The Austin Chronicle

Rock & Roll DVDs

Reviewed by Jim Caligiuri, December 13, 2013, Music

Released! The Human Rights Concerts 1986-1998

(Shout! Factory)

Overshadowed by Live Aid, the Human Rights Concerts were perhaps a greater achievement. Presented by Amnesty International to raise money and awareness for its struggles worldwide, the more than two-dozen gatherings began in the U.S. in 1986, starring U2, Sting, Springsteen, Joni Mitchell, Lou Reed, Peter Gabriel, Jackson Browne, Jimmy Page & Robert Plant, Radiohead, Fela Kuti, and too many others to mention. A 6-DVD set clocking in at 17 hours, this is the season's box set to plunge down the rabbit hole with. Lots of nostalgia involved with a concert held more than 25 years ago, but the first two discs are the most tantalizing. Titled "A Conspiracy of Hope," these performances edit down a 12-hour MTV broadcast from New Jersey's Giants Stadium into one inspired moment after another, like a reunited Police. Aided by a chorus of thousands, Gabriel's "Biko" remains chilling, as does U2 performing "Sun City" with Reed, Little Steven, Nona Hendryx, and Ruben Blades. Feature films chronicling the 1988-98 concerts amass on the remaining discs; don't miss Springsteen raving "La Bamba" for ecstatic Argentinians or a new interview with him in the bonus features, of which there's a massive amount. Home movies of an afterparty from Gabriel's personal collection and some Secret Policeman's Ball, the beginnings of the series featuring Pete Townshend, are essential. A 40-page booklet does more than just expand on the audio-visual content, providing a history of the movement from both producers and performers. If Released! The Human Rights Concerts 1986-1998 seems intimidating – and it is, at times – there's also a 2-CD set with 30 tracks from the concerts that's almost as satisfying.

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