On The Record: Rolling Stones’ ‘Live on Copacabana Beach,’ Plus Steve Dawson and John R. Miller

The 1969 Woodstock festival attracted a small crowd by comparison with the Rolling Stones’ February 8, 2006 performance at Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, which aired on TV throughout North America. Though estimates varied, the consensus seems to be that the show drew in the neighborhood of one-and-a-half million fans. 

That eye-popping number won’t seem far off when you gaze at the aerial views of the audience in the video of the show that is included on the new A Bigger Bang: Live on Copacabana Beach. It’s quite a sight, especially in today’s world of social distancing. As Keith Richards later commented, “Not that we’re unused to playing some of the biggest shows in the world, but I must say Rio did take the cake.”

The just-released recording of that cake-taker is available in multiple formats, including ones that couple two CDs with a DVD or a standard-definition Blu-ray. There’s also a three-LP version and one that adds a bonus DVD of a 2005 Salt Lake City, Utah show. 

The Copacabana concert was previously featured on a 2007 DVD set but the new release is notable for a remix, a remaster, and a re-edit, as well as for the inclusion of the audio CDs and of four songs that the earlier video omitted: “Tumbling Dice,” a number that originally appeared on 1972’s Exile on Main Street, and “Sympathy for the Devil,” which debuted on 1968’s Beggars Banquet, plus “Oh No, Not You Again” and “This Place Is Empty,” both drawn from the Stones’ 2005 studio album, A Bigger Bang

The Copacabana performance took place just about five months after the release of that CD and was part of a tour designed to promote it, but the 20-song concert features only four tracks from it: the aforementioned two plus “Rain Fall Down” and “Rough Justice.” The focus is on better-known (and arguably better) earlier material, including the chart-topping late-1960s hits “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” “Get Off of My Cloud,” “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” and “Honky Tonk Women.” 

Among the other selections: “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” and “Midnight Rambler” from 1969’s Let It Bleed; “Brown Sugar” and “Wild Horses” from 1971’s Sticky Fingers; “Happy” from 1972’s Exile on Main St.; the title track from 1974’s It’s Only Rock ’n Roll; “Miss You” from 1978’s Some Girls; “Start Me Up” from 1981’s Tattoo You; and “You Got Me Rocking” from 1994’s Voodoo Lounge. Also featured is a cover of “Night Time Is the Right Time,” a song most associated with Ray Charles’s rendition.

Seemingly energized by the scale of the event, the Stones are in fine form as they tackle this classic material, none of which should need any introduction to anyone who spent the referenced years within earshot of a radio. This is virtually all great stuff and the quality of the audio (DTS-HD, on the Blu-ray) is first-rate. The video quality is excellent, too, though the picture is regrettably not widescreen. 

A Bigger Bang: Live on Copacabana Beach joins an increasingly long list of audio and video concert releases from the Rolling Stones’ archives. In just the past few years, for example, we’ve seen the appearance of Bridges to Bremen, Some Girls: Live in TexasBridges to Buenos AiresSteel Wheels Live, and Sticky Fingers Live at the Fonda Theatre. Some fans may feel they have heard and seen enough by now, especially since these releases contain rather similar setlists. That said, if you love the Stones and still have cash in your wallet and space on your shelf, you’re not likely to regret adding Copacabana to your collection.

Also Noteworthy

Steve DawsonAt the Bottom of a Canyon in the Branches of a Tree. Singer/songwriter Steve Dawson – who grew up in Idaho and now lives in Chicago – built a long and impressive discography over several decades, including several solo albums and six with his band Dolly Varden. In 2017, though, he stopped recording. Reportedly devastated by the deaths of his mother and father-in-law, which prompted him to also ponder the much earlier loss of his mother and abandonment by his father, he “wanted to figure out if I still cared enough about music to keep making it.” 

You’ll be glad he decided that he did when you hear his new album, At the Bottom of a Canyon in the Branches of a Tree, a richly textured and diverse folk-based outing. Among its best tracks: the catchy, seemingly Chicago soul–influenced “22 Rubber Bands” and the delicate “We Are Walking in a Forest,” a duet with Diane Christianson, Dawson’s wife and Dolly Varden bandmate.

John R. MillerDepreciatedDepreciated is the debut album from John R. Miller and it signals the arrival of a potentially major country-rock talent. Backed by a hot band and featuring his guitar pyrotechnics and self-assured vocal work, the all-originals set includes 11 well-crafted numbers ranging from the post-breakup blues of “Lookin’ Over My Shoulder” to the witty “Half Ton Van,” in which Miller spends three-and-a-half minutes pitching a dilapidated truck to potential buyers. Throughout, he sounds like a guy who has lived through a lot and has learned how to wrestle his demons to the ground.

Miller cites such artists as the late Guy Clark, Jerry Jeff Walker, and Townes Van Zandt among his inspirations, and you can certainly hear their influence in his music. But you can also hear that he has his own voice – and enough talent to be ranked alongside the musicians he admires.

Jeff Burger’s website, byjeffburger.com, contains five decades’ worth of music reviews, interviews, and commentary. His books include Dylan on Dylan: Interviews and EncountersLennon on Lennon: Conversations with John LennonLeonard Cohen on Leonard Cohen: Interviews and Encounters, and Springsteen on Springsteen: Interviews, Speeches, and Encounters