Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 12, 2019)
With a launch date of September 23, 1997, and a final show on September 19, 1998, the Rolling Stones’ tour to support their 1997 Bridges to Babylon tour spanned almost precisely a year.
After a run of US shows from September 1997 through February 1998, the Stones played six March 1998 concerts in Japan before they headed to South America for a quick seven-date jaunt in March/April. That stint mainly focused on River Plate Stadium in Buenos Aires.
From the final Argentina show on April 5, 1998, we get this Bridges to Buenos Aires concert presentation. As always, the setlist spans the band’s career.
From Bridges itself, we find four songs: “Flip the Switch”, “Out of Control”, “Saint of Me” and “Thief in the Night”. 1994’s Voodoo Lounge brings us “You Got Me Rocking”.
From there, we need to go back to 1983’s Undercover for “Wanna Hold You” and 1981’s Tattoo You for “Start Me Up”. 1978’s Some Girls delivers “Miss You” and “When the Whip Comes Down”
We get the title track from 1974’s It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll, while 1972’s Exile on Main Street gives us “Tumbling Dice”. 1971’s Sticky Fingers features “Brown Sugar” and “Sister Morphine”, and 1969’s Let It Bleed includes “Gimme Shelter” and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”.
Also from 1969, we get the single “Honky Tonk Women”. 1968’s Beggars Banquet brings “Sympathy for the Devil” and the single “Jumping Jack Flash”.
From 1967, we find the single “Let’s Spend the Night Together”, and 1965’s single “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” appears as well. The Stones also cover Bob Dylan’s 1965 hit “Like A Rolling Stone” and Chuck Berry’s 1959 single “Little Queenie”.
Buenos Aires becomes the third US home video release from the Babylon tour. Way back in 1998, we got a DVD called Bridges to Babylon that came from the band’s final 1997 date. It omitted 4 songs from the show and has yet to see release on Blu-ray.
Bridges to Bremen became the second video release from the tour. Shot in September 1998, it stemmed from the final month of the 1998 dates.
Bremen hit shelves less than five months prior to Buenos Aires, a fact that makes it a surprising choice. As a fan, I welcome additional shows from the same tour, but will the Stones find many buyers who want a second Blu-ray that offers a show very similar to the one they just purchased?
Only a few setlist differences separate Bremen and Buenos Aires. Buenos Aires drops 1997’s “Anybody Seen My Baby?” and “Memory Motel”, while it adds “Sister Morphine”, “When the Whip Comes Down” and “Little Queenie”.
Oh, and Buenos Aires sports a special guest. While “Like a Rolling Stone” showed up across many 1997-98 shows, this concert boasted an appearance by Bob Dylan, the song’s originator.
While appealing in theory, Dylan’s guest spot doesn’t work. It sounds like Dylan didn’t actually rehearse with the Stones, so he and Jagger constantly fail to synch with each other. “Like a Rolling Stone” avoids trainwreck territory, but it doesn’t live up to the hype.
Jagger hits some snarls in other parts of the show, however. He mangles the second verse to “Satisfaction”, and in one of the funniest goofs I’ve ever seen, he starts to sing “Respectable” instead of “When the Whip Comes Down”.
This leads to Mick’s panicked “oh – I’ve got the wrong song!” Ever the professional, he recovers immediately – and in Jagger’s defense, the version of “Whip” played here really sounds a lot like “Respectable”.
Outside of these handful of screw-ups, though, Buenos Aires offers a pretty solid performance, one that tops what we find in Bremen. The latter show offers a band clearly ready for a break from touring.
The Stones of September 1998 still play well, but they lack the verve they demonstrated earlier in the tour. The Bremen Blu-ray includes a few songs from September 1997, and the difference in energy seems palpable.
Buenos Aires finds them in good form, unquestionably abetted by a pretty manic audience. South American concertgoers tend to be vocal and active, and this often brings out the best in musicians. With such a raucous crowd, the Stones appear energized.
As for the presentation, Buenos Aires seems fairly similar to Bremen, as both come from directors Jim Gable and Dick Carruthers. Actually, Aires feels less hyper and gimmicky, but it still seems like a sibling to the other Blu-ray.
On its own, Aires offers a solid performance, and I give it the moderate nod over Bremen. I like both, but if I could own only one, I’d opt for Aires.
Should fans who already picked up Bremen also snag Aires? That turns into a tough recommendation, and I lean toward no, simply because the two seem so similar in so many ways.
As a Stones fan, I feel happy to own both Buenos Aires and Bremen, but I didn’t shell out money to buy them. If I’d already dropped $25 or so on Bremen, I’d likely leave Aires on the shelf, good as it may be.