On July 9th, The Rolling Stones released another epic concert video from their bottomless pit vault. Titled The Rolling Stones A Bigger Bang: Live On Copacabana Beach, the twenty-song extravaganza takes us back to February 8, 2006 when the Stones played Rio to some 1.5 million fans in front of the Copacabana Palace Hotel; it’s one of the biggest free concerts in music history. The shots of the crowd seem endless, spread out from the beach into the water. That many people for just one band is quite an accomplishment. You wonder if Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Charlie Watts ever thought back in 1962, when their sole plan was to play music and make a few records, that their popularity would grow to such a stupendous number.
But it was really the music that kept them going from day one. In Richards’ autobiography, he recalls that feeling of their first gig, subbing for Alexis Korner at the Marquee in London: “There’s a certain moment when you realize that you’ve actually just left the planet for a bit and that nobody can touch you. You’re elevated because you’re with a bunch of guys that want to do the same thing as you. And when it works, baby, you’ve got wings.” And those wings have taken the Stones on a worldwide journey for almost sixty years.
One thing that cannot be dismissed is the energy the Stones can bring to a stadium full of people. Jagger, the consummate showman, does his peacock dance, Richards hits those mouth-watering licks that send you off over that rock & roll rainbow while Watts keeping it all from spiraling out into the far beyond. They’ve done it for years and luckily for us, lots of those shows have been captured on film to enjoy for millennia to come.
The album, A Bigger Bang, was released in the fall of 2005 and the Stones hit the road for a ninety date tour beginning that August and ending the following year in London. It was during this tour during a break before the European leg was to kick off, that Richards fell out of a tree in May and had to have emergency brain surgery. But the old codger was back on the road a few months later, hitting those notes and roaming the stage like a wily old cat. Not much could keep the Stones down.
But none of this had happened yet when they played Copacabana Beach in February 2006. They had already worked their way through most of America and Canada and were a well-oiled machine. The concert film, which comes in several DVD and CD formats, captures the majesty of what they did on that hot night in Rio. The DVD itself has excellent sound and video quality but again the powers-that-be have chosen not to give us any behind-the-scenes tidbits, except for the quick walk to the stage in a tunnel from their hotel. That is always a huge disappointment for fans. We want to see something private, something that makes this extra special, as they did on their Live in 1981, Hampton Coliseum and Totally Stripped DVD releases. But alas, here we have only the music.
But that music is rocking. When Richards hits those opening notes to “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” well, that’s all that needed to be said, and the band was off and running from one hit to another, the crowd in ecstasy. About midway through their two hour set, the stage breaks free and travels slowly out into the audience to give a few more hundred fans a chance to be closer to their musical idols. Starting with a speeded up “Miss You,” they played the new “Rough Justice,” an almost rumba beat style “Get Off My Cloud” and “Honky Tonk Women” while dodging fan-generated projectiles such as t-shirts, banners and shoes.
Most of the big Stones hits are here: “Satisfaction,” “Brown Sugar,” “Tumbling Dice,” “It’s Only Rock & Roll” and “Start Me Up.” Richards has his vocal spotlight on “Happy” and the new “This Place Is Empty.” Ronnie Wood shines on slide during “You Got Me Rocking” and during the encore on “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” Chuck Leavell has his spotlight turn during “Honky Tonk Women” while Lisa Fischer has her big vocal moment on “Night Time Is The Right Time.”
Highlights usually include new songs, since they’re fresh for the band as well as the fans, and here it’s the swanky walking slink R&B rhythm of “Rain Fall Down”- with kudos to Darryl Jones for making that happen with his juicy bass lines – and “Rough Justice.” The Ray Charles hit, “Night Time Is The Right Time,” was brilliant, the vibe so hot it makes you want to throw off your clothes and just sway. And the rabble-rousing ending to “Brown Sugar” is A+.
“Midnight Rambler,” from 1969’s Let It Bleed, is an almost twelve-minute jollification of Jagger’s harmonica blowing and energetic dancing, Richards’ bluesy guitar rhythm and Watts outstanding drumming. It’s one of the best versions I’ve seen them do in quite some time. Richards in his autobiography called the song, “One of the most original blues you’ll hear from the Stones.” The album, the last to include original Stone Brian Jones, albeit in a very limited capacity, went to #3 on the American Billboard charts.
You’d think we’d eventually get our fill of these live DVDs from the Stones but it simply doesn’t happen. In fact, this one only makes you scream, Bring on the next one!