On July 30, 2003, close to a half a million people gathered in Toronto for one of the most spectacular concerts of all time in fact, the largest ticketed single-day event in history. The Rolling Stones headlined the show, accompanied by 13 other acts, including AC/DC, Rush, the Guess Who, and Justin Timberlake. Now, this amazing day has been captured on DVD.
Like most festival shows, the Toronto Rocks
concert, a SARS benefit held on July 30, 2003 before a teeming crowd of 490,000, is a pretty mixed bag. For one thing, the Guess Who, Rush, AC/DC, and the Rolling Stones--the headliners--are all well past their primes. They're still kicking, of course, and fans of each will relish their sets. But no headliner save Rush exudes the freshness and spark evident in the tantalizing snippets of the performances we don't
see on this single-disc DVD: Canadian acts like Blue Rodeo, the Tea Party, and Sass Jordan (with a still-riveting Jeff Healey on guitar). The Stones command more than their fair share of screen time, and some would say they've earned it. Meanwhile, we're also served three helpings of Dan Aykroyd and Jim Belushi's ho-hum Have Love Will Travel revue. Who steals the show? The Isley Brothers, led by founding singer Ronald and axeman Ernie, who blaze through "Who's That Lady" and their classic "Shout" with a band of lock-tight musicians and dancers.
The DVD includes the kind of full-size color booklet every concert disc should come with, a choice of Dolby Digital 5.1 surround and uncompressed PCM stereo sound (both great), and a dose of "bonus" backstage ballyhoo. A unique extra is the director's broadcast call of the camera shots for AC/DC's "Thunderstruck," revealing the frantic, real-time demands of a live shoot. --Michael Mikesell