By Joe Viglione
Perhaps a hundred years or so from now viewers will see two old men singing the song “Like a Rolling Stone” and wonder what it is doing on the film Bridges to Buenos Aires? Or maybe like Spinal Tap’s manager – National Lampoon editor Tony Hendra imitating John Lennon on “Magical Misery Tour” proclaiming “I’m a genius! Like Shakespeare and Beethoven and Van Gogh” – the distant future world will see this wonderfully scrambled duet between Mick Jagger and Robert Zimmerman as rock & roll versions of Beethoven and Shakespeare. For Stones and Dylan fans, twenty-one and a half years after the 1998 concert for the 1997 Bridges to Babylon CD, it is sheer magic, a nugget inside a very nice, very nice concert. The release date for this show was November 8, 2019, following up the September 2nd, 1998 German concert, Bridges to Bremen, which was released June 21, 2019.
So to get things organized here, the April 1998 show from Argentina is released in November of 2019 while the September show from Germany was issued earlier in June of this same year, 2019, twenty-one years after it was recorded. The Stones made sloppiness their trademark yet if you watch Bridges to Bremen, the 1990s Stones, as they are today, are inescapably refined. A Vegas show as slick as Cher, Elton John, Rod Stewart of Bette Midler. It has to be, these are different times. But a guest star of the magnitude of Dylan takes all bets off the table. Jagger’s harmonica is delightful and the band plays with a wild abandon (yet still in full Vegas mode) that is everything real rock and rollers want. Or maybe what rock historians want.
The press release writes: “Bridges to Buenos Aires captures the complete show from April 5, 1998, the last date of the band’s five-night sell-out residency at the River Plate Stadium in Argentina’s capital city. Without introduction, Bob Dylan, guitar in hand, joined the band on stage to sing “Like A Rolling Stone” with Jagger.”
You can catch some of the videos on YouTube as well as an informative trailer, and as this chronicler has stated in many a review of these magical artifacts, we want it all to sift through. It’s hard to imagine a hard rock band like Deep Purple having fanatics that revere them the way the expanded underground remains in awe of every drop generated by the Velvet Underground, but it is true. Deep Purple has ascended into a place where a multitude of their followers are obsessed with them. Personally I find their first hit, Joe South’s “Hush,” the Deep Purple worthy of that mantle. The first three Tetragrammaton albums were a British band giving their spin on Shadow Morton’s Vanilla Fudge formula. The Stones, Mick, Keith and Charlie, take the cult devotion to a level that only the Beatles and Dylan can share. Star Wars, Harry Potter, Beatles, Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan – the Velvet Underground enshrined as the hippest of all, millions adoring them against the multi-millions the Beatles, Dylan and Stones enjoy.
Now maybe I’m imagining things but the Bridges to Buenos Aires is just a bit more cutting edge than the German show, Bridges to Bremen, and it is much harder to gauge these days for, as stated, the audience demands the mega concert. And as this musicologist does quite often, I bring you back to the future by keying in on the benchmarks, Oakland 1969 and Madison Square Garden 1969.
Fifty years prior to the release of Bridges to Buenos Aires, November 9, 1969 was the performance(s) of the brilliant Oakland concert(s) that is indelibly pressed into the brains and souls of pure Rolling Stones fans. The bootleg, Live’r Than You’ll Ever Be.
Also recorded in November of 1969 were the concerts in Maryland (Baltimore, Nov 26, 1969) and New York (Madison Sq. Garden, Nov 27, 28, 1969) resulting in Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out, released September 4, 1970. The bootleg – as legend has it – forcing out the commercial release.
Now here’s the Bridges to Buenos vs Bridges to Bremen 1999 meets Live’r vs Ya-Ya’s. The Dylan track on Buenos Aires differentiates the two concerts which, of course, have some kind of similarity, a professional touring band out on the road forever is not going to be as experimental as they were in 1969. The band featuring the powerhouse Mick Taylor/Keith Richards duo commanded with authority. Just listen to the July 18, 1972 Boston show that this writer attended, 2nd row: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ew_F-RHtGhs
Watch “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” from Buenos Aires. The classics work better than “Saint of Me” or “Flip the Switch,” real majesty in “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” methodical, professional and sublime. Ron Wood, God love him, works well on this, yet hardcore Stones’ fans yearn for Mick Taylor’s counterplay with Keith. Nice to hear Mick sing “to my friend Jimmy,” the great Jimmy Miller, and the cameras are thankfully subdued, the main camera on Mick, fades to Keith and then to the backing chicks. It’s terrific, actually, quite terrific. Ronny’s lead is a different dimension, not Mick Taylor, then suddenly the pace picks up, the greatest rock and roll band in the world being just that.
“Jumpin’ Jack Flash” has good energy and Mick dressed for the occasion, including sun glasses. Keith, Ronny and Jagger all moving around with Charlie slamming away. Sure, this isn’t the Bill Wyman/Mick Taylor fantastic five, but this particular rendition is superb, chirping horns, the Vegas band actually playing like they’re at Sir Morgan’s Cove in Worcester again, seeming to throw caution to the wind, as Steely-Dan-precise as they actually are. A reasonable facsimile and worthwhile in a way far removed from the July 18, 1972 Boston show. We’ll call this a sophisticated rocking “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.”
There’s so much to like about Bridges to Buenos Aires, the packaging, the sixteen-page booklet, the double CD of the concert and the video. It’s a keeper though, as I’ve stated many times, we’d like to have all the Stones concerts in collectible form, from their first show up to present time. In a perfect world, the vibrations – if you believe the scientists and the mystics – are still floating out there in the universe like the light of stars that have long since evaporated.