The Rolling Stones – [DVD/CD]

Friday, 24 February 2012

Be a platinum-selling rock band for as long as The Rolling Stones, and there's no doubt that your music will touch a lot of people in a lot of different ways. The Stones can easily claim (with authority) that their music has made a lot of memories for a lot of people; it's been played at weddings, been requested by millions of people at millions of radio stations, been either responsible for or just playing as innumerable people lost their virginity (that's not including the number of girls who have been personally deflowered by members of the band since forming in 1962. Those numbers are impressive, but the catch to being loved and enjoying an often celebrated career is that there is invariably a “dark age” characterized by a few poor creative choices which caused fans to turn away in disgust for a while. In my mind, The Rolling Stones are no exception to that career pattern; there are portions of their songbook that I absolutely love and I'm not alone in that, but I am in a much smaller group when I say that I am unable to understand what value anyone has ever found in the band's recorded output between 1976 and 1989. During that period, the Stones' albums seem to be characterized by Mick Jagger chasing every musical fad he happened to run across (disco, new wave and so on) but, even worse, Keith Richards didn't seem to care enough to reign him in. Judging by the numbers, there must certainly have been people who enjoyed the albums released during this time (Tattoo You, Steel Wheels and Some Girls all rank as some of the top-selling albums of the band's career), but I just don't get it. In addition, the general consensus is that many of the Stones were flying pretty high chemically during this period, which calls into question the Stones' faculties as a live band; some can rock like beasts while stoned out of their minds, but some can't – which makes one wonder how good the band actually was.

The question of The Rolling Stones' abilities as a performing band in the late Seventies is answered pretty harshly with the Some Girls – Live In Texas '78 DVD – a set which has a couple of fantastic moments buried in a spectacular amount of barely-coherent dreck.

From the very opening of “Let It Rock,” Jagger presents himself as only partially coherent as he wanders around the stage, occasionally firing out bolts of spastic physical electricity and belting his vocals unintelligibly. At the time, he may have looked like the portrait of a successful rock star so perfectly assured of his status that he could play it sloppy but, in retrospect, in the early going of this set, Jagger just looks so drunk that he's almost falling down – which he was. Those watching this DVD will feel worry begin to grip them firmly as “All The Way Down The Line” fails to either redeem or improve the proceedings in any way; here, the rest of the band (other than Charlie Watts) clearly appears to be a little too socially lubricated to remain vertical. In that realization, the need to brace oneself for a truly bombastic flop of a film becomes very real, and viewers won't be able to stop their hearts from sinking; as much fun as it can be to watch someone fall down, it's far less entertaining when you pay for a video presentation of it.

Nothing at all looks positive about this proceeding as The Stones amble into an extended intro for “Honky Tonk Women,” and viewers will be about ready to write Live In Texas '78 off – but when the chorus begins to break open and Jagger is joined on the mic by Keith Richards, suddenly there are sparks. It's as if the bulbs in the duo seem to warm and glow with nearer proximity to each other and suddenly The Glimmer Twins light up; they're drunk, they're stoned and, apart, they can be pretty pitiful – but they find their rhythm together. The going gets donw, dirty and great all at the same time as the band rides the energy from “Honky Tonk Women” into “Star Star,” but then they stagger and fall again with “When The Whip Comes Down” and hearts will sink with them. This becomes the running theme throughout the show; The Stones (but especially Mick Jagger – he is the focus of attention at every turn in this production) sort of falter and then languish in an extended and mawkish fashion but, just before even the most devout fans are forced to question their taste, they turn in a phenomenal performance – or at least one which is perfectly memorable because there is no chance it could ever be repeated. These sorts of landmark performances at typified on this DVD by “Far Away Eyes,” “Tumbling Dice” and “Jumpin' Jack Flash,” but “Star Star,” “Beast Of Burden” and “Brown Sugar shouldn't be discounted too.

But, again, is it enough? The Rolling Stones' set on Some Girls – Live In Texas '78 is seventeen tracks, and six or seven are really worth seeing at most; everywhere else, the band is just too shambolic for its own good. Do six or seven songs of seventeen make for a good presentation? Some Stones fans might say yes – seven song from this time period in The Stones' history is worth wading through the half-formed slime in between. That's fine for them, but I'm not that kind of guy – are you?



Some Girls – Live In Texas '78
is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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