The Rolling Stones, dubbed “the world’s greatest rock and roll band,” whose “Bigger Bang” series of concerts in 2005 was the top grossing tour in history, have released “Ladies and Gentlemen – The Rolling Stones,” a DVD that chronicles their 1972 tour. This 15-song live collection, which also features rehearsal outtakes and two interviews with Mick Jagger, was a limited run theatrical release in 1974 and shows the band at their peak.
The film, which is a no-frills live performance in support of their “Exile on Main Street” album, culled from four shows in Texas, finds Mick Jagger (vocals and harmonica), Keith Richard (vocals and guitar), Mick Taylor (lead guitar), Bill Wyman (bass) and Charlie Watts (drums) in fine form playing what the original poster described as, “The Fifteen Hits that Shook the World of Music.” Stones fanatics have been waiting for what seems like eons for this treasure to see the light of day. The set list, which spans the 60’s and early 70’s, displays a rough and tumble rock and roll band living through a lifestyle of excess (drugs, high society and tax exile) at this time, but left it all on stage with a riveting, high energy performance.
“Brown Sugar” and “Bitch,” two songs from their 1971 “Sticky Fingers” album, start the show on high note with Richard’s rhythm and Chuck Berry influenced guitar fills on his Fender Telecaster leading the way, along with Taylor’s melodic solos. Jagger sings as though his life depends on it. Dressed in a denim jacket worn over a white jumpsuit with an accessory of a sash, the glitter-painted frontman (around his eyes), sings these then recent classics with high energy and style. His stage movements are classic Jagger, as he struts like a rooster, preening narcissistically while engaging the enthusiastic crowd. While watching the DVD, a viewer should be aware that the wardrobe changes are due to footage being taken from different nights. Wyman and Watts, who never seek the spotlight, provide a rock solid rhythm section that is a hallmark of the Rolling Stones legendary sound.
“Gimme Shelter” from the “Let it Bleed” album is performed without the female backing vocals of Merry Clayton that appear on the original version. Despite this, it is sung forcefully by Jagger. It is also interesting to note that the film of the same name chronicled the Altamont Festival that the Rolling Stones played on December 9, 1969 (post Woodstock) and the horrific murder of Meredith Hunter that occurred there committed by drug addled Hell’s Angels members who served as Rolling Stones security at the show. The Stones hadn’t toured the United States since 1969, so this document of their inspired comeback is monumental in scope: they have never sounded better.
“Dead Flowers” from another night in Texas has Jagger wearing a glam jacket, in strong voice with a version of this country-rock ode that features wonderful harmonies of the “Glimmer Twins” (Jagger and Richard) and Taylor’s warm-toned solos on his Gibson Les Paul guitar. Taylor, who joined the band in 1969 after the mysterious, untimely death of master musician and founding member Brian Jones, never fit in as a “Stone,” but his tenure with the band coincided with their peak years in terms of recorded material and live shows. He shines throughout the DVD with his bluesy and melodic solos.
“Happy” from the aforementioned “Exile on Main Street” has Richard on lead vocals with Jagger coming in on the chorus. The two are clearly enjoying themselves sharing the microphone as Jagger flashes a knowing smile. Watts who is seen wearing a tee shirt with an image from the “Exile on Main Street” cover and a ruffled shirt on another night, is a driving force behind this “juggernaut” of a rock and roll band with his straight ahead no–nonsense drumming. Wyman, who merely stands in the shadows (the concert was filmed with little light as most concerts were in the ‘70’s) is a reliable bassist who isn’t flashy, but plays effortlessly and is one of the integral parts of this unit. Taylor’s solo is tasteful and effective.
“Tumbling Dice,” another track from the recent (at the time) double album release is a rousing, rocking version with the band in fine form. This concert favorite, which is still played at Rolling Stones concerts, once again is sans female backing vocals, but has resonance with the band pulling out all the stops.
Another point that should be mentioned is that long time Rolling Stones sideman Bobby Keys (sometimes Keyes) and Jim Price are the brass section, while the great Nicky Hopkins mans the keyboards. Keys’ solo in “Brown Sugar” has helped make it the signature rock classic it is today. Though these three are not out front, so to speak, they are essential elements to the Stones live sound.
Blues pioneer Robert Johnson’s “Love in Vain,” slows the pace a little bit as Jagger emotes on this lovelorn ode. “It’s hard to tell when all your love’s in vain” is a sentiment that many audience members can relate to. Taylor’s slide playing is first rate on this salute to the blues, which can be found on their “Let it Bleed” and “Get yer Ya -Ya’s Out” (live album) releases. The Rolling Stone’s sound origins are steeped in the blues, so they are clearly in their element on this live version.
Next up is an acoustic classic and another Exile track,” Sweet Virginia.” This raw country inspired tune shows that the Stones, who can rock with the best of them, also have a feel for America’s roots music and it shows in this rendition of a lesser known song from the band’s catalogue. Richard and Taylor, on acoustic guitars, flank Jagger, whose harmonica playing is stellar. This aspect of his musical talent is often underappreciated. He is a great “harp” player.
“You Can’t Always Get What You Want” and “Midnight Rambler” (on which Jagger whips the stage with his belt) are faithful to the original album cuts, but of course the former didn’t feature a choir.
“All Down the Line” and “Rip This Joint” are the last two “Exile” tracks played and show the Stones at their rocking best with all members playing and singing at peak efficiency. “Bye Bye Johnny,” a Chuck Berry nugget, is given royal treatment by the boys with Richard soloing marvelously on a Gibson Les Paul guitar. Playing his idol’s riffs is second nature to him and he demonstrates it on this rocker.
Two Stones standards, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and “Street Fighting Man” close out the show with high energy. Though faithful to the original versions, these interpretations add new energy and brilliance to them. Jagger thanks the crowd as flower petals fall gently to the stage. He then proceeds to throwing petals smacked with kisses to the audience and the band bids their farewell.
Some added extras on the DVD are an “Old Grey Whistle Test” 1972 interview and a more recent (2010) talk with Jagger. In the early one, he expounds on the making of “Exile on Main Street,” while the latter finds him reminiscing about the film and complimenting Taylor’s playing on the DVD. This collection also includes rehearsal footage of the band performing “Tumbling Dice,” “Shake Your Hips” and an unreleased track, “Bluesberry Jam.”
The Rolling Stones don’t need any hype. The band’s name and reputation are firmly established. Their legendary status aside, this concert film is a testament to their incredible live performances over the decades. “Ladies and Gentlemen – The Rolling Stones,” is a filmed record of these rock legends at their raw, blues-soaked zenith. On the heels of Keith Richard’s new autobiography, “Life,” along with rumors of a new Stones album and a 50th (can you believe it?) anniversary concert tour permeating the classic rock world, they will be hard pressed to outdo the musical brilliance on this DVD release.