..

N SYNC:  LIVE AT MADISON SQUARE GARDEN

Review by Michael Jacobson

Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Stereo
Video:  Standard 1.33:1
Studio:  BMG/Jive
Features:  None
Length:  90 Minutes
Release Date:  November 21, 2000 

Film **

What is the purpose, I wonder, of issuing a star rating to an N Sync concert?  It’s completely subjective.  The millions of fans the group has garnered around the world will love this DVD.  People like me?  Well, this cookie-cutter studio polished brand of prefabricated teen idol pop wasn’t meant for me, so what’s the point?

“Every generation throws a hero up the pop charts,” Paul Simon has said, and N Sync is one of the Flavors of the Month right now.  They’re young, good looking, fairly decent singers and dancers, and there’s no doubt in my mind after watching Live From Madison Square Garden that these guys put a lot of work into their show.  And I don’t want to deny them proper credit:  there certainly is a place in the entertainment industry right now for what they do.  There’s just not a place on MY CD shelf for it.

So I sat down to view the disc, with little or no real knowledge of the band, figuring this might be as good a place as any to get an introductory education.  Not really.  By the time the show was over, I still didn’t have much of a clue as to who was who in the band, nor was I sure if I was concerned or thankful for that fact.

Of course, there’s the music, a lot of which I didn’t know save for the handful of songs that are overplayed so much on the radio they tend to make you want to join the Amish.  I tried to listen with an open mind, but have to report…I walked away humming none of the tunes.  All of these white bread slicked up love-you-more-than-corn-flakes songs sound alike to me.  Like I said, N Sync wasn’t created with me in mind.

The stage show itself was a little more impressive, with plenty of lights, pyrotechnics, a big video screen, and even a platform on the stage that took the boys up and out into the center of the crowd, where the kids with the crappy seats had a better chance of scream-spewing their saliva on their favorite member.  During this part, each of the guys had his own camera attached somewhere, and their POV shots would show up on the big screen.  Quite cool.

Other parts of the show?  Well…there was a little too much padding in between numbers.  Clips and snips that were pointless and made little sense.  Most of this was done in order to mask the costume changes.  Frankly, I thought they changed clothes a little too often for a group of guys, although I was glad to see them ditching the ridiculous outfits they started the show with, which made them look like hobos that collided with a rhinestone truck.  Over the course of the show, they also wore, among other things, silly looking ‘neon’ suits for their “Digital Get Down” number and doctors’ smocks for “It Makes Me Ill”.  Particularly cheesy were the “money” costumes for “Just Got Paid”.

All in good fun, I suppose, but drop the costume bit and you could have gotten through the show in a little over an hour.  But I guess you have to do something when you’re a headlining tour with only two CDs under your belt (not counting the Christmas and special ones).

There is a high point worth mentioning: an a cappella rendering of “I Thought She Knew”, which they mentioned to be the first song they ever did together.  It’s one number that really shows off their vocal talents apart from the wash of the stale instrumentations.  There’s also a low point:  “Justin’s Beat Box”.  That has to be the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever seen captured in a concert video.

But who cares what I think?  Those who love the band will snatch this disc up with both hands, probably even proclaiming it (as many have already done at Amazon) the greatest concert EVER.  And that’s fine.  Bands like N Sync were fabricated for a certain segment of the population, and as long as that segment responds by screaming and fainting and forking over allowance money, these cream puff idol groups will continue to rule the charts, while old farts like me write dismissive reviews as quickly as possible so they can get back to their Who CDs and reminisce about a time in pop music where rock idols played their own instruments, wrote their own songs, and weren’t prettier than half of their female admirers.

Video ***1/2

No complaints in this department…this is a bright, colorful and generally well-photographed presentation.  Image detail is good, particularly in the long crowd shots under patterned lights, and colors are sharp, natural looking and well contained throughout.  The multi colored lights, hues, and effects render very crisply throughout, with no instances of grain, compression, or distortion.

Audio **1/2

Despite the optional 5.1 soundtrack, and under no bias from my opinion of the music itself, this is one of the flatter sounding concerts I’ve experienced with my DVD player.  There just wasn’t a whole lot to speak of in terms of dynamic range or bottom end.  The extra channels opened up the sound enough for a more ambient listening experience, but I was distracted every time I noticed the applause coming through at the same level as the music.  The music itself doesn’t seem mixed very well…I don’t know if that’s a concert issue or a mastering issue, but there just wasn’t a good balance or distinction amongst the instruments.  When explosions went off on stage, they didn’t come through with any impact on the audio.  It’s a clean enough soundtrack, but ought to have been better.

Features (zero stars)

Nothing.

Summary:

Hey, you want ‘em, you got ‘em.  If you love N Sync, you’ll probably dig Live at Madison Square Garden.  If you don’t…well, thanks for making it all the way down to the bottom of the review with me anyway.