The Rolling Stones, ‘Hyde Park 1969′ — DVD Review
On July 5, 1969, the Rolling Stones took to the stage in London's Hyde Park for what would be a very significant date in their history. They've released a DVD of the television broadcast from that show, which was originally called The Stones in the Park, as Hyde Park 1969.
The concert was not only the band's first public concert in over two years, but it was also the first with new guitarist Mick Taylor, who had just replaced founder Brian Jones one month earlier. To add weight to the situation, Jones was found dead just two days before this concert.
It was also significant in the size of the crowd, which was estimated at somewhere just under 500,000. Hyde Park was over a month prior to Woodstock, and close to five months before Altamont would cast its shadow over the group.
This release comes to fans thanks to the band's ongoing From the Vault series. What we have here is a sort of mini-documentary of this landmark rock and roll event. Bootlegs have made the rounds over the years, and there was a previous legit release, but this is the finest presentation of it to date.
On the plus side, the audio and video have been remastered to the best yet available. Though the Stones turn in a suitably ragged performance, it's a thrill to watch the young Mick Taylor try to slide into his new role. With nothing but love and respect for Brian (or Ron Wood for that matter), Taylor is the finest guitarist the band has ever known.
On the negative side, the DVD retains the altered running order of the original TV broadcast, leaving out "Stray Cat Blues,"Mercy, Mercy," "Down Home Girl," "Street Fighting Man," "No Expectations," and an early appearance of "Loving Cup." It would have been a real treat to have those lost performances tagged on.
The original concert began with a ripping version of the Johnny Winter song "I'm Yours & I'm Here," which is accounted for here, but later in the program. Instead, the DVD begins with a ramshackle, yet highly energized version of "Midnight Rambler." It's somewhat amazing to watch a smattering of fans just sitting on the side of the stage as the band pummel through. "Satisfaction" is hit upon early and delivered in a raw and suitably sleazy take, while the 1964 gem "I'm Free" is rolled out slower and dirtier than its original recording.
Jagger takes to the mic to eulogize the late Mr. Jones. A reading of a section of the poem "Adonais" by Percy Bysshe Shelley is followed by the release of doves. Though Brian's death was a surprise to many in attendance, Keith Richards later told Rolling Stone. "The man was failing. He had been a strong man, but he was wiping himself out."
Next up, we are treated to loose and ragged versions of "Jumpin' Jack Flash," "Honky Tonk Women" and "Love in Vain," as well as a lengthy "Sympathy tor the Devil," which features some African tribal drummers adding to the sound. Also of note, among the opening acts that day were blues master Alexis Korner, Family and King Crimson.
"A concert is not to hear the music as it really is, that's for the studio to do," Jagger says in a brief interview. "When you do a concert, they come to see, you know, what you're doing. It's an excuse for them to all come together and join hands, embrace each other and have a common feeling." That may explain away the sloppiness of some of the performance, not to mention some guitar tuning issues.
All in all, it's an incredible snapshot of a moment in time. The crumbling of the "hippie dream" just on the horizon, along with a whole new chapter in the life and times of the one and only Rolling Stones.
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