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The best we're going to get of the Stones at their peak,
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This review is from: Ladies & Gentlemen [DVD]  [NTSC] (DVD)
Despite the release of about half a dozen Rolling Stones dvds there has never really been a definitive one of the band at their peak. The later collections such a Four Flicks and A Bigger Bang, whilst having far superior picture quality and production values to this release, somehow don't seem right. The performances, set lists and value for money in terms of length and number of concerts included are all excellent; however the image is just wrong.
Despite what some would say image IS important in rock n roll. On Ladies and Gentlemen Jagger and Richards look like rock stars in their pomp, indeed Jagger looks like THE definitive rock star in these concerts, by Four Flicks (excellent as it is sound, vision and performance wise) he looks like a wrinkly old man making an exhibition of himself; whilst Richards is even worse, especially when he starts croaking Hoagy Carmichael!
Similarly the older Stones dvd's all lack something: Gimme Shelter is dramatic and certainly worth watching, but there isn't enough of the Stones playing. Similarly Hyde Park and the Rock n Roll Circus are both too short, as concert dvd's of the period tended to be, and the performances aren't at all great.
Ladies and Gentlemen is also, by modern standard concert lengths slightly short, clocking in at about 80 minutes and 15 songs; modern concerts by big names (including the Stones themselves) are usually about two hours and feature at least twenty songs. However the set list on this is brilliant with every number a classic, indeed even by then the Stones had so many great songs that they could afford to leave some out. Just imagine a Stones concert even today without Honky Tonk Women or Sympathy For The Devil? We also don't get Satisfaction, Paint It Black, or Wild Horses, whilst Rocks Off, although performed on the tour, was omitted as the performance wasn't thought to be up to scratch.
In keeping with the way concerts were filmed in those days - and remember concert films were a rarity back then, now the major stars film and release dvds of every tour, (U2 must have far more concert dvds than all the 60's greats originally released put together!) - the stage is very dark and the musicians are often filmed in close up. Consequently the camera is usually fixed on Jagger most of the time - they often only filmed the singer then (I have a dvd of Black Sabbath in a 1970 concert where all you really see is Ozzy and Tony Iommi the real band leader, is hardly shown at all!).
We do see Keith sometimes and he shares a microphone with Mick for some songs. This happened less frequently after this tour and of course the later tours featured backing singers. There is also quite a bit more of Mick Taylor than might have been expected, and we can see what an excellent guitarist he was; he rather than Richards, takes nearly all the solos; by the time Ronnie arrived they were more evenly distributed.
Watts and Wyman are barely seen, although the occasional glimpses of Bill show him to be looking as miserable as he always did as though he was hating every minute of being on stage. We also see bits of the horn players, usually because they are behind Jagger at the time, whilst Nicky Hopkins on piano, although clearly heard and integral to their sound, isn't shown at all even when introduced to the audience!
The film is taken from a series of performances rather than a single concert; this is evident from the costume changes; no attempts have been made at continuity to make it appear a continuous performance as was done on the Led Zeppelin Song Remains the Same for example, although it doesn't really detract from the concert, and if it wasn't for the costumes the viewer wouldn't really notice it wasn't a single concert.
The film comes with a couple of interviews and some rehearsal footage as worthwhile extras.
Whilst this dvd cannot replace Four Flicks as the definitive Stones dvd simply because of the limitations of the concert filming of the time; it is a vital addition to the catalogue and captures the band at their absolute peak, even if for much of the time most of them are in the dark!