Chris De Burgh: The Road To Freedom Live DVD
Recorded In Bielefeld, Germany May, 2004.
Released December, 2004.
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The Road To Freedom DVD by Chris de Burgh.


What makes concerts, great? Intimacy? Mood? Atmosphere? Undoubtedly a star performer playing all of the favourites that you expect to hear helps a great deal. Can you imagine Phil Collins not playing In The Air Tonight or Elton John not playing Rocket Man? No, of course not. Certain tunes are as much a part of the individual experience of a gig as, say, eggs at Easter or mistletoe at Christmas.

So when a performer with the track record, experience and back catalogue of Chris De Burgh releases a live DVD, then something special surely awaits. A glance at the track listing seems to ably confirm such a notion as, sure enough, perennial favourites Don't Pay The Ferryman, Borderline, Sailing Away and the obligatory Lady In Red all appear. That these more familiar songs are interspersed with more recent - not to say new - songs, all bodes well for the 118 minutes of entertainment we are promised on the back cover.

Enter Chris to the backing of When Winter Comes from his most recent album, The Road To Freedom and to the polite applause that greets him. This is an indication of things to come; that all-important atmosphere is missing, somehow, or so the presentation of this DVD would seem to indicate.
The songs themselves and their performance are strong and laced with meaningful intent; De Burgh obviously enjoyed himself on the night. But the lack enthusiasm from the audience is evident from the lack of response when he asks the packed hall to sing, dance or even clap in time with the music and its only at Natasha Dance - the fifth track on the DVD - that the crowd seem to realise that 'Hey, this is a gig! Let's get with it and move a bit!' though even then it is done with a lacklustre effort.

De Burgh performs the songs solo: that is to say, there is no band. No drums, no guitar other than his own, no bass, no keyboards other than the piano he plays with vibrant efficiency.
Perhaps it is this that which has lulled the audience? No, then it could be that they are being given an injustice? What it could be instead, is that the more up-beat songs that were played on the tour - such as Last Night, Nothing Ever Happens Round Here and Spanish Train, to name but three - are all missing from the DVD. Cut too, is the truly moving Beautiful Dreams style rendition of Say Goodbye To It All that the audience of Liverpool was treated to, later in the year.
What's left are the low key, almost melancholy songs of the type that filled the last album. Snow Is Falling, Songbird and Five Past Dreams - though good songs - are hardly likely to get people up and dancing, unless it's drunkenly at the end of a wedding. While frankly, those more upbeat songs that are left - High On Emotion, Lebanese Night, St. Peter's Gate and Living In The World for example, lack that certain oomph that a backing band would have provided.

None of this should detract from Chris De Burgh and his ability to move an audience in the way that he performs. His voice and playing are faultless. But with all of the many concerts he could have recorded on DVD - of all the countless tours - he has chosen possibly the most laid back. Beautiful Dreams Live, has De Burgh singing solo for the first half of a performance which is then stratospherically lifted with the arrival of the orchestra.
There are three major plusses with the disc, however; The Medley - Living On The Island, A Night On The River, Save Me, What You Mean To Me, Crying And Laughing and Tender Hands - shows De Burgh at his intimate, interactive, hands-on performing best, as he wanders the hall like a minstrel from days of yore.
Also, the version he plays here of Read My Name comes straight from the heart, as does Snows Of New York.
The third big bonus of the DVD is the inclusion of the interview with the man himself. Taking place prior to one of the German shows, though not the one recorded, it shows Chris De Burgh at his most revealing and sharing insights into what it takes to remain at the top for as long as he has - a good diet, regular exercise and a healthy interest in wine - whilst also showing what it is that keeps him going … the genuine love for his music that is felt by his fans.
The interview shows us the depth of feeling that De Burgh has for those who follow him and for the feeling those same people - from all corners of the earth - have for the man, himself.
As a concert DVD, this falls a little flat. It would hardly entice a non-fan to pay to go and see Chris perform, which can be said to be a great shame as that same non-fan would be said to be sorely missing out, with or without a band. The concert tour in full was an absolute joy to behold and it's such a pity that the stronger tunes were sidelined for this presentation.

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