New Rolling Stones Film Feels Too Stuffed

With the Stones removed from the live environment, the film lacks the band's usual drama

Mick Jagger performs live at The Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco, California in 1974.
Richard McCaffrey/ Michael Ochs Archive/ Getty Images
June 20, 1974

At the performance I attended of Ladies and Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones, I was handed a Stones' frisbee as I entered the theater. Nonplussed, I sat wondering what to do with the damn thing until I saw the Angels of Light, a dance troupe dressed in glitter who came streaming down the aisles clapping their hands out of time with the music. I think I winged a particularly gregarious clown at the end of the line.

The Rolling Stones don't need paid go-go dancers and piped-in applause to psych a live audience. They provide not only music but drama — suspense that results from our uncertainty as to what will happen next. Ladies and Gentlemen is a straight filmed record of their 1972 Texas concerts and feels like a taped replay of a sports event. The moves may be just as we remember them, but they neither carry the same impact nor suggest the same meaning. The movie isolates the Stones from the event of their concerts, shows us just musicians and music, and makes them seem remote, even abstract. The fact that they generally play well and sound good is nearly irrelevant.

In light of such a flawed concept, the film's other shortcomings are no surprise. There are times when it doesn't even seem to be about the Rolling Stones at all, but rather about that new solo act, Mick Jagger and his backup band. I can understand the continuous close-ups during his moments of greatest intensity, but it's a bit silly to show us a shot of Jagger's ass while Keith Richards launches into his one vocal solo, "Happy."

At the film's end, the applause on the soundtrack is deafening, but the audience in the theater looked like zombies, bored and worn out from not having anything to respond to.

For the sake of historical record, it should be noted that the shots of the midrange of Jagger's body confirm the long-held suspicion that he stuffs the crotch of his pants before performing. I guess he knew they were making a movie.

This is a story from the June 20, 1974 issue of Rolling Stone.

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