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Columbia Music Video presents
Tony Bennett's Wonderful World: Live in San Francisco (2002)

"I'll tell you right now, I'd sing 'til 6 o'clock in the morning with guys like you. Shall we keep going?!"
- Tony Bennett

Review By: Jeff Rosado  
Published: February 11, 2003

Stars: Tony Bennett, k.d. lang
Director: Lawrence Jordan

MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 01h:13m:01s
Release Date: December 10, 2002
UPC: 074645518596
Genre: music

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A A+A+A+ B

DVD Review

On a crisp California night in the winter of 1962, Tony Bennett performed a concert at San Francisco's Fairmont Hotel. Midway through the first set, a new song recorded a few weeks earlier in Columbia Record's famed 30th Street studios in New York City was introduced.

Legendary label A&R man Mitch Miller thought the composition would be perfect for the Queens, NY native. However, Bennett didn't feel a rapport with it at first. Like a procrastinating tax payer, he put off recording the song until the wee hours of January 24th, 1962.

With a 38-piece orchestra and core backing group at his side, with Miller and session engineer Frank Laico manning controls in the recording booth, if there was any uncertainty on Bennett's part it wasn't evident in his performance. Three takes later, a useable master had been laid down. Although the singer wanted to call it a night (or morning, since the 3am hour was rapidly approaching), Laico persuaded him to do one more rendition.

So Bennett donned his headphones once more, stepped back up to the mike and tenderly re-painted a verbal picture of a homesick lover who can't find comfort in the towns of Rome, Paris or New York...longing to return to his beloved "city by the bay."

One dramatic pause and an ascending piano chord later:
"I left my heart...in San Francisco..." and a lifelong signature tune was born.

Forty years later, the singer, the song and the site of its first public performance are reunited in Tony Bennett's Wonderful World: Live In San Francisco , a marvelous 76-minute concert first seen on PBS last fall.

Performing a well-rounded set of his best known hits, personal favorites and songs from his critically-acclaimed duet album with special guest k.d. lang, it's not only a mandatory purchase for long time fans but also serves as a perfect primer for novices who want a crash course in the great American songbook with one of the masters of the form as a tour guide.

Just as chipper, energetic and dynamic as his variety/talk show stops witnessed with my family in front of the living room television way back when, Bennett's ingratiating stage presence is so contagious that even orchestral members can't suppress their enthusiasm. Going for and reaching notes that some performers half his age dare not even attempt, the effect is awe inducing.

Equally inspiring is Bennett's unselfish respect for his backing musicians; he's having as much of a blast watching them as we are. Songwriters are saluted equally via knowledgeable and eloquent introductions of songs most meaningful to him. One such moment comes during his set up to the Harold Arlen/E.Y. "Yip" Harburg standard Somewhere Over The Rainbow. Searching for just the right words to express his heartfelt passion for this classic, Bennett refers to a recent worldwide poll of music historians who selected it as the greatest composition of all time, adding how its simple message of hope still rings true. Following a stirring rendition, the 76-year-old performer casts his green eyes upward and shouts, "Judy Garland!" in a sweet tip of the hat to one of his musical mentors. One must have a circulatory system comprised of ice crystals to not be touched at such a display.

Icing on the cake is provided by k.d. lang's terrific three song mid-set guest appearance. Blessed with a smoky, expressive alto, her vocals mesh well with Bennett's, resulting in a very impressive collaboration highlighted by a frisky take on Exactly Like You and a warm hearted What a Wonderful World.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Pardon the cliché, but the visual presentation of this program is indeed the next best thing to being there. Flawless. With resplendent colors and razor sharp clarity, you can spot virtually every crease in Tony's suit for crying out loud! Absolutely one of the best DVD presentations of a concert I have ever had the joy to watch; everyone from the crew staging this show to the folks behind the scenes in post-production at Columbia Music earned their salary with this one.

Image Transfer Grade: A+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The folks at CMV didn't shortchange in the audio department, either. Every instrument is clearly discernible via a perfect 5.1 mix that effortlessly balances the orchestra and Bennett's excellent backing group, The Sprezzatura Quartet. Aside from a couple of moments when Tony gets a little too close to the mike (and even that's nicely masked), a grade A+ job.

A nicely done PCM stereo track is also contained, but it has nowhere near the fidelity of the multi-channel presentation reviewed above.

Audio Transfer Grade: A+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 22 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 22 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Interactive Gallery Of Tony Bennett's Paintings
  2. Interview With Tony Bennett and k.d. lang
  3. Biography
  4. Selected Discography
Extras Review: Although the concert on its own would have suited me, some nifty extras complete the package: A gallery of Bennett's artwork that show him to be as talented with a canvas as with a microphone, a woefully short 3-minute joint interview with lang, an adequate biography and a tricky-to-maneuver discography (which may be a subliminal way of saying get away from the DVD player, go out and buy an album, you lazy bums!)

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

With the passing of such greats as Mel Torme, Rosemary Clooney and Frank Sinatra in recent years, Tony Bennett is truly the last of a dying breed. How sweet it is in a time of uncertainty to still have a comforting and legendary voice still amongst us, sounding better than ever. Live in San Francisco gives you a chance to experience the magic of a truly magnificent performer at his very best. Don't pass it up.

Something tells me Mr. Bennett, and that song he had initial misgivings for all those years ago, have embraced each other.


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