The Rolling Stones
Ladies & Gentlemen… The Rolling Stones (DVD)
“It’s a product of its time,” a contemporary Mick Jagger dryly comments during an interview on one of the extras to this long out of print concert film of his band’s 1972 American tour. Between the frontman’s white, spangly jumpsuits, a near naked stage bathed in muddy red and purple lights, and a refreshing lack of the pretense that has defined the Rolling Stones for the past 30 years, this DVD oozes early Seventies. Modern technology has buffed up the often bootlegged concert after it sat deteriorating in some musty vault for nearly four decades. Even with a dodgy audio mix, it probably sounds better here in its remastered form, than it did to the audience of the four Texas shows these performances were culled from.
Reissued to coincide with this year’s Exile on Main Street festivities, it caps a 12 month period that saw the re-release and expansion of the album along with a documentary on its difficult, even debauched creation. All that’s left is rescuing the legendary, rarely seen, often sordid yet fascinating “Cocksucker Blues” footage, but that will likely not happen as long as Jagger and Richards are alive.
Musically the flick captures these veterans at what many consider their peak. Mick and Keith attack the songs, only five of which are from Exile, like they still mean something. And those who haven’t seen guitarist Mick Taylor in action will finally understand why he is missed in the Stones lineup. He plays virtually all the leads, leaving Keith to slather his Keith-ness on rhythm and rock and roll vibes.
The music is fleshed out by horns from Jim Price and Bobby Keys along with an invisible and barely audible Nicky Hopkins on piano. But the five piece fires on all cylinders for the majority of the gig, even if Taylor looks like he’d rather be somewhere else and the typically stone-faced Bill Wyman seems not to notice he’s playing in “the greatest rock and roll band in the world.” They sound pretty damn great on stripped down versions of “Happy” and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” and pay tribute to Chuck Berry by digging out a speedy yet impassioned “Bye Bye Johnny.”
The editing is haphazard – outfits change song by song as the filmmaker’s piece together the best tunes – and, like Mick says, it sure is a product of its time. But compared to the slick, Vegas-styled caricatures of the Stones we have come to expect, this is a charming, often potent reminder of how powerful these veterans were in their street fighting prime.