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***REVIEW: The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert DVD

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#1 of 24 OFFLINE   Michael Allred

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Posted June 11 2002 - 05:05 PM

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The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert -DVD- ***** (out of 5)

Year of release: 2002
Directed by: David Mallet

Track listing;
1- Tie Your Mother Down - Performed by Queen + Joe Elliot & Slash

2- I Want It All - Performed by Queen + Roger Daltrey & Tony Iommi

3- Las Palabras De Amor - Performed by Queen + Zucchero

4- Hammer To Fall - Performed by Queen + Gary Cherone & Tony Iommi

5- Stone Cold Crazy - Performed by Queen + James Hetfield & Tony Iommi

6- Crazy Little Thing Called Love - Performed by Queen + Robert Plant

7- Too Much Love Will Kill You - Performed by Brian May

8- Radio Ga Ga - Performed by Queen + Paul Young

9- Who Wants To Live Forever - Performed by Queen + Seal

10- I Want To Break Free - Performed by Queen + Lisa Stansfield

11- Under Pressure - Performed by Queen + David Bowie & Annie Lennox

12- All the Young Dudes - Peformed by Queen + Ian Hunter, David Bowie & Mick Ronson

13- Heroes - Performed by Queen + David Bowie & Mick Ronson

14- '39 - Performed by Queen + George Michael

15- These Are the Days Of Our Lives - Performed by Queen + George Michael & Lisa Stansfield

16- Somebody To Love - Performed by Queen + George Michael

17- Bohemian Rhapsody - Performed by Queen + Elton John & Axl Rose

18- The Show Must Go On - Performed by Queen + Elton John

19- We Will Rock You - Performed by Queen + Axl Rose

20- We Are the Champions - Performed by Queen + Liza Minelli and "cast"

{All songs written by Queen except tracks 12 and 13.}

The 10th anniversary of the concert marked the release of this 2 DVD set, it's debut on the format. Initially thought to be a European only release, Queen Productions along with EMI/Parlophone have done North American fans a favor by making an NTSC region free version.

The set-up;

Only months after the death of Queen lead singer Freddie Mercury, the surviving band members organized this spectacular event to not only pay tribute but also raise awareness (and money) of the AIDS epidemic which tragically cut short Mercury's life. The Mercury Phoenix Trust was established to distribute the money raised from the concert.

What occured the night of April 20th, 1992 can only be described as magic and will be remembered by those who attended for the rest of their lives. A concert of this magnitude hadn't been seen since Live Aid and the entire world took notice. An estimated 1 billion people watched the event on television (in the U.S it was broadcast on MTV and FOX.)

Many of the music world's biggest stars offered their services for free. Once a line-up had been set, intense rehearsals began. In a true testament to Freddie's immense talent, every guest vocalist had to have the key of the songs changed to suit their voices as they could not replicate the range of Mercury's.

The concert;

The DVD begins with an explosive performance of "Tie Your Mother Down". Queen guitarist Brian May sings the first verse with Def Leppard frontman Joe Elliott coming in for the rest. Slash of Guns 'n' Roses duels May on guitar. Truly a great opening number with everyone being in fine form.

Roger Daltrey of The Who appears on stage accompanied by the opening of "Pinball Wizard" and his trademark microphone twirling. The music quiets down and "I Want It All" begins. The track seems a perfect fit for Daltrey's rough and tough vocals. Tony Iommi, lead guitarist of Black Sabbath, joins May on stage for some heavy metal riffing. Two heavy rock numbers in a row get the crowd riled and ready to go.

A little known Italian singer by the name of Zucchero sings "Las Palabras De Amor" (one of the many Queen songs the band never performed live.) Zucchero reminds me a bit of Joe Cocker but he pulls the singing off reasonably well.

Former Extreme and Van Halen vocalist Gary Cherone, obviously pumped up to the....erm, extreme, leaps on stage next for "Hammer To Fall". I'm not a huge fan of Cherone's voice and his maniacal stage performance that night was a bit off putting. Iommi gets a showcase for a guitar solo during the song. I usually find myself skipping past this one.

