The newest live Rolling Stones archival release.
The newest live Rolling Stones archival release.

The Rolling Stones: A Bigger Bang Live on Copacabana Beach (Rolling Stones/Mercury Studios/Universal, Blu-ray + 2 CDs or DVD + 2 CDs, 117 min. each version). For this free concert on Feb. 18, 2006, the Rolling Stones played before an estimated crowd of 1.5 million, one of the largest crowds in rock ‘n’ roll history. Fans watched from 2.5 miles along the Rio de Janeiro beach and from boats in the harbor. The show also was broadcast throughout North America. The show was previously released on DVD in 2007 as “The Biggest Bang,” but now has been remixed, re-edited and remastered, with four missing songs restored to present the complete show. As always, it is a high-energy show, packed with hits and a few surprises.

The four restored songs are a rollicking “Tumbling Dice” with the horn section; the then-new “Oh No, Not You Again,” a solid rocker; guitarist Keith Richards’ acoustic solo of the then-new “This Place Is Empty”; and the always-welcome “Sympathy for the Devil,” with vocalist Mick Jagger donning a black tailed jacket. Also performed from their “A Bigger Bang” album (Sept. 2005) are “Rough Justice” (a bit ho hum) and “Rain Fall Down,” the latter featuring Jagger on guitar and a bass solo by Darryl Jones.

The show opens with four solid rockers: “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It),” “You Got Me Rocking” and “Tumbling Dice.”

Visually, there are many shots of the humongous crowd, including a nice one from the water. A long stage extension, including some stairs, divides the immediate crowd. Not only does it give Jagger a running and dancing platform, but later it is used as a belt along which a portion of the stage travels, including Charlie Watts’ drum kit, so four songs can be performed by the core band within the audience. Those songs are “Miss You,” with Jagger on guitar again, “Rough Justice,” the oldie “Get Off of My Cloud,” with crowd participation, and “Honky Tonk Women.”

Other highlights include Richards playing acoustic guitar on “Wild Horses” – he later sings “Happy,” with guitarist Ronnie Wood on pedal steel, after “This Place Is Empty” – and the rocking “Start Me Up” and “Brown Sugar,” the latter featuring a Bobby Keys sax solo. The latter two, along with the encores of classics “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” and “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” proving a rocking final four to mirror the concert’s first four songs.

Along the way, backing vocalist Lisa Fischer is highlighted on a cover of the Ray Charles hit, “Night Time Is the Right Time,” the only cover song of the night. Jagger plays harmonica and dances all over the stage during “Midnight Rambler,” but the song is a bit padded as he engages with the audience.

There also is a 2-DVD + 2-CD version of the release that includes a 40-page book and a bonus DVD of a November 2005 concert in Salt Lake City, Utah. Additionally, a 3-LP version comes pressed on blue, yellow and green vinyl or, exclusive to Sound of Vinyl, pressed on clear vinyl.

At this time, I would like to take note of the longevity of the Rolling Stones, as this core quartet has been together since Wood left Faces and joined in 1975. Only the bassist has changed in that time, as Bill Wyman left the band in 1993. Whereas, for the other three bands reviewed in this column, only one original member remains for each. Grade: A

Focus: Focus 50 Live in Rio + studio CD Completely Focussed: The Complete Focus 1-12 (In and Out of Focus, Blu-ray, 119 min., + 3 CDs). Technically, this live show by the Dutch progressive band, did not take place in Rio de Janeiro, but actually in the Teatro Municipal de Niteroi, just across the Rio-Niteroi Bridge from Rio. The show was Sept. 14, 2017, during the band’s South American tour to promote its “Family Album.”

First, a brief history of Focus, which has just celebrated its 50th anniversary (just like Foghat; see below). The band was formed in Amsterdam in 1969 by keyboardist, vocalist and flautist Thijs van Leer, drummer Hans Cleuver, bassist Martijn Dresden and guitarist Jan Akkerman. Initially, they worked in the band for the Dutch stage production of the musical “Hair.” They earned international recognition with the single “Hocus Pocus” from their second album, “Moving Waves” (1971). The albums “Focus 3” (1972) and “Hamburger Concerto” (1974) also brought success, with the latter including the single “Sylvia.” Lineup changes came for the next two albums and the band dissolved in 1978. There were brief reunions in 1990 and 1997. Van Leer reformed Focus in 2002 and the band subsequently recorded four more studio albums.

Drummer Pierre van der Linden became a permanent member in 2004, after being with Focus in 1975-76, and guitarist Menno Gootjes, who was with the band in 1997-98, became a permanent member in 2010. Bassist Udo Pannekeet joined in 2016. All four are exceptional musicians.

The concert opens with a van Leer’s flute solo, which unfortunately is marred by the overly loud chatter of the crowd (bad mic placement, I guess). Van Leer then switches to keyboard as the rest of the band takes the stage and performs “Focus 1” and “House of the King.” The group then launches into a 21-minute version of “Eruption,” which has elements of jazz fusion. It features fine guitar, van Leer playing flute and Hammond keyboard at the same time and van Leer’s vocalizing, including a long scatting section. (There are very few words in Focus’ compositions, but van Leer vocalizes a lot.)

The slower “Song for Eva,” which highlights Gootjes’ guitar playing, was from their then current album, “The Focus Family Album.” From “Focus X” comes the rocker “All Hens on Deck.” The band performs a tango, “Le Tango,” and the rarely-played “P’s March,” lively and flute-led, and “Focus 5,” both from the second-half of the 1970s. “Harem Scarem,” from “Hamburger Concerto,” is a highlight, with a wonderful guitar solo at its center and an interesting bass solo. During the flute-led “Hocus Pocus,” van Leer takes his flute solo out through the audience – reminded me of Angus Young of AC/DC riding on the shoulders of a roadie or bouncer while playing his guitar in August 1977 at B’Ginnings in Schaumberg, IL – then solos on his keyboard, before the rest of the band returns and joins in. The lengthy piece includes the band introductions and a robust drum solo. The show ends with the fine encore of “Focus 3.”

