Stop Making Sense Blu-ray Review
Stop Making Sense has never heightened your visual senses and this 1080p MPEG-4/AVC 1.78:1 Blu-ray encode is no different in that regard. Being 1.78:1 it's slightly narrower than its original 1.82:1 theatrical release. Blacks whilst lovingly deep, hide most of the shadow detail and exhibit a degree of crush, obscuring some of the finer corners of peoples faces or the podiums that some of the band members perform on. There are some bright whites and all are stable enough. The lack of colour makes it difficult to evaluate that particular aspect but skin tones appear natural and the swathes of red in the back drop have some level of depth. All are well confined, there is no hint of bleed.
The print is often grainy and this is more than understandable due to the film stocks used at the time and the low light levels used throughout and the print does exhibit some level of minor damage. The encode itself exhibits no problems, no banding in those red areas previously mentioned, no noise or blocking on show.
It's not ideal but it was never going to be. It is a slight step up from the earlier DVD release I have but admittedly not by that much, although there is a better sense of depth but this is really only apparent during the opening few numbers where the stage is wide and open and the background scaffolding can be seen. I am happy for it to remain the way it is, happy that it has not been tinkered with, it still presents a raw image which fits well with the nature of the concert and the songs sung.
There are three lossless tracks to take advantage of here, one of which is a straight port from the earlier DVD release. That original stereo PCM option is still there and is still a track which I do enjoy. The remaining two are HD variants of the tracks on the earlier release.
The two are lossless 5.1 versions, mixed slightly differently. The first is the 'concert' mix put together in such a way that you feel you're part of the crowd, there are some subtle crowd effects propagated to the surrounds to make you imagine you're four of five rows back from the front. The second is the so called 'studio' mix which is more or less the same but is slightly more front heavy as though you were listening to an album rather than a concert. No matter which one you eventually listen to the audio fidelity can not be questioned on any of these tracks. What can be questioned though is that the mix is sometimes a little off. Take for instance Steve Scales on percussion at the rear right of the stage, as the viewer sees it, however the notes he's producing at the time emanate from the front left speaker. There are a couple of other minor occurrences of this and it was a little distracting at the time.
Apart from that though the audio is absolutely glorious. Head and shoulders over the initial DVD release this has to be the one reason why everyone should upgrade their discs because other than the original PCM track the other two do appear to be rather anaemic in comparison.
Here you'll be able to listen to everything, each musical instrument can be plucked out of the mix and listened to independently, Tina Weymouth's bass lines, Alex Weir's funky guitar strokes, the keyboards at the rear coming across particularly strong. Lower tones from the bass guitar or Frantz's drum kit are tight and well presented with the higher tones from the keyboards and guitars hitting all the notes you have listened to on CD time and again. Every now and again I did think the centre channel should have been given a little more priority so Byrne's vocals could have been a little more coherent but really that's no complaint. What we do get is audio almost as good as if you were actually there. It has the feel of a concert to it.
All band members are joined by Jonathan Demme in discussing the production and their experiences on this feature film. You may have thought that David Byrne may have taken full control of this additional feature but like the press conference later he's not a the front as much as you thought he might have been. He admits though that he was becoming too dictatorial and his lyrics were a little disconnected and at times never really said that much. There's comparison to other concert footage, the people employed and links back to Japanese kabuki theatre. An excellent track to listen to.
- Bonus Songs. - 1080i/MPEG-4
3 additional songs all presented at 1.33:1 with DTS-HD/PCM audio. We have Cities coming in at 0:03:34 followed by a combined Big Business / I Zimbra combo at 0:07:39.
- Byrne Self Interview. - 0:04:35 - 1080i/MPEG-4
Byrne being true to self interviewing himself via split screen technology. The questions are easy enough, the answers are just bizarre. A brief glimpse of his True Stories project and the musicals he has worked on. The audio appears to be left of centre most of the time.
- Montage. - 0:03:08 - 1080i/MPEG-4
A selection of clips from the feature woven together, a little odd and no more than an elongated trailer.
- 1999 Press Conference. - 1:05:57 - 1080i/MPEG-4
An excellent press conference during the 15 year anniversary re-release. The band are asked a number of interesting questions, their favourite Talking Heads albums, what they liked about being in the band, their uniqueness and how they managed to evolve throughout their musical careers. At around the 59 minute mark there appears to be a problem with the video; it rolls then pauses for a few seconds. Don't let this put you off, this is a superb insight into the thoughts and feelings of the band members.
- Storyboards. - 1080p/MPEG-2
Byrne's original storyboards for the concert and the final performance comparison. The notes button shows you Byrne's original hand written notes on the staging and movement. Storyboards are pretty much a boring affair I find but these do have some weight and value. It's interesting to see how closely this was mapped out from the beginning.
- Big Suit.
A Text only extra detailing some reasons why the Big Suit was used.
- Trailer. - 0:01:50 - 1080i/MPEG-4
15th anniversary release trailers.
An excellent set of extras and certainly more than the very first DVD release I have. I never upgraded to the15th anniversary edition so for me this is a marked improvement. Along with these we get a few previews of other musical based documentaries or concerts, most of which look rather interesting.
There are a few video concerts I enjoy; The Who at the Isle of Wight, some of Woodstock and Live in the Flesh. This one though beats them all and beats them for a wide variety of reasons. I love the music and obviously that helps but it is the way this concert / film was planned then put together which sets it apart from all the rest. Not just a bunch of guys on stage in front of an appreciative crowd tinkling the ivories with some interspersed interviews, no! This is unadulterated, undiluted pure music for the sheer hell of it. Fast, energetic, committed and so much fun.
I do believe that The Talking Heads would have been no one without David Byrne and to some degree he would have been nothing without them. A self confessed shy individual he blossomed on stage breaking free of his cocoon to become the glorious performer which he undoubtedly is. I have had the pleasure of seeing him on a number of occasions and what you get in Stop Making Sense is exactly what you get when you see him live. A sense of awe, a sense of his commitment and an unbelievable sense of the energy he had then and still to this day has.
If David Lynch was the director you turned to at one point to see something off the wall then David Byrne was your kind of guy. Producing music which pushed the boundaries of what we had before he then took this talent and migrated it to the larger stage. Taking his beloved band and producing the next generation of video concert. From a disc point of view it is the audio which is the most important aspect here and they know it. Apart form a little odd placing in the mix it's never been bettered, never fuller, never so detailed. The video still leaves a little to be desired but it wasn't about that at all. Exemplary stuff and one, yet again, I have to recommend. Even if you're not a Talking Heads fan then I urge you to pick this up to see how a concert should be performed and presented.
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