Roger Taylor's thundering percussion menacingly introduces us to "Stone Cold Crazy". Sung by Metallica's James Hetfield (whose band won a Grammy award for their cover of this very song) gives the right amount of attitude. May's blistering guitar work highlights the performance. Turn up your sound loud for this one.

An odd choice for the rockabilly flavored "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" was Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant but he surprisingly adapts well to it. John Deacon's bouncing bass line keeps things snappy throughout. I wonder if anyone ever noticed that Queen used the ending of "You're My Best Friend" to end the song? One of my favorites of the concert.

Brian May decides to debut his "Too Much Love Will Kill You" (a Freddie sung version would be released in 1995 on the "Made In Heaven" album.) Clearly nervous, Brian's voice breaks several times but considering the tone of the song and nature of where it's being sung, I suppose it makes it appropriate. The crowd was in total silence for the performance, very touching.

UK crooner Paul Young (who had a big hit in America with "Everytime You Go Away") immediately follows May's song with the crowd pleasing "Radio Ga Ga". To say Young's delivery was disappointing would be an understatement. The strain in his voice lasted through the whole song so even a key change didn't help. Still, the fans did their job and clapped along to the chorus.

Perhaps the most moving moment of the night came next as the oddly named Seal (dressed in solid white) came out for "Who Wants To Live Forever", a haunting ballad that proved to be too much for some fans to bear (including myself.) I have to believe most of those who first saw this cried for the duration of the song. Seal got a rousing ovation (deservedly so) at the end.

To lift everyone's spirits, the decidedly upbeat "I Want To Break Free" followed. Soul singer Lisa Stansfield strolled on stage with curlers in her hair and vaccum in hand (an obvious nod to the song's campy music video where the band infamously dressed in drag.) Lisa has a very smooth and elegant singing voice and no doubt helped bring a smile to everyone's face.

Icon David Bowie was joined by Eurythmics singer Annie Lennox ("Where did she get that dress??") for the "Under Pressure" duet. The bass line begins (damn Vanilla Ice for sampling it on "Ice Ice Baby" and ruining the song for some people) and they're off and running. Queen and Bowie never performed the song together live so this was a first time thing but you wouldn't have guessed it. It went without a hitch with Lennox powerfully delivering Freddie's lines (and molesting Bowie on stage.......) A wonderfully energetic performance.

"This is where the fun stops" ~ David Bowie

A reunion of sorts came about for "All the Young Dudes". To explain; Queen's first major tour came as the opening act for Mott the Hoople (whose lead singer was Ian Hunter), this very song was written by Bowie for Hoople, Mick Ronson was in both Hoople and Bowie's old band the Spiders From Mars and of course, Queen and Bowie wrote/recorded "Under Pressure" together.
The song was note perfect....Hunter sang, Bowie played the saxophone, Ronson handled lead guitar with Queen backing them up and Joe Elliott & Phil Collin from Def Leppard sang backing vocals.

Bowie's classic "Heroes" begins with Taylor's emerging drum beat and Ronson's screaming guitar. Everyone seemed to gel extremely well as this was one of the best performance's of the night. The song abruptly ends as Bowie gets down on one knee to recite the Lord's Prayer. Ok then!

George Michael is due next for a 3 song set beginning with the accoustic "39". Queen and George perform it right at the front of the stage but sadly the song is shortened to one verse and the chorus twice. George misses a lyric but happens so fast it's hard to pick up.

He then introduces Lisa Stansfield ("No hoover, no curlers") for the duet on the moving "These Are the Days of Our Lives". Quiet and low key, it's one of those "sad but makes you smile anyway" numbers. An uncomfortable kiss between George and Lisa after the song finishes reminds me of that staged kiss between Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley a few years later at the MTV music awards.

Arguably the best performance of the night was "Somebody To Love". If there was a spot on "Freddie would've been proud" moment, it was this. George handled the vocals with ease, this was a night Michael should be very proud of.

