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Music DVD Review: Erasure – Live at the Royal Albert Hall

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Recorded at London's Royal Albert Hall on September 25, 2007, synth-pop duo Erasure's latest DVD release captures the group in support of their latest album, Light at The End of the World.

As someone who has never seen Erasure live, I was looking forward to this release. And while musically satisfying, the concert experience was somewhat lacking (apparently an Erasure concert is normally quite the event, with lead singer Andy Bell known for his frequent, and flamboyant, costume changes; there is one costume change mid-way through the show).

The stage set is fairly simple, with two raised sections, one for the three backup singers (Valerie Chalmers, Rachel Montez Collins, and Christa Jackson) and one for Bell's musical partner Vince Clarke, at a station with a small keyboard and laptop computer (and, a few times, with an acoustic guitar) performing the music. The lighting is undramatic, with much of the concert shadowed in blues and blacks, with some reds and brighter colors used during up-tempo numbers. In fact, the most colorful thing on stage are the backup singers during a costume change into pastel wigs and dresses.

Andy Bell and his backup singers (credited on the DVD as "The Gazelles") do a marvelous job. Bell is in top form and is a charismatic performer. And while Vince Clarke may be the "brains" behind Erasure, Bell is definitely the group's heart and soul, with The Gazelles providing a pleasing harmony to Bell's voice. Clarke, perhaps by choice, stays in the background at his keyboard, with Bell and The Gazelles the focus of attention; their onstage interaction is playful and fun to watch, especially in songs like "Sucker for Love" and "Victim of Love".

Selections from Erasure's lengthy catalog are well represented, with early hits like "Oh L'Amour" (performed in a very silly manner by Bell) and "Sometimes" to "A Little Respect" and more recent songs like "I Could Fall in Love With You."

As much as I enjoyed the music, the video transfer leaves a lot to be desired. The concert is presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio with an abundance of compression artifacts (aliasing is a big problem) and edge enhancement noticeable throughout. Colors are muted when they should be bright (particularly with The Gazelles decked out in pastels).

The audio options include a DTS 5.1 mix, a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, and a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix. The DTS mix wins out with a richer sound and more noticeable use of the surround channels.

In addition to the concert, the DVD features a 30-minute mini-documentary which provides some interesting background into the group and its fans. Andy Bell, Vince Clarke and members of The Gazelles are interviewed, and the viewer gains some insight into Erasure's creative process.

While not a perfect release by any means, Erasure: Live at The Royal Albert Hall will be a welcome addition to any longtime Erasure fan's collection, and is accessible to new fans as well.

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