Film of The Rolling Stones' 1972 United States tour.
Tracks:1. Brown Sugar
Captured during four shows on their Exile on Main Street tour in 1972, two each in Ft. Worth (June 24) and Houston, Texas (June 25), 'Ladies & Gentleman…The Rolling Stones' finds the band in the middle of a two-month trek through North America, returning for the first time time since the fatal Altamont fiasco chronicled in the Mayles' brothers brilliant documentary 'Gimme Shelter.' 'Ladies & Gentleman' had a brief run in 1974 playing select theaters that were modified to handle the QuadraSound audio. Other than an Australian VHS release in the '80s, it has been unavailable on home video until its recent release in conjunction with the remastered edition of the album.
It was a depraved and decadent time for the Stones as detailed in Robert Greenfield's S.T.P.: A Journey Through America With The Rolling Stones and the unreleased though bootlegged 'Cocksucker Blues.' The Stones claimed to be "The World's Greatest Rock and Roll Band," and with The Beatles having broken up two years prior, the only challengers to the title were The Who and Led Zeppelin.
Shot on 16mm film and blown up to 35mm, 'Ladies & Gentleman' opens in darkness with roadies talking and then the crowd roars as the band is introduced. Mick Jagger is wearing glittery stickers on his face, channeling his inner Ziggy Stardust. They open with "Brown Sugar" and Keith Richards' guitar sounds off. On "Gimme Shelter" there's no one singing Merry Clayton parts, and the song really misses the female counterpoint. Just three songs into the set, and it's hard to believe the Stones let someone as talented as guitarist Mick Taylor walk away. They could have been even bigger if he had stayed because his solos are fantastic.
The band shows great breadth as their influences are on display in their music. Gram Parsons' effect on his friend Richards, who sings back up, is evident on the countrified "Dead Flowers". The emphasis is on "roll" in rock 'n' roll as they create a Motown groove on "Tumbling Dice." Then a bit of the blues as they cover Robert Johnson's (though they don't credit him) "Love in Vain." Taylor brings things to a slow smolder as he performs some slide work. They go acoustic with another country-flavored tune, "Sweet Virginia," which an audience member is overheard shouting earlier in the set. The audience claps along as Jagger opens on harmonica backed by Taylor and Richards.
The horn section of trumpeter/trombonist Jim Price and saxophonist Bobby Keyes on "All Down the Line" helps pick the pace back up. "Midnight Rambler" has a wonderful extended jam in the middle of the song as the band stretches out, including Jagger back on harmonica. The band really slows it down as Charlie Watts offers some drum flourishes, although the camera stays on Jagger the whole time. He stalks around on stage, eventually down to all fours and swinging a belt. Richards solos repeating a guitar riff, allowing the pressure to build, and then the rest of the band kicks in. Add this performance to your make-out mixtape/CD/playlist/whatever because it exudes sex.
After the first 11 songs of the set focused on their last three albums, Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers, and Exile on Main Street, all of which are classics, they reach all the way to their first EP for a cover of Chuck Berry's "Bye Bye Johnny". Richards takes the lead and does his hero proud, playing guitar very much like Berry. The Stones close the show with two of their greatest hits, "Jumpin' Jack Flash" and "Street Fighting Man." Fireworks fall from above and Jagger throws rose petals into the crowd.
Not the tightest set, but the Stones are supposed to be a little sloppy, a little dirty, a little raw. The whole appeal of bad boys is that they aren't perfect. Fans of the band and classic rock will find this well worth their time.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Eagle Rock Entertainment present 'Ladies & Gentleman…The Rolling Stones' comes on a single 25GB Blu-ray disc housed in a blue keepcase. The discs boot up directly to the menu screen without any promotional advertisements. The disc is Region Free.
The video is presented with a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encoded transfer at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The source is problematic and not just due to how it was cared for over the years that caused all the damage to the print. The concerts don't appear planned around the filming, so director Rollin Binzer and his team were left to themselves to capture whatever they could with their 16mm cameras.
This results in focus being off at times from both band members and cameramen moving around. Even when in focus, objects have soft edges. The band could either be bathed under colored lights or off in the shadows. The colors are dull and blacks often crush. Some times the dark clothing Jagger wears blends in with the darkness. Contrast is weak and the image tends to be flat. There's a good bit of grain, due in part to the move up to 35mm.
With all that going against it, the historical significance softens the disappointing visuals because it looks about as good as it can.
The remastered audio is better, although the source presents its own set of issues. With a DTS-HD Master 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1, and a LPCM 2.0 to choose from, I went with the DTS 5.1 track.
When the whole band plays together, it's a muddled blend with limited dynamics. At different times, Watts' drums, Richards' guitar, or Wyman's bass get a little lost in the arrangements. Wyman's bass work is most prominent on "You Can't Always Get What You Want" but that's it. Taylor's guitar solos and Keyes' sax are the only instruments that can frequently be heard distinctly throughout.
Jagger's vocals come from the front channels. Fluctuations in clarity stem from his performance. An audience member can be heard shouting out a request. The music fills the surrounds with occasional audience sounds playing in the rears. Imaging wasn't in play until after the credits rolled and a plane roared across the channels as the Stones head to their next destination.
'Ladies & Gentleman…The Rolling Stones' is a good video introduction to the band on tour and longtime fans should be pleased that it's finally available on home video after decades. While the A/V quality likely may disappoint some Blu-ray aficionados, the fact that's there's no other concert film of their tours during the '70s so far and the limitations of the era should be taken into consideration.
To sum up my reaction, let me quote Jagger from the title track of 1974's It's Only Rock 'N' Roll, which came out the same year: "I like it, like it, yes, I do."