Review by Joe Viglione
Bridges to Bremen
On paper the September 2nd, 1998 concert from “the final leg of the band’s Bridges To Babylon tour” sounds like a winner, and in some respects it is. The set is impeccably filmed, some of the best Stones footage –with truly delightful camera angles that you’ll ever find on a Stones’ DVD. And the entire band along with backing chicks and their countrified “Tumbling Dice” got it down pat. After all these years they’d better. But therein lies the problem.
In record production there’s something that I call “catching the butterfly.” Capturing the butterfly is the intuitive intangible that is delivered in both the performance and apprehending —well, reproducing — that performance on tape; in mixing it properly and then in mastering it properly. Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out has it. The bootleg that ostensibly forced the band to put Ya-Ya’s out – Live’r Than You’ll Ever Be has it (“Gimme Shelter” on that Oakland concert classic sounds like The Stones copying The Velvet Underground copying The Stones!!!!) and the hit single “Tumblin’ Dice” most definitely has it.
On Bremen it is like watching a slow-motion repeat of one of your favorite songs, pretty decorations but the feel has evaporated. Heck, Linda Ronstadt’s hit 45 RPM of “Tumbling Dice” might have been sterile and lame, but she made up for it with an exquisite rendition from the motion picture FM – see YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2I7GkHy5iOA Play this movie version – which of course was color by the numbers for a film live onstage. It sounds and feels like the real deal. They “caught the butterfly.” On Bridges to Bremen all the butterflies are caught by the terrific camera people. Bremen is a beautifully filmed movie with an audio that has the butterflies all fleeing.
Some important history:
The great Jimmy Miller, producer of Exile on Main Street, walked in to the house at Dragon Court in Woburn.
He saw me with headphones on in the living room and asked “What are you doing?” “I’m listening to “Tumbling Dice” extra loud, it’s my favorite song by you.” Jimmy looked at me and said jokingly “I never want to hear that song again! Mick made me mix it about forty-five times.” Jagger’s been quoted as saying “they used the wrong mix,” but from someone outside his perspective, it is absolutely the right mix. As I told Miller “the chicks wailing, the sounds colliding” (paraphrasing myself thirty plus years on…it’s just a masterpiece of record production, it caught the butterfly, and many other butterfly species along with it.
Bridges To Bremen – as much as I love a variety of mutations of a song by the original artist (which happen on this collection) – exceeds BECAUSE of that variety, different perspective on Stones music. It exceeds more than the fact we obsessive/compulsive types want all things Rolling Stones. Yet, critically, it simply does not excite the way a needle dropping on “She’s A Rainbow” on a turntable brings a serious tingle to the senses.
It does not make one jump up and go crazy, it is a carefully constructed Las Vegas show (in Germany but you get the idea) that has nothing to do with the Mick Taylor/Jimmy Miller/ Golden Age of the Rolling Stones. However, as far as marketing goes, the kids of today will treat it like it is the vintage stuff. At least they will be getting a good education.
Yet, what won’t matter to the 90s generation or the current generation – and why they are missing out – is the genius of Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers, Exile on Main St., the bootleg Taxile on Main Street, Ya-Ya’s, Live’r Than You’ll Ever Be, these masterpieces of music, these Beethoven/Bach/Mozart Rock & Roll artifacts – especially on the original vinyl – have the depth, the majesty, the sense of revelation, the excitement that makes you want to jump up and down and sing along. And not in the artificial way that Tom Cruise jumped on Oprah’s couch.
In Bridges To Bremen Jagger is NOT Oprah-couch-jumping. He’s quite good. He should be, he’s one of the greatest front men of all time with a lot of practice decades after being one of the greatest front men of all time. You wouldn’t want to tangle with Mick, Madonna or Beyonce or Lady Gaga, unless in a duet. Jagger is wise beyond his years…and his years are beyond most people’s years. He is Lucifer, the Dark Angel of Music …see Proverbs: chapter 23, verse 7: “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he” Jagger projected the devil image, and the devil he is. Only now he wants big bucks while going through the motions kinda sorta. He’s still great, especially given his longevity. That pact with Satan working out so well for him these days. Lots of new product to sell on the 2019 tour, perhaps this epic one of them. And why not?
The Stones have so much to offer and what the fans want – a true boxed set of so much unreleased magical music…- the Stones ain’t selling just yet. But we bless them for giving us so many Eagle Rock releases, we truly do, because a true fan would want every single Stones performance in history on their shelves.
In this 1998 video Lucifer Mick is taking it easy. The menacing bad boy that was once every parent’s nightmare is entertaining those parents and their parents and anyone who survived the sixties hanging on for the last moments, one last time of seeing the Rolling Stones in concert before they cross over to the other side.
The late Jo Jo Laine (see what I mean about crossing over…the late Jo Jo Laine, the late Jimmy Miller…) and I caught the Stones at Foxboro in September of 1995, twenty-four years ago. The Stones were so tiny miles away onstage at the football stadium where the N.E. Patriots play (well, played – there’s a new stadium now on or around the same spot) and La Jo Jo and I spent our time listening and looking at all the merchandise…of which there was quite a bit.
Bridges to Bremen is its own fabulous. It’s a breathtaking film masterpiece. But it is not the feeling I got sitting in the 2nd row in 1972 at the Boston Garden when the stones were released from Rhode Island and the show started at midnight. That was an historic moment in rock history. The late Mayor White rescued the bad boys of rock and roll from Rhode Island’s state clutches after an incident with a photographer or something…(see if you can find the mayor’s “My city’s in flames” speech on YouTube, it’s on a bootleg somewhere. Did it inspire Blue Oyster Cult to write their classic? “City’s On Flame with Rock n Roll?” Who knows? I remember waiting…waiting…Stevie Wonder had played hours ago…and finally the Stones arrived…and they brought the magic. Took some of Mick Jagger’s rose petals home with me and kept them in plastic …God knows where they are now in some storage facility… That was rock and roll. That was a machine that crunched and rocked and was sloppy and superb all at once. That was a midnight concert for the midnight rambler. Here the filmmakers get the credit for documenting the greatest rock band in the world. The more releases the better, I say, because you can always find a nugget or two to make you happy and Bridges to Bremen is gladly accepted into the collection.
Bridges to Bremen Track List
1. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction
2. Let’s Spend The Night Together
3. Flip The Switch
4. Gimme Shelter
5. Anybody Seen My Baby?
6. Paint It Black
7. Saint Of Me
8. Out Of Control
9. Memory Motel
10. Miss You
11. Thief In The Night
12. Wanna Hold You
13. Its Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It)
14. You Got Me Rocking
15. Like A Rolling Stone
16. Sympathy For The Devil
17. Tumbling Dice
18. Honky Tonk Women
19. Start Me Up
20. Jumpin’ Jack Flash
21. You Can’t Always Get What You Want
22. Brown Sugar
Bridges to Chicago – Bonus Performances
1. Rock And A Hard Place
2. Under My Thumb
3. All About You
4. Let It Bleed