Ladies and Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones
Details: 120 mins, In Cinemas 28 October 2010, United States, English
Synopsis: This exclusive Rolling Stones concert event will feature the re-mastered HD digital version of the band performing on one of their most legendary tours, captured from front row seats when the Stones were at their peak.
An enjoyable look back at vintage pre-stadium rock.
For a concert documentary about the greatest rock & roll band in the world at their live peak, Ladies and Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones has a rather polite introduction. Instead of Texas in 1972 you get London’s Dorchester Hotel in 2010, where Mick Jagger, the band’s vocalist and de facto accountant, does his best to pretend that he’s excited about the long lost concert film, and can actually remember what was a famously debauched American tour.
“I’m glad I was wearing white in one of those shots,” suggests Jagger airily, who faces an interviewer who doesn’t ask questions so much as suggest that Jagger just enthuse about how great it all was. He does establish a few basics: Rollin Binzer’s film was made for cinemas (it received a limited release in America in 1974), “got slightly lost” for two decades, and needed restoration when the Stones purchased the rights back.
Ladies and Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones is a companion piece to Martin Scorsese’s Shine a Light, the sumptuously made 2008 concert film and documentary, if only because they are complete opposites. The vintage footage is raggedly shot, from limited camera placements, and the sound has an authentic rawness that includes a few bum notes from Keith Richards. Being pre-stadium rock, the band is comparatively close together, playing on a truly dark stage with a primitive lighting rig – producer Nicky Hopkin is playing keyboards at the back, but good luck spotting him.
The Stones hadn’t toured America for three years prior to their summer jaunt (in the opening interview Jagger has to be promptly reminded that their previous American tour, in 1969, ended with a fan being stabbed to death at Altamont), but they had just released Exile on Main Street, a definitive double rock & roll set. The record had a wealthy, nihilistic bent – it was all about big black cars: limousines and hearses – and the group’s downfall loomed, but on good nights, which the four gigs compiled here appear to be, they could still flay an audience.
After several minutes of pitch black audience ambience that hilariously includes two members of the road crew bitching (“I’ll buy you a flashlight!”), the group launch into “Brown Sugar” and “Bitch”. Jagger does his finest rooster strut (as an aside, he appears to have a filleted quail stuffed down his pants), a dentally challenged Keith Richards looks like he’s having a ball, the great Charlie Watts hits the drums very hard, the dour bassist Bill Wyman (real surname Perks – it suits him) doesn’t move and guitarist Mick Taylor, Ronnie Wood’s predecessor, plays a succession of fluid solos without appearing to notice that Jagger is dancing around him. The tracks come tough and loud: “Street Fighting Man”, “Rip This Joint” and a version of “Gimme Shelter” that puts aside the moving spiritual fatigue of the studio for straight adrenalin.
Fans of the band, and the musical era, will enjoy it, although it’s worth noting that The Rolling Stones, at the behest of an aghast Mick Jagger, are still sitting on Robert Frank’s Cocksucker Blues, a documentary about the 1972 tour that gets down to the offstage nitty-gritty. Ladies and Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones marks the point where The Rolling Stones became a traveling corporate event – Truman Capote covered the tour, badly, for Rolling Stone magazine – and it you need a reminder of where that avarice took them, check the ticket price for this film. The Melbourne session I attended was charging $25 for entry.
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