Three days after Brian Jones’ death, the Rolling Stones held a free concert in London’s Hyde Park, which attracted half a million concertgoers. Stephen Dawson reviews a Blu-ray that captures the event so well that you can imagine you’re actually there.
On the evening of 2 July 1969 Brian Jones, a Rolling Stones founder, died. It was one month after he’d been fired. On 5 July the band took to the stage for a pre-planned free concert in Hyde Park, London, their first public appearance for a couple of years. Thanks to Granada TV, we have a record of most of it, and that’s what appears on this disc.
The main 56-minute program consists almost entirely of performances by The Stones, with some interludes showing the youth of the day— somewhere between quarter and half a million attended— some remarks on the Iron Cross-emblazoned Hells Angels security, some Jagger interview excerpts, and Jagger’s eulogy to Brian Jones.
The greatest performance of all time? Heck no. The then 25-year-old Mick Jagger’s vocals only approximated the pitch of many notes. The guitars were reputedly out of tune, although that was less obvious to my ears. Things were pretty wild. And the whole thing is truly great.
There’s an energy in their live performances which is as much visual as acoustic. Jagger’s abandon in performance is occasionally mesmerising. And at the end in Sympathy for the Devil there’s honest-to-goodness pawing at Jagger by pretty young things, along with a stage invasion. We can’t go back to those days, but to some extent they’re preserved on discs such as this.
The picture is grainy and aged, but authentic-seeming. It was shot on film and the Blu-ray captures it very faithfully. I wonder, 24 frames per second or 25? The latter seems likely given this was for British TV. In that case this 24p presentation would be slightly lower in pitch than reality.
The sound is mono and of modest quality. The better your system, the more coherence you’re likely to extract from it. There’s a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix which creates a kind of weird surround ambience without any specific locations of the sound elements. I’d suggest the LPCM 2.0 mono mix, which is most authentic for the time.
There are three additional songs, without audio for two of them (they’re included as a documentary record). The one which does include audio is repeated in a separate title with the same sound treatment as the main program.
I should warn about one oddity in the disc. The main menu is disconcerting. It features a loop of video, as they so often do, but there’s no audio. I was flipping switches and wondering if something in my system had broken before it occurred to me to check whether there actually was any sound.
Finally, keep an eye out for a dead ringer for Paul McCartney, or perhaps it was actually him, wandering through the frame at 54:24.
Running time: 56 minutes Picture: 1.33:1 (masked), 1080p24*, MPEG4 AVC @ 30.00Mbps Sound: English: Dolby Digital 3/2.1 @ 640kbps; English: LPCM 16/48 2/0.0 @ 1536kbps Subtitles: Nil Features: Additional song (1080p24* - 7 mins); Unseen Songs (1080p24* - 28 mins); 4 period TV footage segments (576i50 - 35 mins) Restrictions: G, Region Free
Director: Norman Jewison Starring: James Caan, John Houseman, Maud Adams, John Beck, Moses Gunn, Pamela Hensley and Barbara Trentham. Movie: A| Picture: C| Sound: C| Extras: B