Blu-ray Review: Brian May & Kerry Ellis - The Candlelight Concerts

The Queen guitarist and Wicked star offer a stripped-down presentation of their songs in this new Blu-ray.
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Queen guitarist Brian May first became of Kerry Ellis when he saw her as an understudy in My Fair Lady. She later auditioned for, and got, a part in the Queen musical, We Will Rock You, and has since performed in Wicked both in London and on Broadway. The pair toured and released a live album, Acoustic By Candlelight, and, in 2013, got to play the prestigious Montreux Jazz Festival. That performance was filmed and it, along with the Acoustic By Candlelight CD, is included in the Blu-ray/CD collection, Brian May & Kerry Ellis - The Candlelight Concerts.

Unlike the bombast of a typical Queen show, or even a show from May and Ellis' own Anthems tour, the concerts here are presented in a stripped down, mostly acoustic manner. May's guitar and, occasionally, Jeff leach's keyboards, provide the only accompaniment for Ellis' voice and the pairing works well.

brian-may-and-kerry-ellis_02112014015147.jpgThe show opens with "I Who Have Nothing," made famous by Ben E. King and Shirley Bassey, among others. The song features a stark vocal and guitar and provides a striking opener for the set. A cover of Kansas' "Dust In The Wind" follows, with May replicating the song's violin lines on guitar while Ellis delivers a passionate vocal.

There are a number of Queen songs featured in the show as well. "Somebody To Love and" "Love Of My Life" are both sung as duets between May and Elllis, while "Life Is Real," a song Freddie Mercury originally dedicated to John Lennon, was dedicated to Mercury in this rendition. "Tie Your Mother Down," also done as a duet, is presented as a bluesy, country version, with Ellis seemingly relishing her chance to sing a song she might not normally sing otherwise. May waits until the song's end before launching into its singnature guitar riff.

May plugs in for his instrumental, "Last Horizon," reminding the audience that he feels it is a mistake for him to be unplugged for too long and the pair offers a strong cover of The Beatles' "Something." It's not all nostalgia, however, as the pair's recent single, "The Kissing Me Song," a power pop gem, fits in nicely with all the classic rock tunes. Ellis proves she can handle more than ballads vocally as the diverse material here shows.

The included CD is a reissue of the pair's Acoustic By Candlelight album, which was recorded live on their 2012 Born Free tour. While some of the songs are the same as the Blu-ray, there are also some differences. "I Loved A Butterfly" is a reworking of the Queen + Paul Rogers song, "Some Things That Glitter," and one can easily hear Mercury singing the ballad, "I Can't Be Your Friend." While May offers a fair amount of electric guitar on the Blu-ray, the CD is a much more stripped down affair.

The Blu-ray is presented in 1080i High Definition Widescreen and looks fantastic. Audio options include LPCM Stereo and DTS-HD Master Audio. A bonus video for "Nothing Really Has Changed" is also included.

The pairing of Ellis' voice and May's guitar is a natural one. May is currently preparing for a Queen tour with Adam Lambert on vocals, but one can hope his partnership with Ellis continues as well, as Brian May & Kerry Ellis - The Candlelight Concerts is a strong recording.