Freddie's old friend Elton John tackles the legendary "Bohemian Rhapsody". Being the well known piano player he is, I was a bit miffed that he played the wrong notes at the song's beginning. When the 2nd verse begins, he leaves the keyboard behind and takes center stage. Elton occasionally bellows instead of singing but ends up doing a servicable job.

As always, the band leaves the stage for the operatic section but as the rock bit begins, we are thrown back in our seats as Axl Rose runs out like a madman and shatters the eardrums of many with his shrieking um.."singing". Of course, we do get to see Axl and Elton sharing the stage for one of the oddest pairings in music history to end the song. The two would become good friends afterwards.

Elton then begins "The Show Must Go On" by saying it's one of his favorites from the "Innuendo" album but not before thanking Queen for "working their asses off" putting the concert together.

Again, Elton somewhat croaks through the song and the chorus sounds a bit weak but May's soaring solo saves it from being just average.

Roger Taylor manages to rumble all of Wembley Stadium as he begins the world famous "stomp, stomp, clap" drum beat of "We Will Rock You". Sadly it all goes downhill from there as Axl Rose frightens young children again with his shrill "singing". He even screws up the vocal pace of the song on the last verse. Ugh.

The show ends with someone that Mercury would have been thrilled to hear sing one of his songs, Liza Minelli. Oh it was campy all right, it was tongue in cheek...all for a good laugh. The "Cabaret" star singing the sports anthem "We Are the Champions" with a rock band in a stadium filled with 72,000 people? Freddie would've been on his ass laughing like a schoolgirl, loving every minute of it. She's joined on stage by many of the other performers that night for the showstopper.

With everyone else on stage, Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon take one last bow together. It was an emotional night for Queen fans worldwide. Some great performances, a few laughs and the immortal spirit of Freddie Mercury looming large. As Roger said before the show, he'd imagine Freddie saying to him "Wembley? Darling are you sure it's big enough?" RIP Freddie.

Brian, Roger and John went on to finish Freddie's last recordings for the "Made In Heaven" album in 1995. They recorded just one more song after that, "No One But You", the only Queen song to have had no input from Freddie at all. Their last live performance as a trio came in 1997 in Paris, France for the premiere of the Bejart Ballet. Deacon officially retired that year.

However, Brian and Roger continue on under the Queen banner now and again. They had a UK #1 with boyband 5ive on a re-make of "We Will Rock You" in 2000. They recently performed at 2 huge concerts in 2002. A few months ago they played on "Queen's Day" in Holland to 120,000 people and in June joined some of the biggest music stars ever at "Party at the Palace" as part of the Queen of England's jubilee celebrations.

The "We Will Rock You" musical (co-produced by actor Robert DeNiro) is a consistent sell-out in London theaters and will likely appear on Broadway in 2003.

"The Platinum Collection" (a 3 disc set of their greatest hits) hit #2 in the UK album charts in June, 2002. Even with Freddie dead and John's retirement, Queen are as big as ever.

The DVD:

This 2 disc set presents the second half of the tribute which was the Queen part.

Disc 1 is the concert itself. It is shown in anamorphic widescreen (even though it was originally filmed for TV broadcast.) Before anyone makes a "It should be shown in it's original aspect ratio" quip, the concert's director, David Mallet, remastered the DVD personally so clearly he was ok with a widescreen presentation. After comparing it to the full screen VHS release, I found very little was masked, the DVD was framed *very* well.

The picture quality is definitely several major steps up from any previous home video release. Some of the audience shots were a little dodgy but the concert itself looked great. The concert was recorded on videotape so it will never look as good as something put on film but considering the 10 year old source, I really don't think it'll get any better than this.

There are 2 audio options to choose from. The default setting is PCM stereo and is CD quality. I had been hoping for a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix but Queen Productions instead chose to make a DTS 5.1 surround mix instead. I cannot comment on the DTS mix as my equipment is not capable of playing it (I should upgrade one of these days) hence why I wanted a DD 5.1 option.

