No other rock band on Earth can match The Rolling Stones for longevity, stamina, innovation and sheer ‘rock and rollness’. From humble beginnings in the early ’60s as a blues/rock and roll band playing obscure and not so obscure covers, they quickly progressed into a tight-knit five-piece band with a dedicated following. The songs they covered always sounded “Stones-like” but it soon became apparent that longevity and financial success was most assured if they could turn their own songs into hits. Jagger and Richards found that task not overly difficult and although some of their early songs were a bit dodgy, they soon began churning out hit after hit, and they have done so now for 40 years.
The Stones were portrayed as the bad boys of rock and roll, and The Beatles as the good guys. The reality now is that there was little between them in the good and bad stakes. The songs of the Stones were less poppy than The Beatles, which was what appealed to so many teenagers. Many adults were not keen on the Beatles’ influence on youth, but most were horrified by The Stones.
The Rolling Stones' line-up over 40 years has been relatively stable. Multi-instrumentalist Brian Jones drowned and was replaced by Mick Taylor, who was replaced a few years later by Ron Wood, but even that was 30 years ago. Bass player Bill Wyman left around 1990, but the core of the band, Jagger, Richards and drummer Watts, remains intact.
There have been lean periods, dodgy albums and some brilliant ones, extended breaks, domestics and a few solo projects, but The Stones are still Rolling. Their shows have always been an event, but concerts in recent years have been quite something. Four Flicks is the DVD record of their recent tour in which they played arenas, stadiums and theatres, each time presenting a different show befitting the venue. The set lists were deliberately chosen to match the venue, and the Forty Licks tour went on to be one of the most financially successful tours ever.
The band is in fine form in all three shows represented here, being Madison Square Garden, Twickenham Stadium and the Olympia Theatre in Paris. The stadium and arena shows feature large video screens, a big stage, walkways and a second stage in the middle of the crowd where the band play a slightly more intimate set, while the Olympia Theatre show features the band up close and personal, with Mick more interactive, and the set list more personal and bluesy. Special guests at the different venues include Sheryl Crow, AC/DC and Solomon Burke.
There are more than 50 songs played over more than five hours and while some of the bigger hits such as Honky Tonk Women, Satisfaction, Jumpin’ Jack Flash and Brown Sugar get a double or triple workout, many songs are included that most fans will not have heard live. Monkey Man, Rip This Joint, Happy, No Expectations, Neighbours and Dance all get a workout and sound great. There are also performances of well known songs such as Paint it Black, Wild Horses, Angie, Tumbling Dice, Beast of Burden, Street Fighting Man, Gimme Shelter, Midnight Rambler, Bitch and Let it Bleed. Most, if not all, songs are easily identifiable and have not been butchered or overly reworked.
Casual fans will probably more enjoy the large shows that feature the bigger hits, but more serious fans will no doubt appreciate the theatre show that looks and sounds a little more like the early days, with some good ol’ fashioned rock and roll and rock/blues played club style.
No band has the legacy of The Rolling Stones and few bands can match them for classic songs, hits and rock and roll attitude. This four-disc set finds them musically in form on their recent world tour, and should see fans finally getting some satisfaction.
Of the three shows, two are essentially full frame presentations and one is in an aspect close enough to 1.78:1, but all are very good looking. Sharpness and clarity is of a very high standard and the stage lighting is so good that everything is well lit and bright and shiny. You will see every wrinkle in Mick Jagger’s face and every little trinket dangling from Keith Richards’ hair. There are none of the normal blue and red light issues normally associated with live performance DVDs. Black levels are superb and shadow detail is simply not an issue.
Colours are strong, bold and accurate, even with the varied stage lighting. There are no issues with grain, bleeding, skin tones or noise. There are no marks, dirt, glitches or artefacts in any of the shows, and aliasing and shimmer is at a bare minimum.
The layer changes are well placed between songs.
There is a choice between Dolby Digital stereo or Dolby Digital 5.1, the latter no doubt being the choice for many. It must be remembered that although the Stones are a rock and roll band, they are more traditional than most and therefore do not have a drummer with an enormous kit or a bass player that is going to thump the band out of the room. Subsequently, the low-level sounds are not overly aggressive, but are more than adequate and sound very 'Stones-like'.
The high level sounds such as acoustic guitars, percussion, honky tonk piano and female vocals are all loud, clear and discernable. Much of the music comes from the front sound stage, with the rears used for crowd noise and filling up the room. There are no real audio gymnastics, but you wouldn’t expect or want them.
There are no issues with synchronisation or volume, and there is no hiss or distortion. The only real audio issue is Keith Richards’ singing. Man that guy should stick to guitar. Every one of his badly delivered vocals is loud and clear – and awful!