Earth, Wind & Fire's Live At Montreux 1997 has been reissued on Blu-ray by Eagle Rock Entertainment, and the results are excellent. Over the course of 90 minutes, the legendary group run through a set that includes some of their best known work. Hits like "September" and "Shining Star" are present in strong renditions, but some of the less well-known songs are definite highlights. The then-contemporary flop single "Revolution" springs to life as a relaxed, funky jam. There is so much quality musicianship in this show, even the uninitiated are likely to be fans by the end.
Among the dazzling moments of virtuosity are solo segments from Sonny Emory on drums and Morris Pleasure on keyboard. These are obvious crowd-pleasing set pieces and they translate just fine on this Blu-ray release. The interplay between the large ensemble is tight and well-arranged as always with these guys. "That's the Way Of the World," a significant hit for the group in 1975, arrives mid-program and provides possibly the show's climax. By the time the show closes with a long jam on "Devotion," the sweat dripping from the musicians' brows is well earned indeed. Special note must be made of Philip Bailey who, despite nearing 60 years of age, remains an outstanding vocalist in full command of his range.
Seven songs from the band's 1998 Montreux performance are included as a bonus. This footage is, unfortunately, presented in standard definition. Even so, fans of the group will no doubt be pleased to have this material. All of the tunes are different than those found in the 1997 set. "Love's Holiday" and the set-closing "Getaway" make this performance worth checking out alone. The inferior audio and visual quality are the only things keeping this footage from being essential.
The 1997 set is presented in 1080i high definition and looks quite good. The 12-year-old video footage barely show it's age. While not reference-quality, the image is solid. Even more important is the audio, and again this Blu-ray disc delivers. The DTS HD Master Audio track is strongly preferable over the other options (a serviceable LPCM 2.0 Stereo track and a Dolby Digital 5.1 track). The DTS best represents the feel of seeing Earth, Wind & Fire live in concert. The bass and percussion really bump, while the horn section rings through with crystal clarity. Live At Montreux 1997 is simply a no-brainer for fans of the mighty R&B group.