A wonderful package.
This is perhaps the culmination of some excellent Rolling Stones DVD releases recently; live gigs from the seventies, into the eighties and just into the nineties, showing the ramshackle glory of the troubadour years, the designed arena glory and the money-hoovering, smoothly rolling recent times. This is slightly different though, as this is the Stones' attempt to go back to their early days, before they lost contact with the sweat, the fear, some might say the excitement of a cramped club – this is mid-nineties smaller gigs, not acoustic, still with a horn section, backing singers and a full band.
The documentary is okay, showing the usual talking heads stuff about why they did it, Mick Jagger being a bit curmudgeonly about the cramped space, lots of shots of them jumping into cars from hotel to the gig and fans sleeping out for hundreds of hours to get a ticket. It is fun to see the backstage stuff, including their focused sound-checks and everyone is having a great time, but we don't really learn anything except the mundanity of superstardom. But it is good to spend time with and get close to the people who seem to inhabit the stratosphere.
The real pull here are three concerts – Paris, London and Amsterdam. These are similar sized venues – Brixton Academy proportions – and they absolutely slay. Keith Richards throws his cool shapes, Ronnie Wood smiles all over his craggy face and Jagger, well, despite concerns about the stage size, he controls that space, strutting, preening, getting among them, teasing us, loving every second of a connection he has eschewed in favour of stardom. The keys are an old style cabinet and sound beautiful throughout, the standards are produced with sass and sweat, there are some surprises ('Shine A Light' for example) and the semi acoustic sections are compelling too, plus check out Jagger's duet with Lisa Fischer – she has the voice and attitude to match, no wonder he's smiling!
All three gigs are filmed lazily and that's to their credit; it is not cleaned up, the colours bleed in, the edges blur and that gives us all the warmth of the night, it drops us in the middle of the crowd and we can smell the sweat. The shots are varied and the sound is clean and clear.
You'd expect a quality product from The Rolling Stones, but this is ballsy, to leave it alone and show the warts, the love, the band "stripped" so that we can see each part working perfectly. It looks like it did in the seventies; that takes some doing. Kudos galore to them and Eagle/Universal for this wonderful package.