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The Rolling Stones: A Bigger Bang: Live on Copacabana Beach DVD/CD

Doug Collette By

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Rolling Stones
A Bigger Bang: Live on Copacabana Beach
UME/Mercury Studios/Rolling Stones Records
2021

The Rolling Stones concerts have been synonymous with spectacle since the Seventies, but never more so than in recent years, especially in the case of their free concerts as documented on A Bigger Bang: Live on Copacabana Beach. Like the similarly-conceived and executed Havana Moon (Eagle Rock, 2016), this stage production is the definition of grandiose, here including a bridge specially-constructed to allow the band to casually stroll from their hotel accommodations to the stage plus a mobile staging component designed to bring the musicians to the 'center' of the floor (sic) on a smaller performance platform. As with the show in Cuba, though, what happens around the stage in Rio De Janeiro does not diminish, much less transcend, what takes place on it.

The tight, focused musicianship there is a direct reflection of the cover images showing the core four Stones overlapping, interconnected and in reflection of their very selves. Nearly sixty years of time together have bonded Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Mick Jagger, while Ronnie Wood has been a member since 1975. Plus, there's one-time bassist for Miles Davis, Darryl Jones, who came on board in 1994, twelve years after one-time The Allman Brothers Band keyboardist Chuck Leavell joined on. These decades of experience have not had any discernibly adverse effects on their enthusiasm or their proficiency, quite the opposite.

Infusing their performances with passion while never missing a cue or betraying any ennui based on their extended tenure in the fold is a tribute to the professionalism experience and savvy of all those participants. The same is true of the three background vocalists (who get little camera time except for Lisa Fischer on Ray Charles' "The Night Time Is The Right Time") as well the four horn players (one of whom is Keith's kindred spirit (and as of 2014, the late) saxophonist Bobby Keys, a road warrior with the Stones since 1972).

Arrangements of familiar material indicate musicianly imagination brought to bear. The charts not only keep the chestnuts fresh, but also place them in proper context of the Rolling Stones major influences, For instance, "Tumbling Dice" from Exile on Main Street (Rolling Stones Records, 1972) turns into a Memphis funk piece via the brassy horns, as does "Honky Tonk Women," which carries more of a big band flavor. Wood's lap steel highlights Richards' "Happy" and Leavell's piano intro rejiggers "Sympathy For The Devil," at least at the outset when the crowd sings along spontaneously.

If the band shows some signs of fatigue here before it's done pounding out the familiar rhythm near the two-hour mark, "Start Me Up" serves as a kick-start for a sprint to the finish. And when Jagger sings "Wild Horses," he hits and holds the notes without strain in his voice: it's as if he's aiming the sentiment directly at not just at the estimated million and a half observers in front of him but also the viewing audiences around the world he acknowledges early on in the show (and exhorts periodically with gutsy 'Oh yeah's that recall the late blues icon Muddy Waters to whom this group owes so much).

New songs from the latest release of the time, like "Rough Justice," are mere rewrites of old (this one the Chuck Berry-derived "It's Only Rock 'n Roll (But I Like It)" of all blueprints), so that number and "You Got Me Rockin'" just beg the question if the Rolling Stones should more often draw upon the wealth of songs already at their disposal; they do reach way back to 1965 with "Get Off of My Cloud" and other choices of similar vintage ("Paint It, Black") have also expanded the setlists admirably in the past too. Such an approach would pose little threat of turning the group into an oldies act: most concert attendees these days were quite possibly not even born when some such tunes were first released. Of course, this is one group not averse to self-promotion and they were touring to support the namesake LP after which this set was titled, out the year prior.

At this point, Rolling Stones packages like A Bigger Bang: Live on Copacabana Beach are like their global tours, for both better and worse. These gifts to the world at large appear at regular reliable intervals and while they contain much the same basic content in this three-disc set, it's the wrapping of the present itself, such as the one-off setting on the beach in Brazil, that grabs the attention to compel a listening and/or watching that might not otherwise occur. In those instances, it may be a revelation for many less-than-avid music lovers to hear the zest with which the Rolling Stones play and sing these days.

Accordingly, it's telling (and demographically-astute) CDs are enclosed with a DVD in this bundle. The first complete release of the February 2006 concert (there is a more expansive item too with a book plus another whole show from 2005). The packaging design here, however, functions like a tacit invitation from the band to their fans to go mobile with music that's long been an integral part of both their lives: in a wry sequencing turn that benefits both chestnuts, the timeless ("Can't Get No) Satisfaction" immediately follows "You Can't Always Get What You Want"

Though it is not specifically designated as 'From The Vault," Live on Copacabana Beach brings the tally of exhumations to over a dozen, More importantly, the release prompts a thought-provoking notion about exactly what keeps the Rolling Stones motivated as live performers. Along the same lines as the intimate theater shows they still offer as means of a deeper and different connection with those attendees (on this very tour in fact), their challenge in arenas and even larger setting such as this one in South America is to deliver more impact with their instruments and voices than the giant-sized video and graphics projections that frame that action. Well-rehearsed but far from rote in brandishing its considerable firepower, 'the greatest rock and roll band in the world' delivers A Bigger Bang indeed.

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