|Rolling Stones, The: Bridges to Babylon Tour '97 - '98|
|Written by Abbie Bernstein|
|Tuesday, 17 November 1998|
At this point in history, reviewing anything involving the Rolling Stones is not unlike reviewing Stonehenge. Both have been around nearly forever, and those who revere, are puzzled by or ignore the monoliths are unlikely to have their strongly held opinions altered by anything written at this late date.
'The Rolling Stones Bridges to Babylon Tour' DVD is a wholly professional if reasonably conventional two-hour-long concert video. The sound is strong, live-album quality, though there are moments when it would have been nice to have better coverage of the audience. The photography is mostly sharp and colorful, starting in a brief pre-concert sequence that segues from the streets outside the stadium awash in gold light to the satiny blue aura bathing the stage prior to the Stones' appearance.
The show properly opens with "Satisfaction," featuring Mick Jagger's trademark can't-stand-still choreography contrasted with Keith Richards' unflappable, ominous stalking round the stage. In this number, as well as the next few, a smiling Ron Wood, cigarette dangling unworriedly from his lips as he plays on, is the only one of the Stones who looks as though he's truly having a good time. The backup players and singers, however, look overjoyed to be up there with the old gods--singer Lisa Fischer in particular adds a massive jolt of energy and enthusiasm every time the camera singles her out.
Notable moments are the eerie intro to "Gimme Shelter"--even Richards looks a little pleased to be spreading the mojo again under a green spill of lights, while Jagger and Fischer blend their voices together magically.
Dave Matthews duets with Jagger on "Wild Horses" as the Stones' frontman starts to loosen up and get into the words, standing still for once while his guest (in possibly unconscious homage to Jagger) keeps moving his knees in time to the beat. Josh Redman sits in on sax for the rendition of "Waiting on a Friend" that features some harshly percussive guitar.
While it looks just fine here in Chapter 12, it's easy to imagine that the sight of the vast bridge that stretches out from two sides of the arena to meet in the middle must have been even more impressive to see live. The Stones bound across the structure, touching the outstretched hands of concertgoers en route (though Jagger refrains from pressing the flesh), to a boxing-ring-sized stage mid-crowd for "It's Only Rock 'n Roll" and "Like a Rolling Stone." The latter is a true highlight, with Jagger seeming positively impassioned, the crowd singing ardently along and (likely out of respect to composer Bob Dylan, who reportedly is in the audience) the vocals punched up so that every lyric is distinct.
The only audio complaint is what seems to be a bit of tinniness (who knows, it could just be the speakers) on the horns at the beginning of "You Can't Always Get What You Want." Jagger invites the audience to sing along but, although they appear to be following his directive, we can barely hear them as the mix is tilted almost entirely in favor of the band.
Rather disappointingly, there is no supplemental material here: no interviews and only the barest glimpses backstage--we see Richards swapping one instrument for another in the shadows, and that's about as much as we get. However, as expressed in the above song title, you can't have everything. 'Rolling Stones: Bridges to Babylon Tour' is a solid audio/video document high-energy and unimpeachably proficient rock 'n roll.