The Rolling Stones: From the Vault - L.A. Forum (Live in 1975) DVD Review: It's Only a Concert Video, But I Like It

The band shows why they remain the very definition of rock and roll.
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In a thousand years, at universities all over the world, in classes titled "Rock N Roll 101," professors will lay a needle on “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” and that’s all they’ll need to say.  When aliens land on our planet and ask us what this rock thing is all about, we’ll take them to a Rolling Stones concert and they’ll hold off the invasion.  

For more than fifty years The Rolling Stones have been the very definition of rock and roll.  Early rockers like Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly blended the blues with folk and country creating something new and lively for the kids.  The Rolling Stones took that template and blew it up into something gigantic, raunchy, and magnificent.  They grabbed that burgeoning rock sound added big guitars; a strutting, sexed-up lead singer; and made it bigger and better than it had ever been before.  They might not have been the first to put the sex and drugs into rock and roll, but they did it more than anyone else, turning it all up to 11 in the process.

The year 1975 was a bit of difficult for the band.  Though their two most recent albums (Goats Head Soup and It’s Only Rock ’n Roll) sold well, the critical response was tepid with most feeling the band had begun to phone it in.  Mick Jagger was fortifying his rock-god/diva status while Keith Richards was plunging deeper into addiction.  Drugs were causing numerous problems for the band, getting them kicked out of cities and even banned in France.  To top it off, lead guitarist Mick Taylor quit at the end of 1974.  Things were so uncertain that during their Tour of the Americas run in 1975 (from which this DVD is taken) Ronnie Wood was considered to be on loan from The Faces and not a permanent member of the band.

Watching The Rolling Stones: From the Vault - LA Forum (Live in 1975), you quickly realize why they kept Wood on for decades after.  He doesn’t so much play lead to Richards' rhythm as they both dance together in one gnarly, raucous duet.  It may have been a transition period for the band, but darned if they don’t sound like they are at the height of their powers.

Jagger, in the middle of his short-lived androgynous period, struts about in thick mascara and eye shadow, looking a bit like David Bowie after a three-day bender.  Looks aside though, man, can that dude own a stage.  Nobody in rock commands an audience like Mick Jagger.  He struts, swaggers, and boogies from the opening notes until the end of the show without seemingly ever losing his breath.  Whenever I see pop acts that lip-synch to tape complaining they can't dance and sing at the same time, I'll only need to just mention Jagger on this stage to forever shut their whining asses right up.

The set lists mixes some of their more funkier numbers like “Fingerprint File” and a cover of “Ain't to Proud to Beg” with a huge helping of their classics like “Brown Sugar,” “Gimme Shelter,” and “Honky Tonk Women.”  It's all played big, loud, and with just a touch of unhinged danger that makes all the rock worth rolling. 

The video quality is really not very good.  The L.A. Forum was a 15,000-seat arena and the Stones created a huge, 15-ton stage with multiple petals jutting out into the audience.  All of which makes it difficult for the cameras to create interesting pictures.  There only seems to be one camera allowed on the actual stage and that one sits behind drummer Charlie Watts.  All the rest are out in the crowd or way up in the rafters.  It's obvious the lighting wasn’t designed with home video in mind and the results are pretty awful.

Add to that all sorts of poor directorial decisions and we’re left with lots of really far-off shots that make the band nearly unrecognizable or oddly placed close-ups where the lighting bleeds everything out.  The video is really only interesting to fans wanting to get a better look at the band at this stage in their career.  For anybody else, I’d recommend the CDs.

But no one comes to an archived Rolling Stones concert just to look at them, and the songs are more than worth the price of admission.  With Ronnie Wood taking over guitar duties and the band in something of a creative lull, From The Vault: LA Forum (Live in 1975) proves that the boys could sure put on a show like nobody else in the business.

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