..

SELENA LIVE
The Last Concert

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Selena y Los Dinos
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Stereo
Video:  Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio:  Image Entertainment
Features:  Movie Documentary, Biography
Length:  99 Minutes
Release Date:  September 2, 2003

“…let’s dance the last dance tonight…”

Concert ***1/2

I can’t remember the date or channel, but I remember my first exposure to Selena came from some entertainment show doing a profile on her.  She had, of course, been a huge star on the Tejano music scene for a few years, and at the time, she was getting ready to test the crossover waters as she worked on her first English language album.  Could she make the elusive jump into the mainstream?  Judging by her soaring voice, sultry dance moves and beautiful face, I’d have put money on her.

But it wasn’t to be.  Not long after came the tragic news that Selena Quintanilla Perez was gone; killed by her unbalanced fan club president Yolanda Escobar.  She was only 23 years old.

Still later, during a day at work like any other, I heard “I Could Fall in Love” on the radio for the first time.  I had no idea who the artist was.  But I was entranced by the beauty of both the song and the vocalist.  It was rare for me, but I had to hold back tears; that’s how strong the experience was.  Then the DJ came on and spoke the name Selena.  And the tears wouldn’t be held back any longer.

Like many outside of the Spanish-speaking population, my first in-depth introduction to Selena came from the movie made on her life.  At the beginning of that picture, the filmmakers dutifully recreated Selena’s last concert appearance at the Astrodome in Houston.  It showed a superstar just at the moment she was prepared to kick down all barriers of language and nationality and probably become America’s next major pop sensation.

So needless to say, I was glad when I learned that Image was going to be releasing this famed concert on DVD.  Selena Live: The Last Concert is a joyful celebration of music and dance, and of a beloved artist and her equally beloved fans.  It freezes a moment in time when no one had to ask what could have been.  Here, on stage, under the lights of a famed sports park that has also passed into history, it's easier for fans to celebrate her life rather than mourn her death.

After a rousing disco medley (okay, she gets a word or two wrong in “I Will Survive”, but come on, it’s not like messing up La Traviata), the English disappears and it’s just Selena, Tejano music, and the fans that made her a superstar of the genre.  I didn’t understand a single word from that point on, except maybe “gracias”, but Selena’s spirit, voice and energy melted away the language barrier for me.  The songs were warm, infectious and catchy.  I was singing many of them after the program was over.  I don’t know what I was singing, but I was singing them.

Los Dinos, her band led by brother/writer/arranger A. B. Quintanilla III on bass and featuring her husband Chris Perez on guitar, is a tight bunch, providing the foundation for Selena to soar over.  But of course, the main focus remains the dazzling Selena.  Clad in an unforgettable outfit, she dances, spins, engages the crowd, and melts the iciest of hearts with that famous smile. 

Her death was a loss not only to the Tejano scenes, but to music lovers everywhere, from those just getting to know her to those who might never know what they missed out on.  It’s tragic how some people are destined to be remembered not only for what they accomplished, but for the accomplishments they never had a chance to achieve.  Who knows how high, how far, and how brightly Selena’s star might have gone?

But even after all these years, that star has shown no sign of coming back down.  Selena may be gone in body, but her spirit, her heart, and most of all, her music are still here to comfort us.  The Last Concert proves that quite nicely.

Video **

The concert was shot on video, and as such, has some of the limitations you expect from tape:  a bit of softness, a touch of bleeding here and there, a little streakiness from time to time, and some grain and murkiness in darker shots.  Which is not to say the concert is unwatchable…it’s far from that.  It’s just neither any better or worse than you could expect from this kind of limited source material.

Audio **1/2

The audio fares a little better, but fans of live music on DVD may notice that this presentation doesn’t quite live up to what we’ve come to expect from 5.1 sound.  There’s not a lot of distinction between sounds as the channels just don’t open up to give a more detailed audio track.  The music is lively and dynamic, and doesn’t sound bad at all…in fact, less experienced listeners might be more than pleased.  The rest might view this as a decent offering, but one that didn’t quite live up to the full potential of the medium.

Features **

The disc includes a documentary on the making of the movie Selena, with plenty of behind the scenes footage and interviews.  You’ll get to see how Jennifer Lopez earned the coveted title role and the work she did to capture Selena’s presence for the camera.  You’ll hear from family, filmmakers and bandmates discuss the importance of the picture and their desire to make something that would stand as a lasting tribute to their fallen angel.  It’s a good piece.

There is also a biography of Selena that’s annoyingly presented as a slow scrolling screen of words that are being read to you as you read them…no way to speed it up if you’re a fast reader, either.

Summary:

Selena poured heart and soul into what she couldn’t have known would be her final  performance.  Selena Live: The Last Concert is a fitting final tribute to the singer and performer who was taken from us far too soon.  Fans will always miss her, but her music will always be with us.