Rolling Stones -- Live at the Max (or: How I Became Born Again)

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Jason Whyte, Jul 25, 2001.

  1. Jason Whyte

    Jason Whyte Screenwriter

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    [​IMG]
    The lights dim as we hear radio communications all around us, and the audience is just revving up. Their screams of passion get louder, and louder. And, then, we are given a blast -- literally, as the stage blasts fire like a string of musical explosions, throwing us into (at least I believe) a performance by the greatest rock and roll band in the world. "Start Me Up," performed by none other than the Rolling Stones, fills my eyes and blows my senses out of the water. And there's more where that came from.
    This, boys and girls, is what rock concerts are all about. "Rolling Stones -- Live At The Max", the 1991 IMAX film by Julian Temple, may very well go down as the most exciting film event that I have ever encountered in my short 21 years of existence, and even shorter as a film critic. I'm sitting here, mere hours after the experience, dazed and senseless, not even knowing how I have the energy to type after having been born again.
    This goes down as proof that the IMAX format works. Normally, this technology is used for short documentaries that focus on nature, the evolution of speed or space. "At The Max," which is 90 minutes long and requires an intermission (so the film can be changed over, since IMAX platters can only hold 40 minutes horizontal 70mm film), is like not only like giving you the front seats at your favorite concert, but the picture and sound make you feel like you are in the eyes of those people in front.
    It's not just the format that makes this film what it is. The awesome music, full of energy and great appeal, is unforgettable. As our lead singer, Mick Jagger is a dazzling force of energy, still an enormously entertaining individual to watch. He runs around on the mammoth stage, singing along as much as he can, while the forces that help him, they being the awesome Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Ron Wood and Bill Wyman, perform many of the songs that made them famous all over the world, and some new songs; well, new in 1990 when this "Steel Wheels" concert took place, but this film takes you out of your seat and into the experience so well, you'd swear you forget you were in the 21st century.
    There's nary an interview or anything involving the backstage process (see their 1970 documentary "Gimme Shelter"), just a document of one hell of a concert. The entire experience feels so real and so dazzling that we drift into a dreamlike state. With the IMAX format, the music pounds in our ears and the visuals dance in our senses. Sure, there may be more fascinating concert films ("Woodstock: Three Days of Peace And Music" is one of my top five films of all time), but I've never walked on the stage, walked along with Mick and the boys and HEARD music like this ever before. "At The Max" made me feel great to be alive.
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    jason_whyte@yahoo.com ICQ: 16733922 I Am Jack's DVD List
    "Enjoy the Ozzy and keep your mouth shut!" George Plimpton
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  2. Doug Schiller

    Doug Schiller Supporting Actor

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    Its a great show but I think I like Bridges a little better and "Let's Spend the Night Together" (not on DVD yet) the best.
    I was a little disappointed with the DVD quality of IMAX (video wise).
    Doug
     
  3. Sean Cauley

    Sean Cauley Stunt Coordinator

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    Actually, Doug, I think Jason was commenting on a theatrical viewing of the film, rather than the DVD. I know there are prints currently circulating (our local IMAX has four showings this weekend).
    Jason, I saw this at the IMAX here a couple of summers ago and was blown away. I had purposely avoided seeing it on video over the years, as I knew it occasionally returned for limited runs on the big (BIG!) screen, and was glad I had. I've got the DVD now, and while it's a great show by an amazing band, it's still not quite as magical as that first viewing.
    The only song I thought was kind of a misfire was "2000 Light Years from Home." The performance was good, but the use of the distorted video-screen "PredatorVision" was kind of a waste, I thought. The highlight had to be the first scene back from intermission, with Keith's guitar noodling shifting into the familiar "Paint it, Black" intro. I saw the Stones in Indianapolis on the '94 tour (I was, unfortunately, a couple of years away from really appreciating them when Steel Wheels was in Louisville), and this moment in the film was as chill-inducing as any song intro from that live show.
    I liked the little touches that came from the closeness provided by IMAX, like being able to read the monitor at Mick's feet that told him which song, which costume, which part of the stage, and whether it was being filmed. It was a nice behind-the-scenes view.
    Other definite highlights were a good version of "Sympathy for the Devil," one of my five or ten favorite songs of all time, and an energetic and hectic "Satisfaction" (the single greatest rock-and-roll song ever recorded; yes, flame away, people [​IMG]).
    I do recommend the DVD. I don't use any high-end equipment, so I can't really discuss the technical merits of the picture and soundtrack, but it is a nice product, and a good reminder of how much fun the movie is as an IMAX feature.
     
