The Rolling Stones - Bridges to Babylon 1998 [VHS]

 
9786305134978: The Rolling Stones - Bridges to Babylon 1998 [VHS]

A classic live performance from the Stones' 1998 tour, with special guests Dave Matthews and saxophonist Joshua Redman. Songs: Satisfaction, Let's Spend the Night Together, Flip the Switch, Gimme Shelter, Wild Horses, Saint of Me, Out of Control, Waiting on a Friend, Miss You, I Wanna Hold You, It's Only Rock & Roll, Like a Rolling Stone, Sympathy for the Devil, Tumbling Dice, Honky Tonk Woman, Start Me Up, Jumpin' Jack Flash, You Can't Always Get What You Want, Brown Sugar.

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Review:

Like any good brand, the Rolling Stones know to preserve the formula even when updating the package, and this long-form concert video underscores that market strategy. As with each of their tours since the early '80s, the quartet, augmented by a discreet auxiliary of backup musicians, gives the fans new eye candy while dishing up a familiar set list spiked with Mick Jagger's lip-smacking vocals and Keith Richards's signature guitar riffs. The visual twists are at once spectacular and conservative: a cyclopean main stage design with massive pillars (presumably the Babylonian connection), a vast oval video screen (shades of Big Brother), and a hydraulic bridge enabling a midconcert sortie into the audience, with the Stones playing a more stripped-down, intimate set on a small satellite stage.

That huge physical setting doubtless made the live shows eye-filling rock spectacles, but the video crew necessarily accepts the limitations of the small screen, focusing more on close-ups of the band, rapid cuts, and racing, hand-held tracking shots to convey excitement while keeping the viewer close to the action. The evening's repertoire sticks to the band's most familiar hits, and if the Glimmer Twins occasionally slip their masks to let the routine show, the real wonder is how effectively they keep the playing focused. During the first half of the program, the band's newest songs (especially "Saint of Me" and "Out of Control") elicit conspicuously higher energy from the band, if not the audience. But just as the show seems doomed to a certain anomie, the escape onto the smaller, no-frills stage pumps up players and crowd alike, particularly when they launch into "Like a Rolling Stone," a cover that winds up sounding like a great idea too long deferred. --Sam Sutherland

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