Destiny’s Child: Live in Atlanta Blu-ray Review

I have to admit never having paid much attention to Destiny’s Child before their disbanding a couple years ago as R&B isn’t my cup of tea. In fact, my ignorance about the group runs so deep that I didn’t even know Beyonce was a member and have never heard of Michelle Williams or Kelly Rowland. Looking back at the group’s Atlanta performance on Blu-ray filmed during their farewell tour presents an opportunity to see where now-superstar Beyonce came from and to see if I would recognize any of their songs.

The latter question is quickly put to rest when the show kicks off with “Say My Name,” their last mega-hit and a hard driving way to get things rolling. It’s a clever hook for non-Destiny Child’s fans to wonder what other recognizable hits are to follow, and it caught me dead in the cheek. A couple other songs like “Bootylicious” and “No, No, No” sound vaguely familiar, but clearly “Say My Name” is what I recognized and responded to best.

Even when equally partnered with her life-long friends its clear Beyonce is the main draw. No offense to Michelle and Kelly, but it’s hard not to keep the eyes trained on Beyonce and judging by the number of shots she’s the focus of, the director and cameramen felt the same way. When the girls are each given an opportunity to perform solo, Beyonce is the only one who shows any sort of stage presence aided by an extremely short pair of pants. When performing as a group, more often than not Beyonce takes the center spot in the trio and elicits the most applause from male attendees, especially when she tells them she loves them over and over.

Speaking of male attendees, as is customary at Destiny’s Child concerts a trio of lucky men is randomly chosen from the audience for a rub down from the famous ladies. I feel sorry for the two chaps who landed Michelle and Kelly. Not because they were pulled on stage, but because they had to sit quietly mere inches away from the extremely lucky man who got the full once over from Beyonce. This intermission of sorts is a nice break from the rapid fire song-after-song format and mandatory dance sessions giving the ladies a chance to catch their breath and change outfits.

We get to meet the men pulled on stage in Fan Testimonials, the first of several 480i extra features. Here it is learned that Beyonce’s suitor is married and warned his wife he thought he’d be picked. I’d be shocked if he didn’t return to his seat and suffer the wrath of a verbal jealous attack. Another small featurette, A Family Affair, traces the group’s path from their early days as a living room act right through to their farewell tour. It runs a brisk half-hour and is the perfect compliment to the concert. Also included is a trio of audio-only tracks from each of the girls: “Flashback” featuring Kelly Rowland, “Check On It Remix” featuring Beyonce, and “Let’s Stay Together” featuring Michelle Williams.

Concerts are a tricky beast for high definition as they’re laced with all kinds of colorful sporadic stage lighting and dimly lit crowds. Faced with a two-plus hour runtime and extra features, Sony wisely chose to utilize Blu-ray’s 50-GB capacity to make the most of the MPEG-2 1080i encode and the tricky lighting spectacles. The result is a stunningly realistic film-like picture that evenly brings out the elaborate colorful costumes and sets on stage and avoids black crush and other compression anomalies concerts are often plagued by. While not reminiscent of the clarity found in films shot on HD cameras, the realism brought forth in this transfer will put a smile back on Destiny’s Child fans faces.

Sony provides both 5.1 and 2.0 PCM audio tracks to rumble your home theater with as both provide plenty of bang for the buck. I found the 5.1 mix to be a tad overly aggressive in the front soundstage and consequently not utilizing the rears enough to pull me into the concert experience. That minor gripe aside, both mixes sound fantastic with spacious bass and faithful reproduction of the music. I did detect some mixing issues making lyrics difficult to understand at times. Or, the R&B style combined with the lyrics naturally makes them hard to understand for newbies like me.

Destiny’s Child sure knew how to throw a farewell party and, thanks to Sony, the experience of being there is now available in the most realistic form yet on Blu-ray. For not being a fan of R&B music, I relatively enjoyed the show and appreciated the high definition presentation even more. For those of you on the fence about checking this disc out need to only hear three words to make up your mind: Beyonce in HD.

– Dan Bradley

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