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Saga - Contact - Live In Munich (DVD) CD (album) cover

CONTACT - LIVE IN MUNICH (DVD)

Saga

Crossover Prog


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Queen By-Tor
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Bye Michael.

For someone who's been in a band for 30 years as the lead frontman to quit on good terms with the band that he's no doubt had so many good times with must be a little heartbreaking. Contact is the Michael Sadler farewell concert, Saga's last show with the man who has been the distinctive voice of the seminal Canadian band for so very long. With a huge selection of songs and some ace shooting on the part of the production company, Saga fans are sure to appreciate this massive set, and people new to the world of Saga will have some good footing to start with these CDs/DVDs to go out and explore the band's massive discography.

What works so well about the DVD overall is the performances. 30 years later Sadler is still at the top of his game as far as vocals and showmanship goes (and who knew he was fluent in German?) while the rest of the band is just as capable. The show really is all about Sadler though, and though he does give time away from the spotlight for piano and drum solos we all know that since this is his last concert with the band he's going to go all out to make it a worthwhile one. And he does, between interaction with the crowd and his interaction with his bandmates on stage the man sure knows how to keep a concert from getting boring. Of course, let's no forget about his insurmountable talent as a singer - man, that guy can belt out lines like nothing!

Standouts during the 22 song set are not far or few. Starting with the emotional opus The Interview, Saga bursts right into their set and never looks back. The lighting effects on stage are also key - adding to the drama of not only having this be Sadler's last concert, but since Saga's music is just so dramatic already, really. You're Not Alone keeps things going in the upbeat tempo put on by the first couple songs and the band finds a way to elevate this particular song from good to amazing thanks to some killer solos and some great crowd interaction which keeps things moving. The band starts to near headbanging proportions with songs like the rocking The Flyer and Mind Over Matter with it's amusing circus-y intro. On The Loose is also an incredible standout thanks to the performer's energy - including a dual keyboard solo!

What also adds to the concert is the more 'touching' moments. After all, this is Sadler's last concert, so you can expect there to be some more heartbreaking moments. The first of which is the singer's A Capella rendition of The Security Of Illusion in which the crowd hums along note for note. After the first set and prior to the beginning of the encore Sadler also gets what is probably the biggest bouquet of flowers ever seen on stage from his crew, band members and family while the crowd holds up "Bye Michael" signs all throughout the venue. The band actually pulls two encores, but the best performance of them all has to be Don't Be Late thanks to speed effects used in the video that adds to the drama of everything along with the lighting which just makes the whole thing surreal.

Aside from the main concert, the DVD has a bunch of goodies. The second disc of the set also includes some b-roll type material with different members of the band talking about their memories of the band getting their start around Toronto, there's also another take of the concert material for German TV that doesn't have quite the same quality as the main concert, and no new songs, but it's an enjoyable set none the less. The set also includes a double cd set of the main concert in case you want to take it on the road with you.

Overall it would be hard to give this any less than 4 stars. Minimal critique - other than I have to say that the time between the encores was excruciatingly long and while there was some great stuff going on there was also a whole lot of the back of the audience's head while there was no one on stage. Dudes in the editing room... cut that part, man!! Yes, all the other stuff including the audience holding up the signs was top material, but there's no need to stare at the back of the audience's heads for 5 minutes while the camera man fiddles with the gain control, there's no cuts even!

That rant aside, this is a killer DVD set and any fan would be happy to have it in their collection. Non -fans will also find a good place to start (as mentioned before) - so make sure you pick this one up, be you a fan or someone who has been interested in the band at some point over their prolific career.

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Send comments to Queen By-Tor (BETA) | Report this review (#212319)
Posted Friday, April 24, 2009 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
3 stars Wow, having won this DVD through ProgArchives made me curious to check out what had happened to this band, since I more or less lost contact with them around their fifth album or their In Transit live album. I had a good idea that the group had remained fairly true to themselves and their ideals, even if they were always too commercial for me and certainly even more too "pop music" for me. This target was achievable precisely because they were fairly pop and had an 80's sound before the 80's had started, but it also helped that the original 5 line-up remained together until 2003 when drummer Steve Negus left. Some four years later, it is now lead-singer Michael Sadler's bowing out that the group is facing, and the group chose to cap this off in the heart of their stronghold, Munich, Germany.

As a teen in Toronto in the late 70's, there were a few bands that were blossoming out of the city, Rush, Max Webster, Triumph, Goddo, Zon and Saga, and were grasping for an international status. While Rush and Triumph achieved that fairly quickly, things looked to be stalling for the others, of which for Webster, it seemed to be all too unjustified. Then one day, we discovered that Saga was headlining major tours in Central Europe and that bands like Styx were opening for them. From that moment onwards, Saga jumped on the occasion and concentrated and build-up on what would become their stronghold. Thus the Sadler farewell concert couldn't have taken place anywhere else but in front of their most (and overly?) loyal fans. If I said overly, it's because it's a characteristic of German fans to keep bands alive enough in Germany, where they might be a spent force elsewhere on the rest of the planet. (ask BJH or MMEB, for example)

So, in front of an already acquired crowd, Saga triumphs easily, even trying to babble whatever German they might have picked-up over 25 years there, although you'd wonder if they ever tried to learn the language, for when I say babble, that's pretty well it. Sadler is not really looking like a rock frontmen anymore, having taken an appearance that most white- collar workers might arbor at home, but since retirement knocks. So for a small two hours, the group will revisit their past, with an expected slant on the first five albums. While it was probably impossible to play all of the fan favorites, they managed a good selection of them, mixed with a selection of 90's and early 00's tracks. Actually it's rather difficult, if you're not all that familiar wall of their albums, to tell which songs date from which era, since they pretty well all sound so Saga. And if you're a moderate fan, this grows rapidly irritating, being bombarded with the same old sounds.

Of course the group could not avoid the early classic like Humble Stance, You're Not Alone or Don't Be Late (but there are a few missing here), but they concentrated them for the second part of the show, preferring to dish out mid-career songs in the first part, a bit as if they were a bit fillers. The aptly-named Droemer (I think) replaces Negus well enough that you don't notice it, while the Crichton bros are equal to themselves, Ian's guitars ranging from pure pop to metallic riffing with a few dazzling solos at stakes), but it's clearly Sadler's show, and mo-one would dare stealing it. So the concert ends in the inevitable and unglorified triumph with two encores that simply nailed the coffin shut.

The double DVD object's presentation is a bit sparse (no booklet, for ex) and the second disc is much less successful, showing another show, with some iffy sound conditions and the usual needless stuff, unless a confirmed fan. Which brings up the question about its essential-ness?.. Well unconditionals will find it essential; casuals will find a good useful show, although they might prefer an older prestation, and for aloof fans (like me but multiplied by 20 or 50) that were ever really thinking of one day buying up Cds to replace long lost vinyls, this DVD is wayayayay more than enough; I rounded up objectively this rating to the upper third star.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#221529)
Posted Wednesday, June 17, 2009 | Review Permalink

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