Blu-ray Review: Brian May & Kerry Ellis - The Candlelight Concerts - Live at Montreux 2013

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An unexpectedly emotional surprise arrives as a Blu-ray/CD combo pack from Eagle Rock Entertainment in the form of Brian May and Kerry Ellis’ The Candlelight Concerts - Live at Montreux 2013. May, of course, needs no introduction for fans of classic rock. He’s a founding member and guitarist extraordinaire for Queen. Less familiar to most potential listeners is Ellis, a 34-year-old singer and recording artist best known for her musical theatre work. In Candlelight, Ellis handles most of the lead vocals, backed up by May (who sings the occasional tune) on guitar and Jeff Leach on keys.

The 90-minute concert is, as the title suggests, candlelit and quite intimate—as scaled down as imaginable. The performers remain seated most of the time and the entire affair is incredibly low key. Honestly, I got a sinking feeling when I scanned the set list and saw tracks like “Born Free” and “The Way We Were.” A few Queen standards notwithstanding, this is definitely not a rock show, so adjust your expectations as such. It’s quite an eclectic song selection. ‘Tasteful’ is the word that comes to mind to sum up the entire show. Obvious highlights include Queen classics “Somebody to Love,” “Tie Your Mother Down,” and “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.” There’s also an emotive take on the Beatles’ “Something” and May & Ellis even toss in a fun-loving original, “The Kissing Me Song.”

More than one mention is made during the concert of the Born Free Foundation, a wildlife organization that both May and Ellis support. In fact, they toured together to raise awareness for Born Free. The CD is a live album, Acoustic by Candlelight, recorded in November 2012 during the Born Free tour. It’s a nice inclusion, as all the performances are of course different than the video and the set list varies a bit as well.

The reliable Eagle Rock has come through again in the tech department with a gorgeous 1080i high definition presentation. Every squiggly hair in May’s gray mane is crystal clear. Depending on your proclivities, however, you may find Ellis a more pleasing sight—she’s beautifully lighted throughout and the simple visual treatment allows us to see the emotion etched in her face. The audio options include LPCM 2.0 stereo and DTS-HD MA 5.1—pick your poison, they both sound great. There’s not too much going on in this simple mix, but I did prefer the added heft provided by the DTS.

Bonus features are extremely limited, with only a brief acoustic performance of “Nothing Has Really Changed.” The footage was captured on location in on a game reserve in South Africa. I’d count the CD as a bonus, but it does seem to be built into the retail cost of the release. Queen fans are likely to the be the most immediately interested, but The Candlelight Concerts is an enjoyable experience for general fans of low-key pop.

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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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