The Biggest Bang doesn't seem nearly as boastful when you consider it comes from the self-proclaimed "Greatest Band On Earth," once you've been pummeled by seven hours of footage spread across four DVDs. Size matters to The Rolling Stones and they again outdo their overblown antics. Ever masters of overstatement, their unapologetic penchant for excess makes them the butt of jokes, but also sustains them. The tiny slings and arrows of their critics can't sink this preposterously large mothership of rock. The shows get bigger and ticket prices skyrocket, yet they continue to break attendance and earnings records.
The biggest HD TV cannot transmit the enormity of the stage, sound, presence, and energy of a Stones' show but The Biggest Bang comes damn close. The production is immaculate, the sound captured and mixed beautifully. The visuals are bold, but unimaginative. This is a concert film and the presentation never strays from the standard rock show.
The first two discs of this package focus on that standard rock show, with Disc 1 devoted to the Austin, Texas show and Disc 2 covering the free show in Rio de Janeiro. Both are outstanding with Austin getting a slight edge in terms of performance and Rio getting the nod for visuals. The sea of people, an estimated 1.5 million, rocking the beach is an astonishing sight.
The highlight of the Austin show is an unexpected performance of "Get Off My Cloud." Years melt away and Jagger's voice sounds younger and stronger than ever. He's lost none of his hyperactive, spastic presence and it's amazing he still finds room to improve after singing these songs for 40 years. His confidence allows him to command the stage and spectacle without a hint of self-consciousness. He shakes, struts, jerks, and sings with conviction, simultaneously energizing the band and the crowd.
The Rio show features a scorching cover of "The Night Time is the Right Time," a song made famous by Rudy Huxtable on The Cosby Show. While backup singer Lisa Fischer is no Rudy, she and Mick Jagger tear up the stage. The band storms through "Miss You," with a million voices ready to help Jagger hit the high notes and "Get Off My Cloud" is again played. Jagger's vocal isn't as energetic as it was in Austin but the band is more vibrant and the song again sounds great.
Disc 3 features abbreviated sets from other exotic locations. The Argentinean crowd's enthusiasm nearly upstages the band in Buenos Aires. Stops in Japan as well as the band's first trip to China are also excerpted. Disc 4 features a few more songs and some interview footage with Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood, and Charlie Watts. Watts' interview might be the longest of the reclusive drummer's career.
As great as this set is, there are flaws. The Austin and Rio de Janeiro shows are billed as full-length concerts, but that is a misnomer. Apparently, there is a difference between "full length" and "complete." There are a lot of fans who crave complete, single-show performances and a 4-DVD set has enough space to provide this and still have plenty of room for bonus footage. The other flaw is that The Biggest Bang is available only at Best Buy. These exclusive marketing deals are part of the reason critics think of the Stones more as a corporate partnership than a band.
Neither of these flaws should dissuade fans from buying this box set. Critics bet against them every time, but A Bigger Bang and The Biggest Bang are undeniable proof The Rolling Stones can and should continue.