The menus on both DVD's are nicely done with concert clips playing in the background. When you choose the song selection option, as each track is highlighted you hear the individual performer's name announced by Queen from the concert.

There is also a "white rabbit" option you can select at various points during the concert. When the "I" icon appears, press your 'return' button and you will see the full rehearsal footage of that song.

The extra features are placed on the 2nd disc.

The main point is a documentary on the tribute, produced by my least favorite people, The Torpedo Twins. This is yet another example of their hack job style of directing. Just put a lot of old interview footage together with plenty of concert clips and boom, you got a "documentary". Still, many of the tribute artists are here speaking their minds. The video quality of the doc is no better than VHS, very little was done to make it look good for DVD. There is a newly recorded introduction by Roger Taylor though. The end credits mention "Produced by Globalsoft" which was a humorous wink at the "We Will Rock You" musical.

Next are the "Freddie Mercury inserts". What's that you ask? It's the footage of Freddie that played on the huge screens during the tribute concert. An old clip of Freddie doing his "DAY OHHH!" and then the crowd responds in kind back to the screen. A bit pointless.

Two brief photo galleries follow. One featuring pictures taken by fans that day, the others being the "official" pics. It's been edited together as a flowing piece rather than something you can take your time and click through at your own pace.

A 22 page booklet is included featuring various pictures of the concert, rehearsals and facts about the tribute.

Finally, a small section is devoted to the promotion of The Mercury Phoenix Trust and Queen's official web site Queenonline.com with various facts about them.

In conclusion:

The concert, in and of itself, is remarkable with many stunning performances. The video/audio quality is the best the tribute has ever been presented in. However with the lackuster, lazy and uninspired "extras" on the 2nd disc, one wonders why they bothered with them at all and just released the concert in it's entirety so fans would have a complete record of that historical day.

Queenonline is the *only* place to purchase the NTSC version and at roughly $36, it's a bit steep. Regardless, for the quality alone I recommend purchasing the DVD BUT keep your VHS copies as it has more of the songs. (It should be noted that NO home video release of the concert has ever had the entire concert. If you were lucky, you taped the TV broadcast to get the songs never officially released.)

Below is the complete list of performances from the tribute concert NOT on the DVD;

Metallica - "Enter Sandman", "Sad But True", "Nothing Else Matters"

Extreme - "Queen medley", "Love of My Life", "More Than Words"

Def Leppard - "Animal", "Let's Get Rocked", "Now I'm Here" (with Brian May)

Bob Geldof - "Too Late God"

Spinal Tap - "Infinity", "The Majesty of Rock"

Guns 'n' Roses - "Paradise City", "Knockin On Heaven's Door"

Queen + Robert Plant - "Innuendo"

Note: 2 performances were broadcast via satellite for the TV airing and specifically for the Wembley Stadium screens. They were;

U2 - "Until the End Of the World"

Mango Groove - "Special Star"

-Fun Fact- Oscar nominated actor Ian McKellan introduced Elizabeth Taylor for her speech at the tribute concert.

{Written by Michael Allred}

#2 of 24 OFFLINE   Marc_E


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Posted June 11 2002 - 05:17 PM

Thanks for the review. This isn't a special order from the web deal right? I can pick it up at b&m's and dvdplanet.com?


#3 of 24 OFFLINE   Chris M

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Posted June 11 2002 - 05:25 PM

Queenonline is the *only* place to purchase the NTSC version and at roughly $36, it's a bit steep.

$36US is REALLY steep. I payed $36CDN for the Queen: We Will Rock You Tour DVD (DTS), and that was quite expensive. Maybe if the ENTIRE concert had been included I might consider it... sigh.


#4 of 24 OFFLINE   andrew markworthy

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Posted June 11 2002 - 05:54 PM

Good review.

A point of trivia - the Queen-Mott the Hoople connection goes a bit deeper, since Queen's first major UK tour was as support for Mott the Hoople.

