By Phyllis Pollack
Strikingly, the exhilarating Rolling Stones Sweet Summer Sun-Hyde Park Live delivers the closest look into what it is like to be at one of the band’s shows, in as much as anyone could ask for from a film. Released by Eagle Rock Entertainment, this concert DVD/Blu-Ray captures the band’s triumphant, climatic return to Hyde Park.
Filmed at the place forever known as the venue at which the band gave tribute to the late Brian Jones, who had just died in July of 1969 from misadventure in less than transparent circumstances, the surroundings offer magnificent panoramic views.
A few small segments of the film were shot at the Gastonbury Festival in Pilton.
That it was in the splendor of the idyllic park, with its historical significance, and noting the band’s 50th anniversary, that it is in Hyde Park all fades away, as one is drawn into something else, specifically the music.
With audio production by Don Was, who has already proved his stripes with the band, and mixing yet again from Bob Clearmountain, not enough can be said about the film’s production value.
When it comes to the film’s visuals, the band’s return home is directed by Paul Dugdale and producer Jim Parsons. Nothing more could have been done with the direction to give viewers a feeling they were there. If it wasn’t a goal, it was certainly miraculously achieved.
The Great Oak Stage is captured beautifully by the film’s editing, which includes an uncanny overhead view of drummer Charlie Watts’ encased set-up during a vigorous, earthy performance of “Brown Sugar.” With close-ups and tight shots, as well as cinematic lensing that seizes the entire venue, not a note is wasted.
From Jagger’s skinny jeans to Ron Wood’s self-emblazoned rhinoceros on his red T-shirt, the visuals are clearly defined.
19 live tracks are seen in their entirety with no fluff and thankfully, no distracting and irrelevant shots, while its cinematography manages to endearingly capture the flavor of fans that were lucky enough to be there live.
That striking footage of fans that came to the show define why the band is still gracing The Great Oak Stage on the same date 44 years decades after their seminal Hyde Park gig.
“No one can take that for granted,” says guitarist Keith Richards, when interviewed in the film.
Shots of the video screen’s list of musicians that influenced the Stones punctuate the musical and historical roots of the band.
Jagger’s moves punctuate the performances, as he goes through several clothing changes that will always be associated with this tour, the 50 And Counting Tour. Who could forget his long black, feathered coat, lined in metallic Bordeaux lace that he wore while prancing down the catwalk during “Sympathy For The Devil,” or his gold jacket and black pants, embellished with brocade, as he strums his Gibson Hummingbird during “You Can’t Get What You Want?”
L’Wren Scott’s rock and roll couture on the 70-year old Jagger arguably lights up the ramp, as he anxiously works his way to the B-stage with the band.
Among the guitar shots, Woods’ Versoul Rayb Custom, handmade in Finland, is grabbed by the screen during “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” as the guitarist occasionally throws guitar pics towards the audience.
Richards’ sustain is inevitably noticable, as he jerks away while playing riffs on one of his blond telecasters in a shot close-up enough to capture on which fret his capo is placed.
The trio of guitarists Richards and Wood, with Mick Taylor returning to ride shotgun, become an unrestrained arsenal of rhythm guitar during the fiery “Midnight Rambler.” On top of this, keyboard vamps by Chuck Leavell, fired up by Watts and propelled by Jones, make down and dirty more heavenly than ever.
Taylor is also heartily welcomed back during the encore performance of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.”
It’s not just the music, but the moments that are memorialized by the film that make the film euphoric to watch. For the band, it is still clearly a labor of love.
While watching insanely talented back-up singers Bernard Fowler and Lisa Fischer singing, “Whoo, whoo,” it is resounding clear that they are getting off as much as the audience is. Getting drawn into moments like this, it is hard to not feel hypnotized by the scenario of the final date of the tour.
Jagger is so hyped up, he is still chanting “whoo, whoo,” after the song has ended.
Another captivating shot has Richards playing one of his black Gibson ES 355, while smiling broadly, as bassist Darryl Jones deftly takes on bass, knowing he owns the moment. Such moments reflect infectious rapture.
The DVD is a fulfilling second best to a ticket, if one exists.
No one can watch this film, and truthfully say they weren’t sucked into the Stones’ vortex.
With the band scaled down this tour, Tim Reiss is featured on numbers including “Sympathy For The Devil,” as is Chuck Leavell on keyboard, longtime sax-player Bobby Keys, with Matt Clifford given the role of musical integrator. The band is additionally joined by the London Youth Choir and the Voice Chamber Choir during the song.
The Stones offer their thoughts on the band’s future and its ability to have survived for decades, with Watts noting, “At our age, I think this could be the last one about all (of their gigs). It could be. I always thought it would pack up next week.”
At one point during the concert, a fan waves a sign proclaiming, “Keith is God.” While watching this wonderfully executed film, fans will feel enraptured once more when stepping up to the altar.