Throughout the band’s history, van Leer has composed instrumental “Focus” pieces, each with a different number. During the pandemic, the current band recorded all 12 pieces in one day, with overdubs a second day. The pieces highlight the strong melodic side of Focus. There is a thrilling guitar solo on “Focus 7” and the drums are more at the center on “Focus 8.” The other two CDs are of the Rio show. Grade: A

Foghat: 8 Days on the Road (Foghat Records, DVD + 2 CDs, 95 min. each format). Also celebrating its 50th anniversary is Foghat, which today also has only one original member left in drummer Roger Earl. The band was formed in London in 1971, with songwriter “Lonesome” Dave Peverett on vocals and guitar, Tony Stevens on bass and Earl on drums. All three had left the British blues-rock band Savoy Brown. Guitarist Rod Price, whose slide guitar was an integral part of the band’s sound, joined after leaving Black Cat Bones. They signed to Bearsville Records (also home to Todd Rundgren) and relocated to the United States.

Stevens, disliking touring so much, left the band in 1975. Peverett died in 2000 and Price in 2005. Like Focus, the band took a few years off, disbanding in 1984, after Peverett returned to England. In 1993, the original lineup reunited and lasted until Price retired in 1999. The current lineup, seen performing here on Nov. 17, 2019, includes Earl, lead vocalist and guitarist Charlie Huhn, bassist and vocalist Rodney O’Quinn and lead and slide guitarist and vocalist Bryan Bassett. Bassett came onboard in 1999, Huhn in 2000 and O’Quinn in 2015.

The show was at Daryl’s House Club in Pawling, NY, which looks to be a dinner club, and the performers are right up against the patrons’ tables. The 14-song set includes Foghat classics and some covers, including Willie Dixon’s “I Just Want to Make Love to You,” which was an FM radio favorite by the original band back in 1972. They also cover Al Green’s “Take Me to the River” (almost unrecognizable from the Green version) and, as encores, Chuck Berry’s “Maybellene” and Wild Cherry’s “Play That Funky Music.” Bassett formerly was with Wild Cherry and Molly Hatchet, while Huhn has been with Ted Nugent, Gary Moore, Victory and Humble Pie. O’Quinn was formerly with the Pat Travers Band.

The band opens the intimate show with the Foghat hit, “Drivin’ Wheel,” which was written by Peverett and Price, as were “Road Fever” and “Chateau Lafitte ’59 Boogie.” Also in the opening quartet is “Stone Blue,” a solo Peverett composition. They make for a strong beginning to the show. Bassett’s slide guitar is featured on the slow blues of “It Hurts Me Too.” This album’s title track comes midway and was first recorded by Howard Tate in 1971, while Aretha Franklin and Foghat both recorded it in 1974. Foghat hits “Fool for the City” and the closing “Slow Ride,” both by Peverett, are here, as is Peverett and Price’s “Home in My Hand.” Earl does a drum solo between “Chevrolet” and “Fool for the City.” Grade: B+

Toto: With a Little Help from My Friends (The Players Club, Blu-ray + CD or DVD + CD, 75 min. each format). The concert is performed Covid lockdown style, on stage but without an audience. It apparently was streamed live though. The show includes 11 numbers, including the hits “Hold the Line,” “Pamela,” “Stop Loving You” and “Rosanna” – but no “Africa.”

Toto was formed in 1977 by David Paich and Jeff Porcaro, who had performed together as session musicians on several albums. Before releasing their first album, they recruited David Hungate, guitarist Steve Lukather, Steve Porcaro and Bobby Kimball. Lukather is the only original member still touring and recording with the band, while Paich has retired from touring, but still serves as musical director and occasional guest. Here, Paich joins the band to sing and play keyboards on the last two numbers, “Rosanna” and a cover of the Beatles’ “With a Little Help from My Friends.”

Also in the current band are vocalist Joseph Williams, who has been with the band 1986-88 and 2010 to the present; keyboard players Dominique “Xavier” Taplin (Prince, Ghost-Note) and Steve Maggiora (Robert John & The Wreck), bassist John Pierce (Huey Lewis & The News, Pablo Cruise), drummer Robert “Sput” Searight (Ghost-Note, Snarky Puppy) and Warren Ham on horns and percussion.

Lukather, one of today’s top guitarists, has a solo in every song but one, starting with “Till the End.” One of his best is on the slower, bluesy “Kingdom of Desire.” Ham’s flute is heard on the early Toto track, “You Are the Flower,” by original singer Kimball. There is a piano start to “White Sister,” which ends with a drum solo. All sing on the ballad “I Won’t Hold You Back,” while Ham does his only lead solo to open “Home of the Brave.”

A bonus on the Blu-ray is a making-of documentary (29:42) that talks about making a “fresh start” and discusses the musicians and songs. Lukather says the band was put together in 10 days. Paich points out that he used “With a Little Help from My Friends” as the set closer for his high school band.

Despite the talk of a “fresh start,” Lukather announced two weeks ago that Toto will no longer make new albums. Instead, he and singer Williams will continue to make solo records, as they did earlier this year with “I Found the Sun Again” by Lukather and “Denizen Tenant” by Williams, with each contributing significantly to the other’s album. Lukather also said they will occasionally tour under the Toto name. Grade: A