Rolling Stones: Bridges to Babylon Tour í97-Ď98 appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.33:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; as such, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Though not excellent, the picture generally looked solid.
Sharpness mostly appeared crisp and distinct. Concert videos inevitably encounter a few out of focus shots, and I saw one or two of those, but they were quickly corrected, and the vast majority of the program showed no signs of those concerns. Almost all of the show displayed detailed and well-defined images. On occasion, slight jagged edges gave some aspects of the show a mildly ropy look, but those instances were very infrequent. I discerned no signs of moirť effects or edge enhancement. The videotaped program demonstrated no issues related to artifacts or other interference; it seemed clean and fresh.
As usually occurs with concerts, most of the colors came from the lighting. These hues appeared consistently clean and accurate, as I detected no bleeding or noise attached to them. Colors came across as warm and natural, and the lighting never obscured the performers unnecessarily. Black levels seemed nicely deep and rich, while shadow detail was appropriately heavy but never excessively opaque. All in all, I found Babylon to offer a very good visual experience.
Though not great, the Dolby Digital 5.1 of Babylon mostly worked well. The soundfield maintained a forward emphasis that usually seemed appropriate. Instruments and vocals showed good differentiation and delineation, and they blended together appropriately. The surrounds offered crowd noise as well as some background vocals and percussion. These didnít become intrusive, but I felt they seemed a little gimmicky at times. The mix also amped up the crowd noise to unnatural levels; clearly someone added some cheering in post-production. I constantly heard audience noise even when none seemed appropriate; this left the impression that the crowd never quieted down. Nonetheless, the soundfield worked reasonably well for the material.
For the most part, audio quality appeared fine. Vocals generally sounded warm and natural, and I noticed no edginess or other concerns in that regard. Instruments mostly came across as distinct and accurate, and the track generally displayed good dynamic range and fidelity. Bass wasnít as prominent as Iíd like, though. Low-end response seemed moderately lacking during much of the show; bass was there, but midrange dominated the piece and made it sound a little thicker than Iíd expect. Again, the track mixed the crowd too high for my liking, but for the most part, it represented the music fairly well.
Babylon includes no supplements. "Reel Recommendations" shows simple ads for
the DVDs of Woodstock and Purple Rain, but without any actual trailers, I canít consider this to present a real extra.
I was bothered by the omission of extra songs. As it stands, this DVD - along with the laserdisc and VHS releases - omit four songs from the original concert: "Corinna, Corinna", "Anybody Seen My Baby", "The Last Time," and "All About You." I understand leaving this off the VHS version to save some tape, but why not reinstate them here? Clearly some care was taken with this package; otherwise why would it be the only version with a 5.1 soundtrack? Four songs may not sound like much, but it amounts to more than 17 percent of the show, and there was no reason they should have been omitted.
That said, the Bridges to Babylon DVD is actually quite a step up from the more heavily edited Stones concerts presented on home video in the past. The only way to get a full concert video from their 1994-95 Voodoo Lounge tour was either to tape the November 1994, pay per view or to buy the laserdisc import from Japan (which typically costs a bit more than $100); the regular Voodoo Lounge Live program edits the approximately 135 minute show down to 90 minutes. In regard to the Stones' 1989 and 1981 tours, the options are even more limited: it's either copies of their respective pay per views or highly edited films (The Stones Live at the Max and Let's Spend the Night Together, both of which are also whittled down to about 90 minutes). At least Bridges to Babylon is something of a step in the right direction.
Despite the omission, Bridges to Babylon offers a quality product. It displays a very good Stones performance in good fashion. Both picture and sound seem quite solid. The package lacks extras, but it stands as a nice representation of the bandís work and earns my recommendation.