#5 of 24 OFFLINE   Michael Allred

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Posted June 11 2002 - 08:39 PM

Marc, I'm afraid it is a "special order" as the only place you can get it is from Queen's official web site (in their e-shop.)

Andrew, I did mention Queen opening for Mott the Hoople. I know I babbled on quite a bit so I can understand you missing it with my barrage of words.
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#6 of 24 OFFLINE   DanHaya


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Posted June 12 2002 - 02:09 AM

Fantastic! I've been waiting for this one for a long time!

Now, let's start pushing for a complete Live Aid DVD set!

#7 of 24 OFFLINE   andrew markworthy

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Posted June 12 2002 - 04:06 AM

Michael, oops! You did - apologies, I was skim reading. Having re-read more carefully, I still think it's a good review!

#8 of 24 OFFLINE   Chris Xolotl

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Posted June 12 2002 - 04:24 AM


#9 of 24 OFFLINE   John Berggren

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Posted June 12 2002 - 04:25 AM

Quite a thorough review. Thank you Posted Image. I wish it were complete, but what's there sounds fantastic.
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#10 of 24 OFFLINE   Dave Mack

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Posted June 12 2002 - 11:55 AM

Hey Mike! Good review, however, NOT all the songs had the keys changed to suit the artists... "Uncer Pressure" HAD bowie on the original version so he didn't need the change and Annie Lennox certainly could handle Freddie's range...
"I want it All".. Daltrey, proper key and Boy did it show!!
On the VHS release, this tune was overdubbed... I have the off-the-air broadcast on tape and on direct comparison, Daltry cracked his head off a few times live...
"Crazy little Thing" was proper key...
And certainly "Hammer To Fall"... while Gary Cherone definitely ain't that pretty, he certainly could hit those notes!

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#11 of 24 OFFLINE   Greg_C_T


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Posted June 13 2002 - 01:25 AM

And certainly "Hammer To Fall"... while Gary Cherone definitely ain't that pretty, he certainly could hit those notes!

I agree, Dave. Cherone is a huge Queen fan, and is lucky enough to have the vocal range to do the songs justice. His name was actually tossed around by the remaining members of Queen as a "fill-in" of sorts for some performances back in '97.

Anyway, it's too bad all of the Queen songs Cherone and Extreme performed that day aren't included on the DVD. Their Queen medley is top-notch, as is "Love of My Life". Nuno and Brian May are 2 of my 3 favorite guitarists (w/ Eddie VH), so it's a real treat to hear the Queen songs performed so well by the members of Extreme.

#12 of 24 OFFLINE   Dana Rodakis

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Posted June 15 2002 - 02:57 AM

Thanks for the great review. I am fortunate to own the laserdisc of the concert and have worn it out. It runs 175 minutes on 4 sides. I don't know if I want to pay that much for the DVD but the improved picture quality and DTS may be worth it. Of the performances listed that are not on DVD, the following are included on the laserdisc:

Metallica - "Enter Sandman", "Sad But True", "Nothing Else Matters"

Extreme - "Queen medley"

Def Leppard - "Now I'm Here" (with Brian May)

Guns 'n' Roses - "Paradise City", "Knockin On Heaven's Door"

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#13 of 24 OFFLINE   Ronald Slender

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Posted June 22 2002 - 08:32 AM

Well I just got this DVD today and my first impressions aren't good. I've got a pretty high end audio set up here at home and was really looking forward to seeing and hearing this concert on DVD.
The DTS track is a very poor remix which isn't worth listening to. It's sounds very hollow with a strange reverb. The stereo PCM mix is a lot better though but not as impressive as other concerts I've heard in PCM.
The video quality is probably as good as the source material allows it but isn't anything to get excited about. The stage view looks okay but the aerial views look horrible.
The menu's on this DVD are incredibly annoying not because of the way they look but because of too many pauses because of disk access. It accesses the disk EVERY TIME when you want to highlight something else on the screen. Because of this trying to change the sound options is already a long and annoying process and if you want to select a certain song in the chapter index it's enough to drive anyone crazy.
From what I've read in the first review the extra's aren't worth much either but I'll check them out later.
Of course this concert was a huge event and had good performances from all the people involved but this disk has been a huge disappointment for me. Unless you're a big fan of Queen I can't recommend this DVD.


