Album Review: Rolling Stones, ‘Bridges to Buenos Aires’

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The Rolling Stones | Bridges to Buenos Aires-CD/DVD | (Eagle)

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

The self-proclaimed ‘World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band’ must have really loved its 1997-98 world tour in support of its Bridges to Babylon release. Honestly, how else does one explain a third official DVD release from that year-long jaunt?

For reference, the release ties the amount for 1995’s Totally Stripped DVDs and also follows just six months from the previous Bridges to Bremen package.

For most acts that would be flooding the marketplace — especially since the track lists and overall presentation are nearly identical — but there is almost bottomless interest in the band’s live product, despite, or maybe because of, not releasing an album of original material in nearly 15 years. Perhaps that comes with the iconic nature of their status as half century veterans still alive and kicking?

Regardless, this April 5, 1998 gig is a rollicking night. 

On paper it was highlighted by a surprise appearance from Bob Dylan, who had played earlier in the evening, joining the Stones on his own “Like a Rolling Stone.” However, what should have been a memorable moment seems unrehearsed and is frustratingly underwhelming. Dylan and Jagger don’t interact well and the song doesn’t go anywhere despite the crowd’s exuberance. It might even be the low point of this two-plus hour performance that finds the Stones in typically sturdy form.

Those familiar with the already existing videos from this trek won’t find much new here. The extended metal bridge from the main stage to a smaller one further in the audience that splits the show in half finds the five piece (the horns and backing singers that augment the sound for the rest of the songs get a break) plus keyboardist/band leader Chuck Leavell running through raw versions of “Little Queenie,” “When the Whip Comes Down” and “You Got Me Rocking.”

A handful of then new tunes from the Bridges to Babylon disc such as “Saint of Me,” “Flip the Switch” and especially a dynamic and jazzy “Out of Control,” (with a vibrant trumpet solo from Kent Smith) fit well with the Stones classics that dominate this and other shows. A few more obscure selections — like the seldom played “Sister Morphine” and Keith Richards’ “Wanna Hold You,” a deep track from Undercover — should satisfy longtime fans who already own multiple live versions of this set, or one of the many concert DVDs from other tours available.

Although the sound has been remixed and remastered for surround, the restored video is in the 4:3 box ratio (not widescreen 16:9) with black lines on the outside of the screen. That’s not optimal but the playing is so consistently energized and animated—Keith is in particularly taut form– that it’s easy to ignore.

While the caffeinated editing is overly jittery at the start (the twisting effects on “Out of Control” are particularly egregious), it calms down later. Ron Wood seems to mug for the camera as much as he plays and between the amount of cigarettes he and Keith smoke during the two hours, it’s a wonder they both didn’t get diagnosed with emphysema after this show alone.

There are a variety of packages (Blu-ray, CD & DVD, colored vinyl etc.) to choose from, yet whether those who already own other audio and video documents of this tour need this particular one too is between you and your wallet.

Those who have resisted so far will find this is as good a representation of a typically explosive Rolling Stones spectacle as is available.

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