Prince and the Revolution: Live – Collector’s Edition Box Set (Blu-ray Review)

  • Reviewed by: Stephen Bjork
  • Review Date: Jun 09, 2022
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Prince and the Revolution: Live – Collector’s Edition Box Set (Blu-ray Review)

Director

Paul Becher

Release Date(s)

1985 (June 3, 2022)

Studio(s)

Warner Music Video/Paisley Park Records
  • Film/Program Grade: B+
  • Video Grade: C
  • Audio Grade: B+
  • Extras Grade: N/A
  • Overall Grade: A-

Review

[Editor's Note: This release is currently a Prince web store exclusive. Other options for different bundles are availble on Amazon. Check the Additional Notes section below for more details after reading the review.]

The late great Prince Rogers Nelson was one of the most idiosyncratic artists in the history of popular music, and he always followed his own muse regardless of commercial considerations. He recorded multiple albums that he shelved without releasing, and he even recalled The Black Album after it had already been released. His eccentricities extended to performing as well, and in 1985, at the height of his commercial success with Purple Rain, he decided to bring the accompanying tour to a halt and retreat back to the studio instead. Fortunately, he also decided to leave a record of that tour behind, and so on March 30, 1985, his show at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York was broadcast live to the world. Prince and the Revolution: Live was also released on VHS and LaserDisc, but it languished in the Prince vaults for decades after that. It wasn’t released on DVD until 2017, but that was only bundled with the expanded edition of the Purple Rain remastered album. Five years after that, the show is finally hitting Blu-ray, remixed and remastered in Dolby Atmos.

While the lineup for The Revolution had changed over the years, at the time of the broadcast, it consisted of Wendy Melvoin on guitar, Brown Mark on bass, Bobby Z. on drums, and Lisa Coleman & Doctor Fink on keyboards. Prince also invited Eric Leeds, Jerome Benton, Sheila E., and a few others to join the show. That may have been a further sign of Prince’s restlessness as an artist—The Revolution’s days as his backing band were already numbered at that point, and he would move on from them the following year. That's not a knock against any of the members of the band; it just shows how Prince never wanted to feel limited by anything, including his regular collaborators.

The set list drew heavily from Purple Rain, as well as Prince’s previous album 1999, but he also picked a couple cuts from Controversy, and included a few B-sides as well. Appropriately enough, the show opened with the iconic altar call of Let’s Go Crazy, and ended with an anthemic, nearly twenty-minute-long rendition of Purple Rain. There’s a good reason why the album Purple Rain started and ended the same way: it works. The two songs form perfect bookends for each other, and there was no better way to start and end one of his concerts.

Taken as a whole, it’s an electrifying performance, with all members of the band at the height of their powers. Yet some of the most memorable moments aren’t necessarily musical ones, like Wendy handing flowers out to the audience during the introduction of Little Red Corvette, or Prince pretending to take a nap while forcing the band to hold onto a single excruciatingly long note at the end of Take Me with U. Prince still had boundless energy in 1985, but with the benefit of hindsight, it’s hard to watch some of his antics without thinking about the toll that they took on him. He leaps off of platforms and rolls around the stage with reckless abandon, and the damage that he did to his back over the years is what led to his addiction to opioids. He gave himself body and soul for his music, at tragic cost. Fortunately, he left an amazing body of work behind him.

Prince and the Revolution: Live was originally broadcast live, while simultaneously being recorded onto videotape in NTSC format. For this Blu-ray presentation, restoration work was performed by DigitalFilm Tree in Los Angeles. The VHS master tape was digitized, color corrected, and upscaled to 1080i/59.94mhz. The resulting 1.33:1 image is understandably quite soft, especially in the long shots, where the faces of the band tend to look featureless. There’s also some aliasing and other artifacts visible at times, though many shots look reasonably clean. Not surprisingly, the close-ups fare best, while the opening and closing titles look the worst. The black levels aren’t very deep, and detail is washed out in the darker areas of the screen. Bright highlights tend to smear, such as the stage lights, or when the audience waves their lighters. Interestingly, DigitalFilm Tree chose to add a light layer of artificial grain to help disguise the fact that everything originated on videotape, but they did so in a relatively restrained fashion, and it doesn’t obscure any detail that wasn’t there in the first place. It’s not a spectacular presentation, but given the limitations of the standard definition video source, it does need to be graded on a curve.

