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Music DVD Review: The Rolling Stones – Ladies And Gentlemen…The Rolling Stones

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Ladies and Gentlemen…The Rolling Stones was first released to select movie theaters in 1974 and it captured the Rolling Stones at the height of their power during their 1972 North American tour in support of their now legendary Exile On Main Street album. The film was recorded during four shows in Ft. Worth and Houston, Texas. Due to various legal issues, this video was only ever commercially released on VHS in the early ’80s in Australia, until now. Last year, Eagle Rock Entertainment released a restored and remastered version of this historic concert film on both DVD and Blu-ray for Rolling Stones’ fans to drool over for years to come.

Beware if you’ve only ever seen the Rolling Stones in concert, or concert video, during the last couple of decades, because this it not the glitzy, elaborately staged, concert spectacle that we’ve been accustomed to seeing during the Stones’ last several tours; this is the stripped down, raw, and flamboyant Stones that earned them their reputation as the world’s greatest rock band in the 1970s. They only took three extra musicians on this tour, Bobby Keys on sax, Jim Price on horns, and Nicky Hopkins on piano, to round out the live arrangements, instead of the small army of musicians that normally accompany them now.

The thing that really sets this video apart from other Stones’ concert videos is that we get to see Mick Taylor, in his prime, absolutely tearing up the fretboard. Taylor was only 23 years old at the time and he would end up quitting the band just a couple of years later. I can only imagine how different the Stones might have been these last few decades, had Taylor stayed in the band. The majority of the tracks performed on this DVD come from what are arguably their three best albums, 1969’s Let it Bleed, 1971’s Sticky Fingers, and 1972’s Exile On Main Street, which are all albums that Taylor played on.

The opening scene is of a darkened stage, as you hear roadies and crew talking amongst themselves, and the occasional camera flash firing off. After a few minutes, it is finally announced, “Ladies and gentleman…The Rolling Stones,” as the band make their way to the stage. Moments later, as the stage lights fire up, the band rips into the opening number, “Brown Sugar,” and it has never sounded as raw and powerful. “Bitch” was also refreshingly raw as the guitars finally take center stage again after having to hear the famous main riff drowned out by the giant horn section on their more recent tours. Here, Bobby Keys’ sax, and Jim Price’s trumpet provide only the perfect embellishment to the amazing guitar riffage going on.

“Gimme Shelter” sounds like a stripped-down demo, without any backup singers to pretty it up, and Taylor’s dazzling guitar work taking center stage. On “Dead Flowers” Jagger and Richards share the same microphone like the happy glimmer twins they once were. Jagger even stays out there to provide some glorious harmony vocals throughout the entire Richards-led performance of “Happy”, while also taking lead on most of the choruses. The blues-drenched “Love in Vain” is the next big moment for Mick Taylor to shine, and he simply runs away with it. The director shows plenty of great close-ups of his pinky-held glass slide masterfully gliding across his fretboard to make it sing.

The Stones transform “Midnight Rambler” into a 12-minute extended jam, with Jagger struttin’ around the stage like a man possessed, firing off random harmonica solos, and seducing the crowd with unmatched charisma, while Taylor and Richards draw you in and out of trance with their guitar work. They really get their second wind late into the set with a powerhouse performance of the Chuck Berry hit “Bye Bye Johnny,” which seems to enliven the band as much as it does the crowd.

Only the Rolling Stone’s are able to close out a concert with two classic rock anthems as potent as “Jumpin Jack Flash,” and “Street Fighting Man,” and that is exactly what they did here, leaving the stunned American crowd thinking, “what the hell do these English have in their water, to produce as many great bands as that tiny British isle has?

Although this 1972 film was restored quite nicely, the picture is very dark, which is typical of most concert films from the era. It didn’t help that the Stones’ stage show was very modest on this tour, and the minimal stage lighting barely kept the band visible at times. The remixed and remastered audio, provided in DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 surround, as well as Dolby Stereo, fared much better here, and you should not be too disappointed with what you hear.

The camera work was extremely up close in personal, often framing only Mick’s face, close enough to see his glitter starting to peal off, and even throwing in a few close-up crotch shots for good measure. There are no shots of the audience, and the cameras rarely even pan back far enough to capture more than two or three band members in the same shot.

Special Features include tour rehearsal footage of the band performing “Shake Your Hips”,” Tumbling Dice,” and “Bluesberry Jam,” as well as two interviews with Mick Jagger; one from the Old Grey Whistle Test show, from what appears to be 1972, and one recorded in 2010.

Ladies and Gentlemen…The Rolling Stones serves up vintage concert footage of rock & roll royalty at their peak, and it is one of the most important concert DVD releases of the last decade.

Set List:
01. Brown Sugar
02. Bitch
03. Gimme Shelter

04. Dead Flowers
05. Happy
06. Tumbling Dice
07. Love In Vain
08. Sweet Virginia
09. You Cant Always Get What You Want
10. All Down the Line
11. Midnight Rambler
12. Bye Bye Johnny
13. Rip This Joint
14. Jumpin Jack Flash
15. Street Fighting Man

Performance: 8/10
Production: 6/10

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About Paul Roy

  • El Bicho

    Very good write-up. I reviewed this for High Def Digest and we had very similar reactions. As I watched this, I couldn’t help but wonder how much bigger the Stones could have been if they had kept Taylor in the band. Maybe the Universe’s Greatest Band?

  • Paul Roy

    Thanks. I was never a big fan of Keith Richards’ style, so I never paid that much attention to Taylor either. This video was a real eye opener.

  • Mike Cormany

    Very good review, especially pointing out the camera focused on the wrong Mick. By this point, the band, live at least, was a showcase for Taylor’s incredible playing and I imagine that didn’t go over too well with at least two members of the group. So not too surprising Taylor left two years later but this film shows why the band was called the greatest in the world, a title that has been mostly honorary the last 30 years.