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Music DVD Review: Ladies And Gentlemen The Rolling Stones

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When you’ve been together as long as the Rolling Stones, it’s inevitable that there are going to be a ton of live concert films and albums released along the way. In the Stones case, there’s even more out there than most.

These range from genuine classics like Get Your Ya Yas Out and great concert films like the Maysles Brothers’ Gimme Shelter and Martin Scorsese’s Shine A Light, to the out and out awful — anybody remember Love You Live?

Lying somewhere in between these two extremes, are a string of mostly forgettable concert films like the 1981 Stones tour document Lets Spend The Night Together.

But with all due respect to Martin Scorsese and the Maysles Brothers, the long out-of-print 1974 film Ladies And Gentlemen The Rolling Stones may be the best pure live Rolling Stones concert document of them all. Now, thanks to the fine folks at Eagle Rock, this long-lost document of the Stones barnstorming 1972 American tour has not only been found, but fully restored and digitally remastered to its original glory.

Ladies And Gentleman The Rolling Stones captures the Stones at the height of their popularity and at the peak of their powers as a live band during their Exile On Main Street tour of America in 1972. Recorded over the course of four shows in Texas during that tour, the film was briefly seen in a limited theatrical release two years later, but has long since disappeared off the radar. Why is anyone’s guess, especially after seeing it now, some three decades later.

Watching this film today on DVD, its easy to see how the Stones earned their reputation as the greatest rock and roll band in the world. For the entire 90 minute running time of this DVD, the high energy level established by the powerful opening one-two punch of “Brown Sugar” and “Bitch” never lets up for a second. The Stones are crisp and tight, and despite being the undisputed biggest band on Earth at the time, they still play like they have everything to prove throughout this entire amazing show.

It’s also easy to see so why many hardcore Stones fans still view the so-called “Mick Taylor” years as the creative high water mark of the Stones entire career here.

Taylor’s lead guitar work throughout this performance is nothing short of stunning. There are numerous standout solos on songs like “Love In Vain” and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” But it is mostly on the rockers like “All Down The Line,” “Tumblin’ Dice” and “Midnight Rambler” that Taylor’s leads meld seamlessly into Keith Richards’ powerhouse riffs to a form a perfectly fluid whole.

Speaking of “Midnight Rambler,” Mick Jagger’s extended theatrical mid-song belt whipping and primal screaming turn this into another of the standout performances on this DVD. As a frontman, Jagger is actually a force of nature throughout here.

It’s particularly interesting to see the way he traded in the darker, more satanic “Jack Flash” persona seen on the 1969 tour document Gimme Shelter, for the heavily sequined and mascaraed — and no doubt Bowie influenced — early-seventies preening glitter rock dandy he is here.

But what really makes Ladies And Gentlemen The Rolling Stones arguably the best pure document of a Stones concert though, is the way it concentrates strictly on the concert and nothing else. As great a film as Gimme Shelter is for example, there’s no denying the fact that the actual concerts the Stones played in 1969 take a back seat to the events leading up to the disaster at Altamont. That’s the real story in that film.

Likewise, on Martin Scorsese’s more recent Shine A Light — though there are some great performances as well — the real story there is how the Stones can still be a great rock and roll band on any given night, even well into their twilight years.

What you get with Ladies And Gentlemen The Rolling Stones on the other hand, is a great concert document of the Rolling Stones during that early seventies period while their legend was still largely being written, and when the Stones could lay legitimate claim to being the mostly undisputed greatest rock and roll band in the world.

It should also be mentioned here, that for all the time this great, long lost gem has spent time gathering dust in the vaults somewhere, Eagle Rock has done an excellent job of restoring and remastering it.

Given its age — and particularly when its compared to other concert films from the same time period — the picture quality is superb and the sound is likewise remarkably crisp and clear.

There’s also some great extras here — including a pair of interviews with Mick Jagger, one from 1972 and another from just this past summer. The best of the extras though, comes with three songs from the original 1972 rehearsals for the Exile tour, including “Tumblin’ Dice,” “Shake Your Hips” and a blues jam. Although he is never seen in the picture, Ian Stuart appears to be playing keyboards (a spot taken by Nicky Hopkins for the actual tour).

With Ladies And Gentlemen The Rolling Stones, Eagle Rock has done a wonderful job of restoring a pivotal moment in rock and roll history. The only question is what took them so long?

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About Glen Boyd

Glen Boyd is the author of Neil Young FAQ, released in May 2012 by Backbeat Books/Hal Leonard Publishing. He is a former BC Music Editor and current contributor, whose work has also appeared in SPIN, Ultimate Classic Rock, The Rocket, The Source and other publications. You can read more of Glen's work at the official Neil Young FAQ site. Follow Glen on Twitter and on Facebook.
  • carl j. mancuso

    I thought one of the best parts of “Shine a Light” was the bonus footage of the band putting together an instrumental acoustic version of “Wild Horses”.

  • carl j. mancuso

    Glen: Nice review. I just got my copy of this DVD today. It is the best concert video of The Rolling Stones. I saw it when it originally appeared in movie theaters in 1974. I always wondered why it was not released before now, but Jagger explains that the band didn’t own the film for many years. Sure, some folks will say that the restoration could be better, but you can only do so much with footage and sound that was recorded in the early 1970’s. In this video the Stones were playing with a chip on their shoulder after the nightmare of Altamont in 1969. They have always had a reputation of being rough around the edges on the stage and in the studio. To some people, that’s part of the Stones’ charm. You can see all of that in their most recent concert videos (“Shine a Light”, “Live Licks”, “Live at the IMAX”, etc.) This video has everyone playing on top of their game. Mick Taylor shows his technical proficiency on guitar. The great ones make it look so effortless. I was going to write about this video for blogcritics, but I think you took the words right out of my mouth, and I can’t improve upon what you produced for the rest of us. Carl