Audio is offered in 2.0 LPCM, 5.1 Dolby TrueHD, and Dolby Atmos. For this release, the original 2” master analogue tapes were digitally remixed and remastered, with audio engineer Chris James creating the new Atmos mix. All three versions display a striking improvement in clarity compared to the original 2.0 mix, which sounded much muddier. Thankfully, the guitars have now been brought up in the mix, especially Wendy’s, though Brown Mark’s bass also benefits. Prince’s vocals are crystal-clear, as are the backing vocals. The only remaining issue is that the bass is somewhat limited—there’s a bit of thump from the kick drum, especially at the end of Let’s Go Crazy, but it’s still not particularly deep. The 5.1 and Atmos mixes both have crowd noise drawn into the surrounds to put the viewer into the audience, but the focus stays on the front channels. It’s more immersive, but not dramatically so.

Sony Music’s Collector’s Edition Box Set of Prince and the Revolution: Live includes one Blu-ray, two CDs, and three colored 150g LPs, with everything housed in a gorgeous box that’s been printed with a luxe foil finish. The set also includes 24” x 36” poster, a Digital download code, and a 44-page booklet which features photographs, memorabilia, liner notes, and reminiscences from members of The Revolution. Sony Music has also released two other versions: one that includes the Blu-ray and CDs only, and another that includes only the LPs. Regardless of which version you choose, the set list is identical, though it’s obviously divided out differently depending on the format. There are no extras on the Blu-ray, or any bonus tracks on the CDs or LPs. On the other hand, depending which version you choose, the packaging itself is an extra of its own. Here’s the full set list, broken down by format:

DISC ONE: BD

  1. Let’s Go Crazy
  2. Delirious
  3. 1999
  4. Little Red Corvette
  5. Take Me with U
  6. Yankee Doodle Dandy
  7. Do Me, Baby
  8. Irresistible Bitch
  9. Possessed
  10. How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore
  11. Let’s Pretend We’re Married
  12. International Lover
  13. God
  14. Computer Blue
  15. Darling Nikki
  16. The Beautiful Ones
  17. When Doves Cry
  18. I Would Die 4 U
  19. Baby I’m a Star
  20. Purple Rain

DISC TWO: CD I

  1. Let’s Go Crazy
  2. Delirious
  3. 1999
  4. Little Red Corvette
  5. Take Me with U
  6. Yankee Doodle Dandy
  7. Do Me, Baby
  8. Irresistible Bitch
  9. Possessed
  10. How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore
  11. Let’s Pretend We’re Married
  12. International Lover
  13. God
  14. Computer Blue

DISC THREE: CD II

  1. Darling Nikki
  2. The Beautiful Ones
  3. When Doves Cry
  4. I Would Die 4 U
  5. Baby I’m a Star
  6. Purple Rain

DISC FOUR: LP I

  1. Let’s Go Crazy
  2. Delirious
  3. 1999
  4. Little Red Corvette
  5. Take Me with U
  6. Yankee Doodle Dandy
  7. Do Me, Baby
  8. Irresistible Bitch
  9. Possessed
  10. How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore

DISC FIVE: LP II

  1. Let’s Pretend We’re Married
  2. International Lover
  3. God
  4. Computer Blue
  5. Darling Nikki
  6. The Beautiful Ones
  7. When Doves Cry

DISC SIX: LP III

  1. I Would Die 4 U
  2. Baby I’m a Star
  3. Purple Rain

Die-hard Prince fans with unlimited budgets will doubtless want the Collector’s Edition Box Set for the packaging alone, and vinyl fans will definitely want the LPs, but it’s still the same content no matter what. So from a value standpoint, the 2CD + BD version is definitely the sweet spot. Regardless, the choice is yours. Even if you’re just a casual Prince fan, Prince and the Revolution: Live is an essential viewing and listening experience.

Prince and the Revolution: Live (Blu-ray)

- Stephen Bjork

(You can follow Stephen on social media at these links: Twitter and Facebook.)

 

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