Synopsis: Aguilera’s breathlessly energetic, senses-frazzling live spectacular of a concert brought the house down in Sydney, Australia. And the cameras were there to capture it all for this new concert DVD. The critically acclaimed live extravaganza thrills and awes, while Christina’s vocal acrobatics remind you why hers is the voice of a generation. With 90 minutes of footage – from burlesque cabaret, to trapeze choreography, fire jugglers, and stilt walkers – the lady knows how to put on what’s been called “the greatest show on earth!” 18 songs spanning her career are included.
One of pop’s greatest voices, Christina Aguilera dazzles an Aussie audience with a sultry, impassioned performance in this concert release. Capturing every second of her spellbinding live show–featuring trapeze artists, circus jugglers, and cabaret dancing–BACK TO BASICS finds Aguilera in complete control of her crowd in Sydney, belting showstopping renditions her many hits, including “Beautiful,” “What A Girl Wants,” “Fighter,” and “Ain’t No Other Man.”
Christina Aguilera: Back To Basics – Live And Down Under 7.5
I’ve recently discovered Christina Aguilera’s ‘Back to Basics’ album and it’s phenomenal! It’s an early contender for top albums of the year for me. So, when I couldn’t find myself a copy of the CD in local stores, I just had to buy the DVD of that tour instead.
This one will surprise many, and a few cynics will likely think that the bottled sex that she sells got to me. But that’s hardly the case. Aguilera’s anything but my kind: the plastic Barbie doll-type, the pale, pneumatic, bleached blonde woman-girl. I swear, even her make-up annoys me! I don’t know why she feels the need to cake it on so that people in the last row can see it, but it’s gross, unnatural.
The reason I bothered with her is for the same reason that I explored all of Britney Spears, Beyoncé, Rihanna and other unfathomably successful pop acts’ catalogues. When a pop artist is around long enough, it makes me wonder if I wasn’t too dismissive, so I go find out what they’re all about. Most of the time, I’m left quizzical, wondering what the appeal is.
In Aguilera’s case, it’s a mixed bag.
Obviously, she doesn’t appeal to me whatsoever. But I had found some talent on her self-titled debut album many years ago and kept that in mind even though her whole ‘Stripped’ and “Moulin Rouge’ period totally turned me off. Lately, I decided to give her albums a try once and for all; ‘Bionic’ had intrigued me despite its commercial failure, and I had picked up ‘Stripped’ for a dollar. I figured that it was time.
I made the fortunate choice of starting with ‘Back to Basics’. Had I started with the cold, somewhat generic ‘Bionic’ I would have had been less enthusiastic about moving ahead. With ‘Stripped’, I would have been left somewhat ambivalent – it’s a pretty good, but somewhat uneventful and unessential, album.
‘Back to Basics’, however, distinguishes itself by being a tribute to jazz, r&b, soul and gospel greats of the past on the one disc, and for being a kitschy carnival attraction on the other. Most of all, it was recorded with real instruments, not canned ones, and Aguilera really belts it out, proving just how much vocal talent she has and dwarfing her contemporaries.
The ‘Back to Basics’ DVD mostly features songs from that album. The first 35 mins are tremendous, featuring a live band, packed with brass, guitar and drums. It doesn’t sound as good as the studio set, but the show is quite something. Then things get a little wonky, with a short lull followed by a constant fluctuation between different genres; the flow was extremely uneven. I don’t know who decided on the track sequence, but it was a mistake to me.
There was a similar problem with Madonna’s ‘Drowned World Tour’ DVD. Except that Aguilera is no Madonna. Even though she’s a talented performer, she simply doesn’t have the same magic that Madonna has. Yet (perhaps that will come with time and experience). She has exceptional vocal skills, more than Madonna could ever hope for, so maybe she will use this to match Madge’s stage presence over the years…
In some ways, part of the album and the show reminded me of Madonna’s ‘I’m Breathless’ era, with its jazz-influenced, ’20s ambiance. I adore Madonna’s album and think it’s one of her best, because it’s so much fun. Aguilera taps into a similar energy and offers her audience loads of ear and eye candy. The show also features gospel, r&b, and big band flavours and they’re all done with a pizzazz that can be quite infectious.
Aguilera is in great shape during show, despite being pregnant. Not only is she full of vigour, but her voice is as powerful as one could ever imagine it to be. I couldn’t help but wonder if she was lip-synching from time to time, seeing as pop stars have a reputation for it (especially when there’s choreography involved!), but I could never discern any such slips – mind you, nowadays, it’s really hard to tell. Still, the fact is that she sounded fantastic throughout.
The dancers and other performers were all pretty good too. I was impressed with the apparent ease with which they would do their acrobatics and navigate the stage, considering all that was going on. It’s a large stage, but it’s a full house, so no doubt that they all spent countless hours planning out every single move. It’s all done with surgical precision – or, at least, the fast-cutting editing gave that impression.
It would have made for a pretty good 3D show, and I was surprised to find out that this was only available on DVD, not BD. Considering the scope of the show, the large screens and the effects that were thrown at the audience and the way it was shot, I would half-expect this to be converted to 3D BD at some point in the future. At the very least, one could say that it would look and sound amazing. For a fan, this would be quite the treat.
It all sounded terrific, not just Aguilera’s vocals. Hearing the live band play was quite nice; it was a refreshing change from the traditional pop concert. The 5.1 mix sounded full and vibrant and there were some nice surround effects that filled the room, giving life to the experience. I sorely wish for this to be released on blu-ray in lossless format someday – it would be AMAZING (obviously I’d prefer the album itself in lossless, but that’s highly unlikely to ever happen… )
Aside from the largely off-putting flow of the show, my only grievance was the inclusion of the self-indulgent “Thank You” song from the album. It’s a tiresome piece that includes fan appreciation soundbites (and, in this case, videos) oozing with worship for Aguilera. Aguilera claims it as a tribute to her fans but, really, this speaks of a narcissism of unpalatable proportions. I could easily do without it and, thankfully, the album features it at the tail end of the CD – so one can skip it as a mere afterthought, without ruining the vibe.
I was quite surprised by the impression that the double album had on me, and I’m very pleased to say that the show was also rather entertaining – even if it does not match the album’s power. I’d recommend this DVD to anyone who likes pop music and/or likes large-scale shows of the Madonna or Cirque du Soleil variety. And to those who would discredit Aguilera as an artist, all I can say is: she’s unmistakably superior to her peers. It doesn’t make her a great person or a likeable entity, but she sure pours a lot of herself into what she does. And that’s commendable.