Music Blu-ray Review: The Rolling Stones - Havana Moon

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Havana Moon documents The Rolling Stones' historic free concert in Havana, Cuba on March 25, 2016. Recently issued on Blu-ray (standard DVD available as well) by Eagle Rock Entertainment, Havana Moon presents the Stones in fine form. The band seems supercharged before a massive sea of enthusiastic Cuban concertgoers (the attendance figures vary, but it seems fair to say at least half a million people). While there have been many Stones concert films charting their later years (all worth watching), they seem to be especially relishing the opportunity to perform in Cuba for the very first time. Highly recommended is the Blu-ray package that includes the concert on two audio CDs as well. It takes a certain commitment to return to a concert video for repeat viewings, but having the audio readily playable as a live album for on-the-go listening is a welcome convenience.

The film begins with some low key, quiet reflections from Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ron Wood, and Charlie Watts about their Cuban spectacular. Their thoughts unspool as voiceover while we see a montage of dusky footage of Havana and its people. Richards sounds genuinely awed and humbled as he recalls hearing President Obama, who was in Cuba that same week, referencing the upcoming concert in a speech. As the Stones' set progresses, audience shots—which so often feel obligatory at best and intrusive at worst—feel consistently vital. These fans are clearly lapping up every second of the Stones' show and it helps heighten the sense of occasion.

The set list, presented in truncated form for the main show (there are several "bonus" performances as a special feature) isn't particularly adventurous, with the greatest obscurity being the Bridges to Babylon cut "Out of Control" (highlighted by a badass guitar/harmonica dual solo between Richards and Jagger). The best part is a long "Midnight Rambler," with Jagger surrounded by the audience while on a long catwalk, engaging in spirited call-and-response. Richards takes center stage brandishing an acoustic guitar for a heartfelt "You Got The Silver."

As mentioned there's nearly a half hour of additional performances included as a bonus: "Tumbling Dice," "All Down the Line," "Before They Make Me Run," "Miss You," and "Start Me Up." No idea why these tunes weren't included in the main concert film, but it's great to have access to them. For the full concert experience, pop in those CDs as they contain everything from the concert in the correct running order.

Kudos to Eagle Rock for another great Rolling Stones audio/visual Blu-ray presentation—the 1080p visuals look super sharp (also kudos to the production team for resisting the typical hyper-editing that makes so many modern concert films difficult to watch, the camera is allowed to linger comfortably without quick-cutting all the time). The audio is offered in both DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround and LPCM 2.0 stereo.

Havana Moon presents a very special show and Eagle Rock's three-disc Blu-ray package is a must-own for Stones fans.

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Chaz Lipp is a Seattle-based freelance writer whose focus is film and music. His new jazz album Good Merlin is now available.

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