  4. Jason Whyte

    Jason Whyte Screenwriter

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    Hey Sean,
    I was certainly referring to the IMAX presentation which I just experienced last night at the National Geographic IMAX theater at the Royal BC Museum. It plays for one more week here, and I hope to get in another viewing of it before it ships out.
     
  5. Ernesto Santos

    Ernesto Santos Stunt Coordinator

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    C'mon guys!
    If you want to see a real hard driving Stones performance get The Criterion version of "Gimme Shelter". No commercialism, no fluff, and no sitting back on laurels. The Stones of the late sixties and very early seventies define them as the preeminent live band.
    "Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out!" is the greatest live album by the greatest blues/rock band ever. Much of the same material is captured forever on this magnificent DVD. As an added bonus the feature by Criterion on the restoration process will amaze you. Oh, and before I forget, the back stage footage in the extras are nuggets to be tresured and will in the future provide a true historical perspective that is a rare find for this important era in American music.
     
  6. Sean Cauley

    Sean Cauley Stunt Coordinator

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    Ernesto, right you are about the greatness of GIMME SHELTER! I meant to make mention of it in my post, but wound up sticking mostly to the IMAX theatrical release of AT THE MAX.
    ***GIMME SHELTER spoilers ahead (although as it's a thirty-year-old documentary, I don't know if they're really spoilers; still, I'll play it safe)***
    GIMME SHELTER is an amazing film, as memorable for the events of Altamont as for the music itself. Even knowing how that day was destined to turn out, there was definite suspense in watching the Altamont footage for the first time. And I've never been a Grateful Dead fan, but the scene where Jerry Garcia is being told what went down between Jefferson Airplane and the Hell's Angels is just a downer; you can tell he doesn't want to believe things could have gotten that bad.
    Finally, I admire the filmmakers' willingness to change the film's focus from the music to the mayhem, and to include scenes of the Stones being shown the footage of the man with the gun and the subsequent stabbing. Watching them see for the first time what really happened while they sang is just heartbreaking.
    Sure, if I had my druthers, I'd want to see IMAX of the Stones in their late-sixties prime, but I can't complain one bit about the energy level of ROLLING STONES AT THE MAX, corporate-sponsored big-budget tour or not.
     
  7. Samuel Des

    Samuel Des Supporting Actor

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    Another vote for Gimme Shelter. Loved that little bit with Mick, Tina, and Ike.
     
  8. Craig

    Craig Second Unit

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    "...Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out!" is the greatest live album by the greatest blues/rock band ever. Much of the same material is captured forever on this magnificent DVD..."
    Indeed, you can almost think of "Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out" as the soundtrack to "Gimme Shelter". If you like the music on "Gimme Shelter" then you owe it to yourself to get the CD. Mick Taylor and Keith Richards give those Ampeg V4 amps a workout, and I think that Ya-Ya's has the best version of "Sympathy For The Devil" that the Stones have recorded.
     
  9. Van Patton

    Van Patton Second Unit

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    I just saw the 9 PM showing of this tonight at the local IMAX theater. It's only showing Fri. and Sat. It was amazing. I wish they had done some more back catalog songs like Cant You Hear Me Knocking or Gimme Shelter but it was still an awesome show. Tomorrow I'm going to go buy the CC version of Gimme Shelter and also the show I saw tonight. Awes [​IMG]me
     
  10. Ernesto Santos

    Ernesto Santos Stunt Coordinator

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    Sam,
    I certainly won't argue with you. Fillmore East has a PERMANENT slot in my CD jukebox. [​IMG]
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