Lady Gaga: The Monster Ball Tour – Madison Square Garden comes to US Region Free Blu-ray courtesy of HBO who have done another spectacular job with just regular 1080i. This isn’t the first time that 1080i has looked so good (see my Boardwalk Empire review) but it is still quite a surprise when you consider how distinctly average some recent 1080p presentations have been. Detail is generally very good throughout, with excellent sharpness and clarity, and very little comparative problems – negligible edge enhancement, and no excessive DNR problems. The colour scheme is excellent, with some expectedly bright, garish and vividly-represented tones, and the black and white sequences boast excellent contrast. Black levels are strong too. It’s not a perfect presentation – there is some noticeable banding to take it down a notch – but it’s another excellent 9/10 1080i presentation, defying expectations once more.
One of those relatively rare times when audio quality is actually considerably more important than video presentation, you should rest assured: the accompanying HD tracks present the special concert feature in spectacular fashion. There are two flavours to choose from: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround and Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Stereo, and both do a fantastic job. The mix perfectly blends what anybody familiar with her albums might expect the tracks to sound like with that great live concert edge, with plenty of frequent reassurance that Lady Gaga is actually delivering the vocals you hear from the more subtle changes in her voice and breathing. The accompanying backing music gives the surrounds a superb amount to do, and the low end bass, whilst never overpowering, certainly gives the tracks more punch and resonance. The crowd cheers and arena atmospherics never interfere with the performance, but just further add to the live experience and overall this is a pitch perfect concert feature.
There are only a couple of extras on this disc but, still, they’re good ones, and they are in-line with the concert special main feature.
Backstage at the Monster Ball offers us a 13 minute look behind the scenes, with Lady Gaga prepping for her concert and offering up interview snippets, alongside the likes of Liza Minnelli. There's nothing truly revealing here, but it's still a nice background Featurette which offers a little more insight into the artist.
“Born This Way” A Capella gives us an alternative version of the closing credits track (which was also a capella) from the main feature and once again reaffirms her abilities as a singer.
Here you get to enjoy a glimpse of some of the backstage and centre-stage shots from her tour.
As capable of captivating an audience just singing along while she plays the piano as when she is gyrating along to a number of well-choreographed visual setpieces, Lady Gaga is art, fashion, spectacle, sexuality, controversy, and sheer showmanship all rolled into one package, and has the potential to revolutionise the pop music industry in a way that has not been seen since before she was born. This HBO concert special documents two of the shows in her global Monster Ball Tour and exemplifies everything that is Lady Gaga, from being mysteriously vulnerable to being boundary-pushingly visceral. Love her or hate her, there’s no denying that she is an unstoppable force of nature so, if you haven’t already, then why not give up and embrace your inner Gaga? There’s no better place to start than here.
On Region A-locked US Blu-ray we get stunning video and simply perfect audio, as well as a couple of nice extras to round out a technically proficient disc. Fans will already have this in their collection – or should have – and newcomers could think of this as a great argument for why they should accept the global phenomenon that is Lady Gaga.
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