Recorded at the legendary Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco, California during their 2005 reunion tour, The Black Crowes: Freak 'n' Roll... Into the Fog captured the band fifteen years into their careers and still proving they have the musical skills.
The Black Crowes' music is strictly in the realm of retro-styled, guitar driven Rock, much in the vein of classic bands such as The Faces, The Allman Brothers Band, The Rolling Stones, even Led Zeppelin and Santana. In this concert, they stuck closely to those roots and put on a powerful, soulful performance that kept the crowd entertained.
The band thankfully anchored their playlist with many of their most popular songs, including "Remedy," "She Talks to Angels," "Hard to Handle," and "Soul Singing," but the strongest performances of the evening had to go to the numbers "Space Captain," "Wiser Time," and a gentle, all-acoustic performance of "Cursed Diamond."
Looking just as sprightly and spirited as they did back in the days of Shake Your Money Maker, and sounding just as energized, it is easy to see and hear why the reunion tour was as successful as it was. The brothers Robinson should never have parted ways, or perhaps it was the brief time apart that helped to reinvigorate their creative inspiration, but as long as they can keep putting on shows with good old-time Rock and Roll like this, they should stay around for a long while.
Originally shot in high definition, Freak 'n' Roll... Into the Fog is presented on this release in its original 1.78:1 1080i/60 format. The picture is rather clean, as one would expect from an original high definition production, but it does lack some of the finer details of a 1080p picture and shows some motion artifacts that are most likely the result of the interlaced 1080i picture. This is most apparent on close up shots of the musicians' quick moving hands, etc. There is some slight video noise, but it is subtle and non-distracting.
The biggest fault with the picture is that at least one or two of the cameras that were used appear to have had some dead pixels, and they were very noticeable throughout the presentation in various shots. Apart from that, the transfer itself was flawless. Flesh tones were natural, black levels were as they should be, contrast was correct and no compression artifacts could be detected.
Uncompressed PCM stereo, DTS 5.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes are offered on this release. I listened mainly to the DTS 5.1 mix for the purposes of this review and sampled portions of the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. I also listened to a few of the performances in the uncompressed PCM stereo mix.
The DTS 5.1 mix offers the best option out of the two surround mixes available on this disc. Unfortunately, no PCM or lossless surround option is available. Mixed in a typical audience perspective for live shows, there is ample ambience in the surround channels; crowd noise is minimal and thereby not very distracting. The guitars are mixed hard left and hard right, but they are still a bit lost in the mix and sound too thin; they could have been brought forward a bit. The drums overwhelm the sound of the entire mix and are far too prominent. High frequencies are on the tizzy side, but are still easy on the ears.
The Dolby Digital mix seems to be a different mastering. The dynamics are completely gone. The volume is pushed to the maximum and the midrange is boosted. The high frequencies sound much harsher and low frequencies are boomy. The stereo PCM mix, on the other hand, is the complete opposite -- the dynamics are there, but it is mastered the lowest of the three and also seems to be a little thin on the low end.
The sole extra on this disc, labeled simply "extra footage" (1.78:1/standard definition), is just candid video footage of the band members rehearsing, relaxing together, jamming, and wandering the streets of San Francisco. There is nothing very compelling to the footage and you wouldn't be missing much if you didn't watch it at all.
It's good to know that there are still bands out there like The Black Crowes that can play straightforward rock and roll in the classic style and sound so authentic. Approaching nearly 20 years since their debut album, the Crowes proved on this release at least that they still have what it takes. This is a good Blu-ray Disc release, with quality video and decent sound.
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