Music Blu-ray Review: The Rolling Stones - Bridges to Buenos Aires

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Another live concert culled from The Rolling Stones' Bridges to Babylon tour, so soon after the Bridges to Bremen vault release from this past summer? I know I speak for many Stones fans by answering: YES, PLEASE. Via Eagle Rock Entertainment, the World's Greatest Rock & Roll Band has put forth a steady stream of vault titles over the past few years. And guess what? It never gets old, not even when the new one—Bridges to Buenos Aires—offers a very similar presentation in terms of setlist and stagecraft as we saw in Bremen. I almost hate to fall back on an argument like this, but... it's the freaking Stones we're talking about here (and this time they've got a cameo appearance by none other than Bob Dylan!).

While Bremen was taped very late in the Bridges tour (September 1998), this Buenos Aires epic comes from about the mid-point of the year-long trek, April 5, 1998. The audience is so into the show, it's utterly infectious. These folks are clearly experience rock and roll cartharsis and one can only imagine being among them (literally in my case, as I have managed to miss out seeing the Stones on every opportunity I've had—some fan I am, right?). And Mick Jagger's frequent Spanish-language stage banner adds to the fervor, as the crowd laps up every word (and that's even without the aid of subtitles for us English-only viewers).

While much of the setlist is typical of any latter-era Stones' hits-orient show, with the last third being a parade of well-played timeless classics, the thriller here is a jaw-dropping rendition of "Sister Morphine," led by Jagger on acoustic guitar. Any who's seen any quantity of Stones' live shows knows that Jagger's lead vocals often resemble cheerleading more than singing; shouted lyrics designed to engage the audience, melody be damned. Not so on this take of "Morphine," which displays Jagger's still-vital capacity for sublime singing. It's a true keeper. Plus, as is usually the case with these Eagle Rock concerts, the entire concert is presented on two audio CDs—so no, you don't have to plop down in your living room (or other viewing aread) and fire up the home video system to revisit it. 

bridge_buenos_aires_cover.jpg As mentioned, Dylan wanders out without much fanfare to join the Stones on a rousing "Like a Rolling Stone" (the band covered it on their Stripped album earlier in the '90s). Truth be told, Dylan's tentative (and too-low-in-the-mix) vocal isn't particularly stellar, but the seeing him side-by-side with Mick (and Ronnie Wood, who playfully squares off with Dylan for a bit of a riffathon) is priceless. It almost seems like zero rehearsal was put into who would sing which lines from which verse, but it's a blast nonetheless.

There's a number of tunes from Babylon, of course, and honestly they generally sound much better as concert features than they did on the album. "Saint of Me" is especially rollicking and Keith Richards' Thief in the Night is a highlight too. Special mention must be made of the tremendous Lisa Fischer, who put in over a quarter century with the band before leaving to focus on other projects in 2015. Her vocals and general stage presence are powerful, vital elements of the Stones' revue. I just wish someone would've turned her mic up a bit during her showstopping solo in "Gimme Shelter."

As with any pre-HD, standard def video, the Blu-ray version is only going to look so-so. It's 4:3 and looks every bit its age (which is not to say unwatchable, by any means). It's the audio that counts with these, and Eagle Rock offers their predictably solid presenation with a choice between DTS-HD MA 5.1 and LPCM 2.0 uncompressed stereo. I think there were some issues inherent in the original recordings that rear their head throughout—a sometimes cacophonous din of sound in which vocals, particular backing vocals, are not well-prioritized (I found this to be more the case with the stereo than the surround)—I do think what we have here is a faithful rendering of the concert as originally captured.

Unlike with the Bremen release a few months back, which included a bonus mini-set taken from a Chicago concert earlier in the tour, there are no extras here. But a two-hour and 20-minute complete concert, offered on both Blu-ray and two CDs, is more than enough to recommend to any Stones fan.

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Chaz Lipp is a Las Vegas-based musician and freelance writer. His new jazz album 'Good Merlin' is now available.

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