Appropriately, “Start Me Up,” plays behind the DVD menu, but the actual footage begins backstage, with promoter Bill Graham marshalling the production and getting petulant while the band swigs Gatorade and whiskey from the bottle and ready themselves moments before the performance. Mick Jagger is the only performer who looks nervous.
The band takes the stage with “Under My Thumb,” and by God, there’s Mick in his oversized mauve suit, doing exactly the moves he’d been warming up with minutes earlier, Ronnie Wood with a cigarette clamped firmly between his lips and Keith, chill and happy, replete with tons of eyeliner, his guitar and a cigarette, spending his 38th birthday onstage.
Jazz saxophonist Ernie Watts took center stage for a long solo on “Just My Imagination,” blowing his ass off, flanked by the Stones. The happy hug between Richards and Woods and the look of triumph Jagger flashes as he wipes himself down after that ten-minute number speak volumes about how much these musicians care about their performances.
In addition to the disc itself, the package includes a nice booklet with interesting background and liner notes as well as a few good still photos from the performance. In addition to the music, we’ve got some serious outfits on display. Jagger, as usual, strips down from a suit jacket, ultimately arriving at a designer wife-beater, then reappearing in a football jersey whose shoulders are padded with (of course!) 20-foot silk scarves; he finishes off sporting an outsized hybrid Old Glory/Union Jack flag.
Toward the end of the show, during “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” Jagger strips off his top and throws a bucket of water onto high-dollar ticketholders, then boards a cherry picker for a bird’s-eye view of the audience as Richards and Wood whip their guitars into a new level of frenzy. Jagger descends, runs the periphery of the front rows, and throws more water. The audience screams, the band leaves the crowd roaring, then returns to the unmistakable opening guitar riff of “Satisfaction.” A thousand large, colored balloons drop down from the rafters. Suddenly, amid the confusion of the balloon avalanche, the viewer sees (in a rare long shot) a lone figure catapult onto stage left and head for the band. Back to a tight shot, we see Keith Richards’ attention focus on something—the interloper—off camera; Mick Jagger continues to sing “I’m riding in my car” as Richards calmly unslings his Telecaster, grabs the neck and unwinds at the fan as if swinging for the bleachers. They tousle briefly and we hear feedback from Richards’ guitar as he slips it back on and catches up with the song. “Street Fighting Man” indeed (song not on this DVD).
A particularly well-shot video, this show was the first music event ever filmed for pay-per-view. Lucky for us, the Stones were always inventive with their touring strategies, leaving us with this concert film, because this would be their last American tour until 1989. Eschewing the glitzy and distracting fast cuts and multiple screens that would later become popular, this DVD features multiple cameras capturing all the action on stage and an editor who had the good sense to pick the best action and stick with it long enough for it to sink in. There’s always something interesting to watch during a Rolling Stones concert, but we don’t have to see them simultaneously.
This DVD runs 150 minutes and includes 25-plus songs, all perfectly lit, filmed and recorded, with Jagger and Richards in their prime. If you don’t have a humongous-screen TV yourself, I recommend you buy it for a friend with a 52-inch screen and invite yourself over.
– Suzanne Cadgène