The 90s saw The Rolling Stones bigger than ever, having already transcended into a space where they didn’t need to write any new material, people would still buy tickets faithfully as they wheeled out hit after hit every night. 1997 gave us Bridges to Babylon and an accompanying tour. Their latest DVD release, Bridges to Bremen, chronicles them nearing the conclusion of the tour, having taken place over the space of a year.
Even by the standards of more recent tours, the stage set-up for this one was extravagant. That’ll hit you as soon as it starts and before the band even make their way onto said stage. As is to be expected, when they do stroll out and the crowd erupts on cue, Mick, Keith, Ronnie and Charlie rip into “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”, they do what they have done their entire career: ooze cool.
Before that first song is even finished, you can tell the band are at the top of their game and determined to make this show the best of the tour yet. And what’s perfectly captured here, much like last year’s No Security release, is that despite being part of a tour, it feels like something more than a show from rock’s most enduring band. This is a unique experience and the previous night, and every night of the tour was its own self-contained event.
Naturally, being part of this tour, there’s a handful of numbers from Bridges to Babylon in the form of “Flip the Switch”, “Anybody Seen My Baby?”, “Saint of Me”, “Out of Control” and “Thief in the Night” peppered into the first half of the set among the hits. Then the second half, well, it’s hit after hit after hit… after hit. The band, well into their fourth decade at this point, show that whilst many of these songs are required to be played at a Rolling Stones gig, they’ve not lost that spark of why bands form in the first place: they still enjoy playing their music for their audience and you can see how much fun they’re having as they interact with one another. As they extend versions of songs, nothing ever becomes too turgid, though there is a weird moment between Jagger and Lisa Fischer during “Miss You” and Keith’s bemusement isn’t subtle. And that’s before you take into account that he didn’t like the song in the first place.
Meanwhile, the No Security tour the following year would also continue a feature which was established on this one: the B stage. With this being its inception, it’s done in an extremely fanciful fashion as a bridge to the smaller stage (get it?) extends and once they make their way across, it retreats with the B stage descending, back to being among the audience. From here, it gives those at the back of the stadium a better view, the band perform in the round and capture a sense of intimacy, despite their massive surroundings, harking back to their club days. And it’s also from this moment where the band just keep delivering all the hits that you’d expect from them.
As the band return to the main stage, it’s the home straight and as they hit the two hour mark, they’ve not missed a step and it’s plain to see they’ve still got more than enough energy to keep going and indeed, the entire performance clocks in at two and a half hours. Most bands half the age they were at that point can’t even do that! But then again, the Stones have always been more than a band, they’re a force of nature.
The DVD is representative of the time itself. Everything’s been cleaned up and it looks as good as can be. Sadly, it’s in 4:3 but it’s a minor gripe and everything sounds like it was recorded in 2019, such is the advantage of modern technology so you can hear a band on fire. Everything cuts at the right points and there’s several wide shots to show just how big the audience was and the sheer scope of the stage set-up.
As The Rolling Stones show no signs of slowing down and continue to delve into their back catalogue of live shows, this is another great addition from the vault. The set list may not be perfect but it shows the magnificence of their shows, something which continues to this day as well as why they became one of the biggest bands this world will ever see: they’re simply a great live act in every sense. The only difference between Bremen in 1998 and today is they’ve got more wrinkles.
Bridges to Bremen is out now