wed 13/12/2017

DVD Release: Ladies & Gentlemen, The Rolling Stones | reviews, news & interviews

DVD Release: Ladies & Gentlemen, The Rolling Stones

DVD Release: Ladies & Gentlemen, The Rolling Stones

Legendary rock flick finally makes it to DVD

They don't make 'em like this any more: The Stones storm America in 1972Ethan Russell (All Rights Reserved)

This is the antidote to Martin Scorsese’s 2008 documentary Shine a Light, which, for all its technical excellence, depicted the increasingly senior rock band sounding pretty crap. Ladies & Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones was shot at four concerts in Texas on the Stones’s 1972 American tour, hot on the heels of the release of Exile on Main Street. While its pre-digital quality and all-round primitiveness is a little bit startling, that’s all part of the way that it transports us back to a time when rock’n’roll was still barely housetrained and vaguely lawless. It didn’t exist just to provide visual wallpaper for mobile-phone commercials.

Yet in its day, Ladies & Gentlemen… itself harboured pretensions towards pushing the envelope of the mid-Seventies movie-going experience. During its original cinema run in the USA, the film was presented in “Quadrasound”, using a complicated speaker system to deliver 360-degree audio. Each show had a sound engineer on hand to apply a bespoke mix which took into account how many people were in the house and how they affected the sound balance.

The film subsequently appeared with a drab mono soundtrack, but hasn’t been screened anywhere since the Nineties. This is its (legal) debut on DVD, and while it has been digitally remastered, there’s no disguising its many idiosyncracies. Rock concerts today are covered by swarms of cameras from angles once unimaginable, but most of this footage has been filmed from the same two or three positions. Band members are intermittently hidden or cut out of the frame, and acres of the stage seem to dwell in permanent darkness. It’s only in the last couple of songs that director Rollin Binzer (love that name) includes some spectacular shots from behind Charlie Watts’s drumkit, probably because they were only available from one concert.

Nonetheless, as an in-concert document of the world’s “greatest rock’n’roll band” at the peak of their powers – unless you’re a fundamentalist who only accepts the mid-Sixties Brian Jones era as the real thing – this will never be beaten. Though they were a decade into their career by this point, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were still in their late twenties (though Bill Wyman was 35), and barely recognisable as today’s wizened old troupers.

The modern-day Stones camouflage any shortcomings with giant inflatable phalluses, NASA-like lighting systems and huge projection screens, but this is just the band, plus horn players Bobby Keys and Jim Price and pianist Nicky Hopkins, playing their instruments to a ravenous crowd (drummer Charlie Watts, pictured below).

Charlie_smallThe 15-song set could only be improved by doubling its length. They blast off with a tumescently throbbing "Brown Sugar", then rip through such milestones as "Gimme Shelter", "Happy", "Tumbling Dice", "You Can't Always Get What You Want", "Midnight Rambler" and "Jumpin' Jack Flash". Here’s all the evidence you need of how Jagger, oozing weirdly ambivalent sexuality, influenced everybody from Bowie to Brandon Flowers, as he flounces to the microphone with bony hand on skinny hip in an array of satin jumpsuits and diaphanous scarves (the costumes change unpredictably as the film cuts between different shows).

To his left, Richards applies himself with an almost studious air as he metronomically cracks out those riffs-you-have-loved, and his mike-sharing duet with Jagger in the debauched "Dead Flowers" represents the Glimmer Twins in excelsis. Remarkable, considering that 98 per cent of Keith's body mass must have consisted of opiates during this period. Throw in sterling work from expressionless lead guitarist Mick Taylor, especially his spine-tingling slide solo on "Love in Vain", sprinkle on some barn-burning sax solos from Keys, and you have The Rolling Stones the way we should always remember them. DVD extras include interviews with Jagger from 1972 and 2010, and some rehearsal footage from the Exile tour.

Comments

brilliant. can't wait to see it.

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