A Concert By the Lake is a relatively unassuming title for a live concert featuring the likes of Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Procol Harum founder Gary Brooker, and other noteworthy artists. Eagle Rock Entertainment has recently released this 2006 performance on Blu-ray disc, to the nearly certain approval of classic rock aficionados. The concert was held as a fund-raiser for the charity HASTE (Heart and Stroke Trust Endeavour). The location was the historic Wintershall Estate in Surrey (a county in the South East of England).
A distinctly black-tie affair, the highbrow audience still lets its hair down to enjoy the assembled all-star band. Gary Brooker serves as the musical director for the evening, and he is in great voice for the Procol Harum classic "A Whiter Shade of Pale." He also leads the band through a spirited show-closing rendition of Genesis' "I Can't Dance." It helps that Genesis' own Mike Rutherford is in the band on guitar. Rutherford is accompanied by his Mike + the Mechanics bandmate Paul Carrack, who handles lead vocals on the Mechanics' hit "Over My Shoulder" as well as his own "How Long."
The highlights came from Eric Clapton, who is in fine form for several songs. The highlight for me being a strong reading of "Stormy Monday," featuring jazz great Chris Barber. "Cocaine" is on the of the more predictable inclusions, but also present are "Lay Down Sally," "Reconsider Baby," and "Willie & the Hand Jive." Another excellent segment of the show finds Ringo Starr delivering energetic takes of a couple well known tunes. Starr can do this stuff in his sleep, as "With a Little Help From My Friends" and "Photograph" find their way into every All-Starr tour he's undertaken in the past twenty years. But for anyone who hasn't yet seen him perform them, it should be a nice treat.
Roger Taylor, Queen's drummer, fronts the group for a short set of Queen songs. I wasn't especially impressed, not being a Queen fan to begin with, but those who are may find this portion of the concert fun. I realize Taylor sang lead occasionally for Queen, but not on the songs he performs here. It's kind of weird when another member of a band fills in for the deceased frontman. I guess it works as a tribute, but the vocals aren't as good as Freddie Mercury's.
A version of the classic R&B group The Drifters turns up to perform a pair of songs. "Stand By Me" is, of course, a perennial classic Ben E. King hit that wasn't a Drifters release to begin with – let alone having anything to do with this new version of the group. "Under the Boardwalk," which was sung by the late Johnny Moore during his tenure with the group, is also performed. Somewhat amusingly, these new Drifters come out during "I Can't Dance" and dance like Genesis did in the music video. But otherwise, I really don't know why these pretenders were booked for the show. I would've rather seen more from Clapton or pretty much any of the other performers.
A Concert By the Lake looks outstanding on Blu-ray. The high definition transfer is crisp and clean, with vividly realistic. The various lighting effects come across very well, including an impressive fireworks display that compliments the final number. The audio is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio, Dolby Digital 5.1, and LPCM 2.0 stereo. The best option is the DTS-HD track, which really shines. The audio presentation is realistic, with punchy bass and distortion-free treble. Overall this is an excellent job by Eagle Rock.
As for extra features, the only item is a brief behind-the-scenes featurette called "The Road To Wintershall." Clocking in at just under ten minutes, this piece is a very superficial look at the benefit concert. Most of the key performers chime in with their two cents about what a great cause it is and how much fun they've had preparing. A couple snippets of rehearsal footage are shown, which only makes one wish they had actually thrown in a bit more of that. Regardless, the primary reason to get A Concert By the Lake is for the show itself.