#14 of 24 OFFLINE   Ricardo C

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Posted June 22 2002 - 09:19 AM

I'm very disappointed with the fact that the whole show is not included, but I'll be picking it up regardless. This is one for the ages Posted Image
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#15 of 24 OFFLINE   Christopher P

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Posted June 22 2002 - 10:28 AM

Awesome, thanks for the review. I remember watching this laid up after my wisdom teeth got pulled. A great way to spend my painful hours in bed! After reading the track-listing, the only thing I didn't see that stood out in my mind was Robert Plant's "Innuendo," maybe because that's one of my favorite Queen songs. My other favorite performances were Daltrey's "I Want It All" Micahels' "Somebody to Love" and of course Seal's "Who Wants to Live Forever." That song is so haunting. Extras sound rather uninteresting. I never thought to record this when I watched it. Who would have thought how epic this concert would've been.


#16 of 24 OFFLINE   Dave Mack

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Posted June 22 2002 - 10:48 AM

They REALLY blew it by not including EXTREME'S Queen Medley. They were (aside from Queen) the best thing that day!
Alot of the rest was like "Queen Karaoke" and with few exceptions like George Michael, just showed you how amazing and irreplaceable Freddie was. (Hint, hint, Brian... Don't kill the memory of the band by continiung to do ATROCIOUS things like the ill-advised Robbie Williams sung "we are the Champions" remake. Retire with dignity. Tour solo or with Roger, (It's kinda known that John wants NOTHING to do with these new "projects"...) but don't become like Journey, Foreigner, Styx or any of these other sad bands desperately clinging to the ghosts of their former glory with new singers. You guys got enough dough. I would concentrate on delving into the vaults and giving us some RARE Video from The glory days. There are Several Complete taped or filmed concerts that are not released in the USA and some not released in England. Rainbow '74, XMAS at Hammersmith '75, Hyde Park '76, Earl's Court'77, several from the JAZZ tour in '79. Practically ALL the South America 81' concerts were taped, 82' From Germany, 84' from Sydney, 85' from Japan, and some from the Magic tour 86'. I KNOW these all exist as there are bootlegs floating around! These were PRO- shot concerts!

How about a "Best of" Live dvd(s) from over the years with a 5.1 mix? And keep those MANIACS the Torpedo Twins away from this! They absolutely BUTCHER the songs in their other videos... I have the PAL VHS "Rare Live" and they edit the songs down!!!!!! In Somebody to Love, they make about 6 cuts!!!

Phew! Sorry about the rant! It's just that we American Queen fans have been getting stiffed for years and there is certainly enough interest I believe. I mean, how many "Hendrix" or "The Doors" or "The Who" rare, box sets, Videos etc... have been put out?



#17 of 24 OFFLINE   Michael Allred

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Posted October 04 2002 - 01:49 PM

Hey folks, some news for you!

According to Greg Brooks (the official Queen archivist), the Freddie Mercury tribute concert will be released on DVD in America on November 26th so be on the look-out!

#18 of 24 OFFLINE   Dave Mack

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Posted October 05 2002 - 02:25 AM

Cool. Any news about the Greatest Hits Vol. 1 Double disc that is coming out in England on Tue. ????

#19 of 24 OFFLINE   Michael Allred

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Posted October 05 2002 - 05:16 AM

"Video Hits" comes out in America October 15th.

#20 of 24 OFFLINE   oscar_merkx


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Posted October 05 2002 - 05:53 AM


thanks for the review as I missed this the first time round. This some concert to watch on tv, shame about the Metallica songs not being on the DVD.

Just a quick question, will the R1 dvd be the same as R2 ?

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