Unavailable at all for nearly three decades, then issued in a VHS edition in 1996, the Rolling Stones' legendary Rock and Roll Circus
finally gets the full treatment with this DVD release documenting the 1968 event. The Stones were reportedly unhappy with their performance (hence the long delay), and it isn't their finest moment; performing "Jumping Jack Flash" and a variety of songs from their then-new Beggars Banquet
album, Keith Richards is game, but Jagger's preening (especially on "Sympathy for the Devil") is over the top, and guitarist Brian Jones looks dissolute and well on his way to his death the following year. A certain weirdness permeates some of the other musical acts as well: Jethro Tull lip-syncs unconvincingly, Taj Mahal and band were obliged to perform before the circus set was completed and the audience had arrived, and John Lennon's outing with impromptu supergroup the Dirty Mac (with Richards, Eric Clapton, and drummer Mitch Mitchell) is hampered by Yoko Ono's caterwauling, although their version of the Beatles' "Yer Blues" is cool. Still, the Who are brilliant, Marianne Faithfull is beautiful, the various circus acts are fun, and the crowd clearly loves it.
The DVD comes with some fascinating bonus features, including three extra songs by Mahal, some lovely classical piano by Julius Katchen, and a "quad split-screen" version of "Yer Blues." Best of all are a new interview with the Who's Pete Townshend and the various commentary tracks added for the DVD--especially those by Tull's Ian Anderson, director Michael Lindsay-Hogg, and Stones Jagger, Richards, and Bill Wyman (who dryly attributes Jagger's reluctance to issue the show to his dissatisfaction with his own performance, not the band's). Flaws notwithstanding, this is a treat. --Sam Graham