I love acoustic-style performances. I always have. I think there’s honestly nothing as magnificently sublime as pairing the human voice with either a single instrument (or very few) because the arrangement – when done right – tends to showcase the best talent available from both worlds. Specifically, I think the human voice sounds incredible when backed simply by guitar or piano, and that’s largely what’s on display in this tremendous performance from musical legend / rock guitarist Brian May and singer Kerry Ellis.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of person who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
Brian May is one of those talents who – quite frankly – changed the face of music. His work on guitar for Queen helped define a generation, and – alongside the late Freddie Mercury – the band put its stamp on a certain time and a certain place. Mercury’s passing didn’t slow May down for long, and he’s continued to lend his talents to others who’ve come under his wing. By contrast, Kerry Ellis is relatively new to music (especially when she compare their respective resumes), and her particular area of specialty (from what modest research I’ve done) is in belting out either pop standards or musical ballads. Like most small ladies of the stage and screen, she has a huge voice, and while I didn’t think her particular flourishes worked all that well with a few of the songs performed here it certainly wasn’t a distraction.
Together, these two deliver what is arguably one of the most pleasant 90-minute listening experiences I can recall as of late, though I’ll admit I’m certainly not the biggest music buff who’ll probably show up and sound off on this production. Still, THE CANDLELIGHT CONCERTS is a stellar time to do just as I’ve implied I did: sit and enjoy the show.
May’s guitar work has never been better; he’s restrained when the tune requires it, and he’s big and braggadocio when the audience demands it. His work on “Last Horizon” is particularly admirable, wringing emotion itself from a few chords as well as a few well-placed plunks of his strings. Also, at his level of maturity, he’s forgotten more about working a crowd than most musicians will ever learn.
For the purposes of clarity, this is a DVD/CD set, but the recordings feature two different performances. The Blu-ray experience was recorded in their next-to-last show in Montreux from July 19, 2013; the CD experience is actually from several months earlier (November, 2012). Several of the songs available on the CD are not part of the Candlelight show, so be sure to take it all in.
If I’ve any quibble, it’s probably that I hate it when performers use their concerts to push whatever their own personal / political agenda may be. Mind you: I don’t fault them for attaching themselves to causes. It’s just that I tend to prefer keeping my entertainment and my politics completely separate. Nothing here that’s said or implied is done at any great length; I only mention it because, as a critic, I’ve always thought my objection (even when mild) remains relevant.
But as for listening? This is pure dynamite. It’s a wondrous time by two gifted musicians who care deeply about music, and that definitely shows.
BRIAN MAY & KERRY ELLIS: THE CANDLELIGHT CONCERTS – LIVE AT MONTREUX 2013 is produced by Terry Shand, Geoff Kempin and Jim Beach as part of the Fondation du Festival de Jazz de Montreux under exclusive arrangement to Eagle Rock Entertainment Ltd. DVD distribution is being handled by Eagle Vision, a division of Eagle Rock Entertainment. As for the technical specifications, wow! This is one smartly produced and even ‘intimate’ performance done on such a pretty large scale. If it’s special features you want, well the package is a bit slim in that respect: there’s a single bonus video regarding their “Nothing Really Has Changed” song.
HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION POSSIBLE. I have absolutely no problem admitting that I wasn’t exactly familiar with every musical number selected for performance by these two mavens, but that didn’t impede my enjoyment in the slightest. Perhaps some of that is owed to the fact that Brian May (of Queen) is a performer I’m relatively familiar with, and, yes, I happen to think he’s one of the geniuses of rock’n’roll. As for Ms. Ellis? Her voice and styling didn’t quite sync up with every song perhaps the way an audience might expect, but her delivery of some powerful vocals kept me captivated for the purposes of this wonderful 90-minute gem.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Eagle Rock Entertainment provided me with a DVD/CD copy of BRIAN MAY & KERRY ELLIS: THE CANDLELIGHT CONCERTS – LIVE AT MONTREUX 2013 by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.
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