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Reviewed December 10th, 2001 by Brian White


It was a perfect plan: the tour has been going on for about three years now. The band is perfectly gelled. Get a bunch of really talented musicians to augment the touring band and reinterpret a number of your favorite songs in a lush setting on a swanky video set, including documentary footage about the process of re-imagining the songs. You bring in carpenters to build a stage so that you can put on an intimate concert for a few friends in the courtyard at your Tuscany villa. Also, put up a live webcast of the event to the world; release a video, DVD and live album for Christmas. This will be a “Thank You” note to fans that went to see the tour. So you start filming the documentary footage, you invest piles of money on the setting, and everything is in place. The major kink in the plan is that the day you’re about to go on stage to film the concert, terrorists fly jet-loads of people into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, shocking people all over the world. How do you deal with this, and if you do, how does it affect your efforts?

I remember that afternoon, reeling in the horror of what had been on TV all day. I remembered that Sting had his webcast planned, and I was curious if he’d go through with it. I dialed up the website, and saw a somber Sting take the stage. He explained that they would not be performing the scheduled concert for the web, and instead played Fragile for the victims of the attacks. I thought this was the height of class.

Deciding to go ahead with the show, at the request of the gathered audience, we now get to see what became a much more sedate affaire. Sting explains, “This can’t be the show it was supposed to be.” In fact, the audience wants to raise the event to the heavens, but Sting keeps dragging them back, discussing the day’s events, and motioning for them to calm down in places, like when they’re clapping along with the beginning of Don’t Stand so Close to Me.

Included on this disc is a rather exhaustive documentary that follows the arrival of the band, through the rehearsals for the show, and ultimately the news of the September 11th attacks and the emotional meeting to discuss whether or not to go ahead with the show. Due to the somber performance that comes out of the day’s events, we’re lucky that there are performances from the dress rehearsal from the previous night that capture more upbeat tunes, like Desert Rose, included on the DVD by way of the documentary.

So, how’s the show? Despite being more laid-back than it should have been, there’s no denying the talent of the band that Sting has assembled on stage. All around, the performances are excellent, and Sting is in very good voice as well (the singer has often been plagued with voice problems for live recordings and videos). Sting performs Dienda, a piece of music composed by the late Kenny Kirkland (with lyrics by Sting), who toured regularly with Sting in the past. Even if you’ve purchased Sting Live at the Universal Amphitheater, you’ll not regret owning this disc.

How does this disc look? It’s beautiful. Clarity is very good, and the cinematography in this beautiful setting is at times jaw dropping. This is also a very colorful concert and documentary, and that is represented quite well. Despite the fact that the information about the disc reads that it is full screen, I’m happy to report that the transfer is 1.85:1, anamorphic. This is a very clear, colorful and beautiful transfer. There is an extremely insignificant amount of grain, but perhaps that’s just there to give the disc a little more artsiness.

Audio is really where this disc stands out. Despite being listed as “Digital Surround” on the box, the DVD credits include much information about 5.1 mastering and 5.1 ambient effects. Indeed, even the documentary footage contains a beautiful 5.1 mix, with plenty of music and sounds coming from all around the soundstage. The concert footage contains a fantastic 5.1 mix. This mix isn’t gimmicky at all. It fits in perfectly with the event, and puts it all around you. I think this audio mix is demonstration quality in terms of concert videos.

For extras, as I mentioned earlier, you get a great documentary about the assembly of the band, the rehearsal, and dealing with Sept. 11. You can branch to the concert footage of a song when an icon appears during the documentary. This is a great feature for the show, and a welcome addition to concert videos in general. You can also select the following bonus tracks: Every Little Thing She does is Magic, Englishman In New York, and Fill Her Up. Also included in the documentary footage are performances of some songs not included in the concert, such as I Was Brought To My Senses. The video for the new rendition of Fragile is also included.

Set List:

A Thousand Years
Perfect Love… Gone Wrong
All This Time
Seven Days
The Hounds of Winter
Don’t Stand So Close to Me
When We Dance
If You Love Somebody Set Them Free
Brand New Day
Fields Of Gold
Mon Over Bourbon Street
Shape Of My Heart
If I Ever Lose My Faith In You
Every Breath You Take


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