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The Rolling Stones’ tour for 1997’s Bridges to Babylon tour ran for an entire year between September 1997 and September 1998. Tour documents have long been available, including live album No Security and the 1998 concert film release Bridges to Babylon Tour ’97–98, which captured a 1997 performance from St. Louis, Missouri. The new Bridges to Bremen, however, ups the ante with an LP’s worth of additional songs not included on the earlier film.
Filmed in Bremen, Germany for a European television audience during the last leg of the tour, Bridges to Bremen omits favorites “Wild Horses” and “Waiting on a Friend” from the older video release. However, the tour was the Stones’ first to feature an internet poll for selection of a set list addition, and the German fans chose the tender “Memory Motel” from Black and Blue. Other additions include “You Got Me Rocking” from Voodoo Lounge and the grim spark of “Paint It Black.” Additional Bridges to Babylon cuts include the rootsy twang of Keith Richards’ “Thief in the Night” and the k.d. lang-cribbing “Anybody Seen My Baby?” The latter song may not have aged sufficiently well to be considered a Rolling Stones classic, but the brash “Flip the Switch,” the Gospel-influenced “Saint of Me” and Temptations homage “Out of Control” are underrated gems in the band’s catalog with fine performances captured here.
The Bremen show begins where the Stones’ 2019 tour is ending, with Richards’ clarion riff for “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” Mick Jagger prowls the stage in a black jacket and billowing yellow scarf, while Richards anchors his position in a floor-length leopard-print jacket. Chuck Leavell’s barrelhouse piano signals the start of “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” and the song is launched with the whip-crack of Charlie Watts’ snare drum. Bobby Keys’ baritone saxophone provides low skronk during “Flip the Switch.” The German audience keeps the singalong chant of “Saint of Me” going after the song concludes, and the band joins back in for the spontaneous moment as Jagger flashes a magnificent smile.
Vocalist Lisa Fischer steps from the background to join Jagger face-to-face for a riveting “Gimme Shelter.” Chicago bassist Daryl Jones drives the tense, downtempo groove during “Out of Control,” spiked by the trumpet of Kent Smith and a howling harmonica outro by Jagger. Jones is featured again on the disco-blues of “Miss You,” but he’s upstaged when Jagger gets frisky with Fischer, removing one of her gold shoes and licking her pedicured toes.
The band performs Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” from an intimate stage in the middle of the 40,000-strong audience. Lead guitarist Ron Wood digs into the song’s familiar guitar figures with a cigarette dangling from his lips, while Leavell echoes Al Kooper’s organ and Jagger blows a mean blues harp.
Wood intertwines his lines with riff-master Richards throughout songs like “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It).” Wood steps forward for biting solos on “Tumbling Dice” and “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” During the latter, Jagger sprints from under the stage awning to dance with the crowd in the evening’s driving rain.
“I want to tell you something, but I don’t know if you can understand my German,” says Jagger, welcoming Bremen and the European TV audience. Judging by audience reaction, the message landed perfectly.
Bridges to Bremen is available in DVD, Blu-ray, CD and LP formats. The video options sweeten the pot with four bonus tracks recorded on the tour’s initial stadium dates at Soldier Field in Chicago. These include Richards singing deep cut “All About You” from Emotional Rescue. Jagger leads Steel Wheels’ rowdy “Rock and a Hard Place*. The Chicago fans also got “Let it Bleed” and fan vote “Under My Thumb.”
This set is more than an offering for completists. The clutch of fresh songs are testament to the notion that the Glimmer Twins had gas in the tank as a songwriting team during the ‘90s. After 21 years in the vault, Bridges to Babylon is a worthy addition for those who love the Rolling Stones’ eternal road show.
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