A Starry Night With Simply Red Review
The chances are that anybody reading this will have a fairly firm idea of what they think of Simply Red. In the most general of terms, people tend to be fans or side with Tony Wilson/God in 24 Hour Party People, namely that “the music’s rubbish and he’s a ginger”, and as such any of my own thoughts are unlikely to sway opinions. With this in mind, the following review will focus firmly on the technical side of the gig in question and not the music, though my general indifference may sneak through at times and for this I apologise to the fans.
A Starry Night... was recorded at a concert in Hamburg in 1992 during a tour on which Simply Red promoted their fourth album, Stars, around the world. Now thirteen years old it must surely be safe to assume that its release on DVD at this time is in part due to the quality of the gig. Indeed, Mick Hucknall is in good voice, the band are tight and proficient (and even allowed a Mick-less jamming number), and most of the major hits are included as part of a 20 song set (as is the obligatory moment in which the mostly middle aged, mostly female audience go into raptures over Hucknall letting his hair down).
Where this release differs from its previous VHS incarnation is in the fact that it is now available in anamorphic widescreen and has a choice of soundtracks and subtitles (though the latter only apply to the pre- and post-song banter). Rather than just standard stereo, A Starry Night... is now also provided with optional DD5.1 and DTS mixes. Neither takes unnecessary liberties with their source and both make for a more involving gig experience such is their expansiveness (and in this respect the DTS pips the 5.1 offering, though those without DTS capability aren’t missing out on too much) - certainly, there are no technical problems to speak of.
Visually much the same is true, though the source must be taken into consideration. Had the concert been filmed today then no doubt it would have been just that touch sharper than in 1992, though otherwise the disc copes well with the various lighting conditions, from a single spotlights to huge washes of colour and, of course, the lighter brandishing crowd. Moreover, director Russell Thomas seemingly gets his cameras everywhere - in the audience, above the audience, behind the audience and on stage, of course - in a manner that will no doubt satisfy those looking for a faithful recreation of the concert. That said, his techniques are rarely adventurous - in fact, they’re as safe and lightweight as the music they’re capturing - though in this respect it must also be noted that they are also rarely intrusive. The closest he gets is some gliding movements during ‘Model’ and in selecting his editing rhythms in accordance to how much the bass is being slapped.
As a final note, we also have a 13-minute contemporary interview with Mick Hucknall as an extra feature. During this piece he discusses the history of the band and Hamburg gig with occasional interpolations from his band members and backing singers. I doubt that there’s anything here that fans won’t know already, though it will no doubt find favour with the hardcore.
Same Old Red
A New Flame
It’s Only Love
Holding Back the Years
Let Me Have It All
Come to My Aid
I Won’t Feel Bad
Money’s Too Tight (To Mention)
If You Don’t Know Me By Now
The Right Thing
For Your Babies
Something Got Me Started