The Rolling Stones’ ‘Live on Copacabana Beach’: Review

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The 1969 Woodstock festival attracted a small crowd by comparison with the Rolling Stones’ Feb. 8, 2006, performance at Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, which aired on TV throughout North America. Though estimates varied, the consensus seems to be that the show drew in the neighborhood of one and a half million fans.

That eye-popping number won’t seem far off when you gaze at the aerial views of the audience in the video of the show that is included on the new A Bigger Bang: Live on Copacabana Beach. It’s quite a sight, especially in today’s world of social distancing. As Keith Richards later commented, “Not that we’re unused to playing some of the biggest shows in the world, but I must say Rio did take the cake.”

The Stones in Brazil, 2006 (Photo from the band’s Facebook page)

The just-released recording of that cake-taker is available in multiple formats, including ones that couple two CDs with a DVD or a standard-definition Blu-ray. There’s also a three-LP version and one that adds a bonus DVD of a 2005 Salt Lake City, Utah, show.

The Copacabana concert was previously featured on a 2007 DVD set but the new release is notable for a remix, a remaster and a re-edit, as well as for inclusion of the audio CDs and of four songs that the earlier video omitted: “Tumbling Dice,” a number that originally appeared on 1972’s Exile on Main St., and “Sympathy for the Devil,” which debuted on 1968’s Beggars Banquet, plus “Oh No, Not You Again” and “This Place Is Empty,” both drawn from the Stones’ 2005 studio album, A Bigger Bang.

The Copacabana performance took place just about five months after the release of that CD and was part of a tour designed to promote it, but the 20-song concert features only four tracks from it: the aforementioned two plus “Rain Fall Down” and “Rough Justice.” The focus is on better-known (and arguably better) earlier material, including the chart-topping late-1960s hits “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” “Get Off of My Cloud,” “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and “Honky Tonk Women.”

Related: Our review of a much earlier Stones gig

Among the other selections: “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” and “Midnight Rambler” from 1969’s Let It Bleed; “Brown Sugar” and “Wild Horses” from 1971’s Sticky Fingers; “Happy” from 1972’s Exile on Main St.; the title track from 1974’s It’s Only Rock ’n Roll; “Miss You” from 1978’s Some Girls; “Start Me Up” from 1981’s Tattoo You; and “You Got Me Rocking” from 1994’s Voodoo Lounge.

Also featured is a cover of “Night Time Is the Right Time,” a song most associated with Ray Charles’ rendition.

Not a bad crowd: The Stones’ audience on Copacabana Beach, 2006 (Photo from the band’s Facebook page)

Seemingly energized by the scale of the event, the Stones are in fine form as they tackle this classic material, none of which should need any introduction to anyone who spent the referenced years within earshot of a radio. This is virtually all great stuff, and the quality of the audio (DTS-HD, on the Blu-ray) is first-rate. The video quality is excellent, too, though the picture is regrettably not widescreen.

A Bigger Bang: Live on Copacabana Beach joins an increasingly long list of audio and video concert releases from the Rolling Stones’ archives. In just the past few years, for example, we’ve seen the appearance of Bridges to Bremen, Some Girls: Live in Texas, Bridges to Buenos Aires, Steel Wheels Live, and Sticky Fingers Live at the Fonda Theatre. Some fans may feel they have heard and seen enough by now, especially since these releases contain rather similar set lists.

That said, if you love the Stones and still have cash in your wallet and space on your shelf, you’re not likely to regret adding Copacabana to your collection.

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