“The Greatest Rock N’ Roll Band” in the world, A.K.A. The Rolling Stones, are poised to release a brand new live DVD entitled Sweet Summer Sun: Hyde Park Live next week. The DVD was filmed over 2 days during the band’s 50 and Counting tour at London’s Hyde Park where they had also famously debuted new guitarist Mick Taylor in 1969 after the death of founding member Brian Jones. Live concert films loom large in The Stones legacy. Starting with the highly-lauded tour documentary Gimme Shelter in 1970, the band has issued a series of often-stunning, always rocking live films over the years that show why they are one of the top rock bands and concert draws of all time. In celebration of the new DVD’s release we’re counting down the band’s Top 10 concert films so if you like live, sweaty, warts and all rock n’roll in its purest form, do yourself a favor and add them to your rental queue and check them out when you have a chance.
1. Gimme Shelter (1970)
Though not solely a concert film, this documentary of the band’s groundbreaking 1969 tour and its anarchic climax at the Altamont Free Concert isn’t just the Rolling Stones greatest live film, it’s one of the greatest rock n’roll movies of all time. Directed by renowned documentarians Albert and David Maysles, the movie combines exhilarating live performances with behind the scenes footage of the band recording and planning their ill-fated tour denouement which blew up in their faces when audience members were beaten and killed by members of the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club who were hired to do security at the all-day free concert.
2. Shine a Light (2008)
Expertly filmed by legendary director Martin Scorsese, this film chronicles the band’s performances at New York City’s Beacon Theater including guest spots from Jack White and Christina Aguilera and is the definite late season Rolling Stones live film.
3. Ladies and Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones (1974)
The “Official” film of the Exile On Main St. tour, Ladies and Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones features the band at their early ’70s peak playing in support of their landmark 1972 album with pretty-boy virtuoso Mick Taylor in full lead guitar flight. The movie’s plain-faced professionalism stands in stark contrast to…..
4. Cocksucker Blues (1972)
…Famed photographer Robert Frank’s legendary unreleased concert film of the same tour which combined grainy live footage with outrageous (some say staged) backstage footage of groupies and drug abuse The Stones decided was too unseemly to see the light of day. To date, according to court order the movie can only be legally shown four times a year and only with director Frank present.
5. Let’s Spend the Night Together (1982)
Filmed by esteemed Hollywood director Hal Ashby , this 1982 live concert film shows The Rolling Stones as fully evolved arena rockers complete with hydraulics and enormous stage sets delivering spirited if purfuntory versions of their biggest hits.
6. Charlie Is My Darling (2012)
Like Gimme Shelter, this is more of a tour documentary than a concert film but it does show The Stones on the ascent as they drive the kids into literal rioting frenzy in Ireland in 1965.
7. Stones at the Max (1992)
Filmed while touring behind the Steel Wheels comeback album, Stones at the Max was the first live concert to be filmed in the IMAX film format and was the last Stones live film to feature founding bassist Bill Wyman who quit the band soon after.
8. The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus (1996)
Conceived by Mick Jagger at the height of the hippie era and filmed under a big top circus tent, this live event featured The Stones, John Lennon and The Who among others but wasn’t released until 1996 due to the group’s unhappiness with their performance.
9. Some Girls: Live in Texas ’78 (2011)
This kinetic live concert wasn’t officially released until 33 years after it was filmed but finds the band successfully updating their sound with punk and disco influences under the Texas heat.
10. Bridges to Babylon Tour ’97-98 (1998)
Broadcast as a pay-for-view live event, this concert showed the band was still at the top of their game despite the loss of founding bassist Bill Wyman.