By Robert Rheubottom
The Rolling Stones dig deep into their vaults to produce another live gem for fans this summer. The previously unreleased concert film Bridges to Bremen hit shelves in multiple formats on June 21 via Eagle Vision.
The show was filmed and recorded on Sept. 2, 1998 in Bremen, Germany, at Weser Stadium towards the end of the legendary British rocker’s massive “Bridges to Babylon” Tour. The fully restored concert features the entire 22-song set with newly remixed and remastered audio.
During this time period, The Stones reigned as the hottest touring band around, having set a record for the highest-grossing tour of all time with their 1994-1995 Voodoo Lounge Tour. The Rock and Roll Hall of Famers had deep pockets and could afford state of the art production. The innovative stage design, created by the late Mark Fisher, included a separate B-stage at center field, accessed by a motorized bridge, to allow the band to get closer to the fans and perform a stripped-down set.
A Stones concert is a major event in any city in the world, but this is even more true in a smaller market like Bremen. The fan excitement in Weser Stadium is palpable as images of constellations flash across the massive circular screen on stage, accompanied by exotic fanfare, signaling the imminent arrival of the band.
The hysteria hits fever pitch as guitarist Keith Richards casually strolls to center stage, accompanied by the crowd’s massive roar, decked out in a leopard skin jacket with a Fender Telecaster slung over his shoulder. The Stones used five different songs for openers during the tour, so fans never knew for certain what number was coming. The answer arrives as massive fireworks explode from the screen and Richards begins to hammer through the instantly familiar three-note signature riff of the band’s 1965 chart-topper “Satisfaction.”
The Bremen setlist runs the gamut from classic Stones singles like 1967’s “Let’s Spend the Night Together” to beloved album tracks like the 1968 Let It Bleed opening track “Gimme Shelter,” as well as a handful of tracks from their 1997 studio album Bridges to Babylon.
The band clearly gets the most enjoyment out of performing the new material. Some of the “Bridges” tracks like “Out of Control” and “Saint of Me” have proven to be worthy addition to The Stones’ catalog and go on to make regular appearances at future live shows. Other songs like Richards’ lead vocal outing “Thief in the Night” and the album opener “Flip the Switch,” disappear from the setlist completely at the tour’s conclusion.
One of the highlights of the night was the appearance of the 1976 Black and Blue ballad “Memory Hotel.” Frontman Mick Jagger delivers an inspired lead vocal performance, swapping the microphone with Richards, who handles vocal duties on the song’s middle-eight and also provides some tasty lead guitar fills.
The live rarity was selected by Bremen fans in an online fan vote, which was another innovation that first made its appearance on this tour. The fan request component was a great way to keep the band from getting stale, and allowed the fans to hear songs not ordinarily played live.
The B-stage performance also provides some inspired moments. The Stones leave behind their 10-piece tour ensemble to punch through a stripped-down set, which includes their singles “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll” and “You Got Me Rocking” as ecstatic fans surround the stage on all sides to get a bird’s-eye view of their idols. The mini-set wraps up with an excellent cover of Bob Dylan’s 1965 single “Like a Rolling Stone,” which made its live debut during the “Bridges to Babylon” Tour.
Of course, all the must-play hits and beloved album tracks like “Honky Tonk Women” and “Symphony for the Devil” make an appearance over the course of the evening and The Stones wrap up the show with the potent combination of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” and the closing number “Brown Sugar” as fireworks light up the night sky.
“Bridges to Bremen” is available in a variety of audio and visual bundles in digital, CD, DVD and Blu-ray formats and includes four bonus performances taken from the opening gig of the tour on Sept. 23, 1997 at Chicago’s Soldier Field. The set will make a worthy addition to any Stones fan’s collection.
Watch The Rolling Stones Bridges To Bremen Trailer
The Rolling Stones Online