Reviewing a late-period Rolling Stones performance turned out to be surprisingly daunting task once I got into it, especially as a fan of the group’s earlier incarnations (my collection on vinyl stops at Tattoo You).
Broadcast around the world, their 2006 show in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, A Bigger Bang Live On Copacabana Beach was quite a landmark as it is one of the largest (if not “the” largest”) single audience any artist had performed before at a single time.
Presenting some of the songs from their then-new A Bigger Bang album, the concert is mostly chockfull of fan favorites played with precise energy and fervor inspired by the massive crowd. That is important to understand as there is something powerful about seeing this legendary British band perform before approximately 1.5 million people!
It is quite stunning and happily the group really pulls it all together, delivering a very solid performance of all the hits you might hope for and some surprises (for example, they include a fine cover of Ray Charles’ “Night Time Is The Right Time.”). Four new songs not in the original 2007 DVD (The Biggest Bang) include “Tumbling Dice”, “Oh No, Not You Again”, “This Place Is Empty”, and “Sympathy For The Devil” round out this strong now-complete two-hour concert.
The video quality varies between excellent — especially on the stage close up shots — to a bit soft at times, probably due to lighting inconsistencies in trying to capture not only the ginormous stage but also the seemingly endless crowd on the beach and the quick cuts of the band members. Broadcast on television back in the day, the camera work is fast-paced but not off-putting.
I’ve only seen the Stones live once at the 2016 one-off Desert Trip Festival in Indio, California, on the Coachella fairgrounds. As with that show, Mick Jagger is the center of attention and he is masterful working these large stages. It is a joy watching Jagger pull together this enormous audience as if it were merely a concert arena or even a club (they pull off “Wild Horses” beautifully, with Keith playing sweet 12-string acoustic guitar).
Watching this, one does have to keep it in mind that Mick is doing these somewhat exaggerated movements for the gigantic audience, to connect with people sitting thousands of feet away who are likely watching a via a huge Jumbotron screen near them or through binoculars. So it is no small feat what he does on stage!
The rest of the band is on fire on this show as well including (happily!) Keith pulling off some genuinely savage riffs and ripping leads. His connection and interaction with longtime second guitarist Ronnie Wood is palpable. Charlie Watts is brilliant in all his swinging Jazz-inspired loose-but-tight rock ’n roll glory. The rest of the support band is of course super tight.
The audio has been newly remixed for this expanded reissue. Some of you might be wondering how the surround-sound mix is on the Blu-ray Disc. While initially I was disappointed by the 5.1 mix I ultimately came to appreciate it especially after comparing it to the LPCM Stereo option.
Both that and the 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio soundtracks are offered in 48 kHz, 24-bit fidelity but the surround sound mix goes a very long way to bring you into the enormity of the crowd. Don’t go into this expecting any sort of discrete immersive stage-mix, but as a home viewing experience, the Blu-ray in 5.1 surround pulls you into the happening vibe of show. Most of the music is in the front channels, but if you close your eyes you can get a feeling of what it might have been like to be in those first 30 rows of fans.
The Blu-ray Disc package comes with two good sounding CDs of the entire concert as well. For those of you who prefer streaming, you can hear the whole concert on Qobuz (Hi Res) and Tidal (MQA), also in 48 kHz, 24-bit fidelity. Click on the service names here to jump to those links if you have a subscription. Like the CDs, both sound good as live rock shows go, especially one recorded before 1.5 million fans in Brazil! Personally, I like the way the Tidal version sounds as it feels a bit tighter, possibly due to the MQA processing, but I’m just guessing here. Either way the shows are enjoyable and if you are a fan you’ll want to add this to your virtual Stones collection.
If you are a serious Stones fan, however, or if you simply want to have one great later period live concert in your collection, A Bigger Bang Live On Copacabana Beach is a fine show to get, especially on the physical Blu-ray Disc.