I’m not a “gleek.” I didn’t approach Glee the Concert from the perspective of a fan. In fact, the main reason I wanted to check it out is because I couldn’t quite believe it was even released theatrically. I have watched Glee from time to time and I have absolutely no problem with it. I don’t quite get the mass appeal, but it seems like inoffensive, lightweight entertainment. If that sounds a little condescending, so be it – it’s not my intention. My point is, I know there are rabid Glee fans as well as those who despise the show. I fall into neither camp. I watched the Blu-ray release of Glee the Concert out of curiosity. Does this truly work as a feature film, especially for anyone not already a fan?
Judging by the movie’s paltry $11.8 million box office take, not even all the fans felt like shelling out for Glee’s greatest hits live. Minus Jane Lynch, the primary cast took to the stage – in character – to perform songs featured on the show. This makes Glee the Concert feel more like a novelty than a worthwhile concert film. The running time of 84 minutes already feels a bit short, but the concert is padded with fan interviews and backstage material. In fact, this material feels considerably intrusive as it interrupts the flow of the concert.
One recurring fan segment follows a little person who happens to be a high school cheerleader. She goes to her prom with a standard-sized guy. This stuff is fine for what it is, and I understand that the show Glee is very empowering for many people who consider themselves outcasts for whatever reason. But in the context of a live concert, it feels like someone dropped in segments from MTV’s Made. It makes it hard to get a feel for what the actual concert experience was like. And the fan interviews recorded outside the arena are mostly unnecessary and inconsequential. In a way, the film’s producers seem to be pandering to the most emotionally troubled amongst the show’s fan base.
As for the musical portions of Glee the Concert, they reminded me of another franchise I have more experience with: American Idol. I’ve been to some of those live shows, which feature a very vanilla band backing up singers who rarely approach the quality of the original artists whose songs they are covering. As a fan of Idol, I mostly enjoy those shows even though in the majority of cases I’d rather be watching the original artist perform instead of subpar covers. I’m not sure if Glee fans ever feel that way, or if they just love hearing kitschy cover versions. Either way, just as an American Idol show is more enjoyable if you are familiar with that season’s cast members, Glee the Concert presumably plays far better to those familiar with the TV show. To be fair, the cast is energetic and puts on a good show. But Glee the Concert ends up feeling like an elaborately produced bonus feature that would be right at home on a Glee season boxset.
I need to state upfront: while Glee the Concertis available as a 2-D and 3-D release, I did not have access to the 3-D version. My thoughts are based entirely on the 2-D presentation. That said, the movie is kind of a mixed bag on Blu-ray in 1080p high definition, but luckily for fans it looks great when it needs to. That is to say, the concert sequences look consistently excellent. Check out the sparkling gold jackets the back-up dancers wear during “PYT.” The staging of the concert is not really incredible from a visual standpoint, but details like that really keep it looking interesting. Focus is sharp and the colors are realistic. The fan interview segments and backstage interviews are not visual knockouts, but that’s forgivable given that they basically amount to documentary footage. The outdoor fan stuff looks kind of grainy and oversaturated, with black crush wiping out much of the detail.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is similarly effective when it counts the most. The onstage performances sound good, with a nice, full bottom end from the LFE channel. The vocals are very prominent and free of distortion. The problem is none of it really sound like a live concert. I’m not really suggesting this is entirely the fault of the Blu-ray mix. I don’t believe for a second that all the singing is live, especially a particularly phony “I’m a Slave 4 U.” If the performers were sometimes miming to pre-recorded tracks, whatever – that’s the nature of the show. But if the goal with this mix was to create an immersive, live concert experience then it wasn’t fully realized. Audience reaction seems to have been largely mixed out, which leaves the rear channels underutilized.
The 2-D Blu-ray combo pack of Glee the Concert includes a standard DVD (sans special features). The supplemental features on the Blu-ray include a pair of bonus performances (including Rebecca Black’s “Friday”). There is also a pair of extended performances. “Onstage with the Cast” actually functions more like deleted scenes as it features Jane Lynch onstage as Sue Sylvester, introducing a couple segments of the show. “Backstage with the Cast” is fairly self-explanatory as it is basically additional cast interviews similar to what is in the main feature. “Shazam” is apparently a downloadable app that will allow you to access more supplemental footage on your mobile device whenever the Shazam logo appears onscreen. Isn’t this getting a little carried away? Just put all the bonus material on the Blu-ray instead of making fans jump through hoops to access it.