Music Blu-ray Review: Hugh Laurie - Live on the Queen Mary

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Hugh Laurie isn’t the first actor to pursue a side career in music. Typical of others who have gone that route, he isn’t quite good enough to warrant releases like the concert video Live on the Queen Mary, new from Eagle Rock Entertainment. He’s a competent pianist and his between-song patter is charming. As long as he doesn’t open his mouth during the songs, this concert (filmed aboard the historic retired ocean liner RMS Queen Mary) is reasonably enjoyable. But Laurie’s goofy, growling blues affectations tire quickly.

Thank God then for Laurie’s Copper Bottom Blues Band. Not only is the group highly skilled, Laurie is generous enough to frequently share the spotlight with them. First and foremost, there are the singers Jean McClain (aka Pepper MaShay) and Gaby Moreno. When the “backing vocalists” sing circles around the headliner this effortlessly, it’s best to feature them as much as possible. Thankfully we get these ladies front and center on tunes like “Kiss of Fire” (a showcase for Moreno) and “Day and Night.” McClain gets into some deep blues for “I Hate a Man Like You.”

Hugh Laurie Queen Mary female singers (380x214).jpgEvery band member gets a chance to shine, with particularly badass playing from trombonist Elizabeth Lea and multi-horn player Vincent Henry. It all adds up to an 84-minute, good-time party. But there’s no escaping that eight popular seasons of House have given Laurie enough fame to allow for such a vanity project. From a purely vocal standpoint, this isn’t much different than listening to Dan Aykroyd and James Belushi as they continue to trot out their Blues Brothers routine (at least Aykroyd and original partner John Belushi’s dancing was funny to watch back in the day). Still, if you’re an insatiable Hugh Laurie fan, you’ll no doubt want to see this.

Eagle Rock’s 1080i high definition presentation is generally excellent. There’s one particular recurring head-on shot of Laurie at the piano that’s marred by some nagging horizontal lines that travel down the screen. You can’t really see it against the dark backdrop, but you can’t miss it travelling down Laurie’s face. Since it’s specific to one particular angle only, I can only assume this problem is inherent in footage shot with that one camera. As minor as that issue is, there are no such problems with the robust DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix.

To his credit, Laurie is humble and gracious in the 20-minute interview included as a bonus feature. Apparently originally broadcast on PBS in conjunction with the concert, Laurie discusses his background in music, his approach to performing, and shares his unbridled enthusiasm for the opportunity his fame has afforded. Despite his limited vocal ability, he’s obviously taking this enterprise quite seriously and the interview is an informative inclusion.

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Chaz Lipp is a Seattle-based freelance writer whose focus is music and film. As “The Other Chad,” he has written for the online magazine Blogcritics since 2008. When he’s not writing, Chaz can be found trolling jazz clubs, attempting to find somewhere to play his sax (whether anyone wants to hear…

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