feature, After Show is nestled amongst the track selections. This is a four-minute featurette that consists of backstage footage at the Royal Albert Hall as well as interviews with several of the entertainers involved.

Next is Well Swung, a nineteen-minute featurette divided into seven sub-sections. It is an in-depth look at Robbie's inspiration to create a swing album that pays tribute to his mentors in the genre. Well Swung mostly consists of footage of Robbie in the recording studio, belting out the album versions of the classics he later sang at the Royal Albert Hall. This candid look at the events that led Robbie to the Royal Albert Hall serves as a nice companion piece to the concert.

The photo gallery consists of 15 still photos. Most of these were taken candidly from the recording process, and there are a few poses as well.

The making of Somethin' Stupid is a 10-minute, behind-the-scenes look at the filming of the video for this tender duet between Robbie and the beautiful Nicole Kidman. The "making of" is followed by the complete music video for the song. The viewer is given the option of two audio tracks: Dolby Digital 5.1 and glorious PCM. Listening to the PCM track made it painfully obvious how much better a PCM track is over a lackluster Dolby 2.0 track. As a matter of fact, the PCM track is significantly more crisp and clean than the 5.1 track.

The Day Job is a 20-minute look at the life of Robbie Williams the pop rock star. This documentary is mostly a montage of concert footage and videos, as well as a few interview segments and awards shows. I honestly find that the Robbie Williams featured at the Royal Albert Hall is far more entertaining than this side of the man; I would like to see him focus more on his swingin' side in the future.

Extras Grade: A-

 

Final Comments

Robbie Williams fans, rejoice. The fabulous concert at London's Royal Albert Hall has been faithfully reproduced for home theater with an anamorphic widescreen image and strikingly realistic 5.1 audio. This is about as close as one can get to a real-life concert at home, and in some ways, the experience is even better. There are no crowds to contend with, no obscured views, and the seats are more comfortable.

 


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