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Rhino presents
Toronto Rocks (2003)

"Something extraordinary is about to begin..."
- opening narration

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: June 27, 2004

Stars: Rolling Stones, AC/DC, Rush, Guess Who, Justin Timberlake, The Isley Brothers, The Flaming Lips
Other Stars: The Have Love Will Travel Band
Director: Marty Callner, Dave Russell

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (brief language)
Run Time: 01h:58m:20s
Release Date: June 29, 2004
UPC: 603497034123
Genre: music

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ BB+A- B

DVD Review

In what was billed as the "largest ticketed single day event in history", the July 30, 2003 Toronto Rocks concert held in—brace yourself—Toronto was put together to help rejuvenate tourism there after the SARS outbreak became big news. The headliners were none other than The Rolling Stones, who have been know to sell out a concert or two, and a broad spectrum of 13 other bands and performers filled out the bill, including AC/DC, Rush, The Guess Who, The Isley Brothers, The Flaming Lips, Justin Timberlake, and a gaggle of homegrown Canadian groups.

This single-disc release from Rhino tries to condense that long hot day into a two-hour "best of", so it features only two or three songs from each of the main supporting acts (except for Timberlake, who gets just one), with the headlining Stones represented by six tunes. Completists will want to know that there is also a two-disc Canadian version available that includes a second disc devoted to performances by the less well-known bands that opened the show, like Sam Roberts, Blue Rodeo (truly underrated, in my opinion), Kathleen Edwards, La Chicane, The Tea Party, and Sass Jordan. It's a shame we didn't get that two-disc version in the States, because the brief clips of these groups that show up in the extras are outstanding, and in some cases far more captivating and exciting than a couple of the so-called main acts.

With that said, there's nary a bad performance to be found here, but it is The Flaming Lips who uncork probably the finest moment here with a joyously dead-on version of Do You Realize?, and who share the stage with an army of dancing costumed characters. Other standout moments include Ernie Isley doing a wild guitar solo behind his back during The Isley's Who's That Lady?, and Rush's take on Freewill is completely invigorating. The weakest links are Dan Ackroyd and Jim Belushi, here embarrassing themselves horribly as the in-between acts filler, performing under the banner of their oldies act The Have Love Will Travel Revue. Their own shining moment—yes, everyone has one—is a rendition of Time Won't Let Me that somehow manages to make their flat karaoke vocals sound appealing, but they are buttressed by a very tight back up band that does the unimaginable and makes them almost sound decent for a few minutes.

The Stones performance is full of typically well-crafted and methodical rock gyrating and strutting, and it is clear that they have the whole rock star thing down to a tee. Personally, I was never really a huge Stones fan, but there is something about hearing that opening guitar lick to Satisfaction—even for the umpteenth time—that just screams "I am rock and roll and you are my bitch." No one has ever come close to personifying the sheer essence of what a "rock star" is like the death-defying Keith Richards, and that is coming from someone who never really gave two hoots about the band. The guy is pure rock cool to the infinite—no doubt about it.

Rhino has included a couple of Stones "duets", one featuring Justin Timberlake helping out on Miss You, and AC/DC sharing remanufactured blues riffs on Rock Me Baby. The slightly out of place Timberlake had an admittedly rough day all around, and during his solo set was repeatedly pelted by water bottles and boos, though on this disc's clip of his Señorita, where he channels the ghost of Stevie Wonder admirably, the editing has kept the verbal and physical harassing to a minimum. Yet during his appearance with the Stones, Timberlake still receives a surprising onslaught of trash from the crowd, enough so that at one point a pissed off Keith Richards can be seen furiously signaling bouncers who the upfront culprits were.

This is a nicely assembled concert disc full of able-bodied strong rock and roll performances, but it begged to be much, much longer.

Set List:

The Have Love Will Travel Revue

The Flaming Lips
Race For The Prize
Do You Realize?

The Have Love Will Travel Revue
Dig Myself A Hole

The Isley Brothers
Who's That Lady?

Justin Timberlake

The Have Love Will Travel Revue
Time Won't Let Me

The Guess Who
American Woman
No Time

Paint It Black/The Spirit of Radio

Back In Black

Rolling Stones
Start Me Up
Ruby Tuesday
Miss You w/Justin Timberlake
Rock Me Baby w/AC/DC
Jumpin' Jack Flash

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Rhino has issued this title in 1.33:1 fullframe, and it is an all-around nice looking effort; sporting an image that is crisp and sharp, balanced by natural color rendering that is pleasing and accurate. Most of the acts perform in daylight, so the often problematic lighting flaws found on a lot of concert discs isn't an issue here, nor does it come into play during the nighttime Stones set. No color smearing or major edge halos were evident.


Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The primary audio track here is in Dolby Digital 5.1, and does what a good concert mix should do—stash the audience in the rears and keep the music spread across the front channels. Vocals are clear and never overpower the music, or worse yet get buried, with the challenge of knowing how to properly mix a live recording certainly being met here. All of the acts sound excellent, even if the songs themselves (AC/DC's Thunderstruck, for example) drone on a bit. The whole presentation is topped by a noticeably strong sub channel that provides a clean, rich bottom end.

An understandably less robust PCM stereo track is also included.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 21 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 21 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Canadien, French, Japanese, Spanish, Portuguese with remote access
5 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: The extras here are all brief, but they're quick enough that they are all watchable and over before it gets too redundant. Except for maybe Director's Call (05m:44s), which features director Marty Callner's broadcast call for the performance of AC/DC's Thunderstruck. Here we get to see the band play, and simultaneously hear Callner shouting "take 7", "take 11", "take 13" repeatedly. I'm not sure what the point of including that here was exactly.

The rest of the stuff is similarly short and actually a bit more watchable, and includes The Photo (04m:03s), which intersperses backstage footage and press conference comments from various performers, all leading up to the titular picture that was taken featuring all of the bands together. The final photo appears in the insert booklet, by the way. Justin Timberlake Meets The Rolling Stones (04m:55s) shows the rehearsal for Miss You, but most importantly spends a good amount of time with Mick and Keith addressing Timberlake's unfriendly water bottle reception, and properly bad mouthing the morons who heaved stuff onstage. Similarly, AC/DC Rocking With The Rolling Stones (03m:22s) gives a little behind-the-scenes peeks at these two rock legends working together.

The best part is Get The Party Started (05m:13s), a ridiculously short piece that highlights the other bands that performed earlier in the day, but for reasons I will never understand didn't make it onto the main program of this disc. Sam Roberts, Kathleen Edwards, La Chicane, The Tea Party, Sass Jordan with Jeff Healy, and Blue Rodeo are represented by about 60 seconds each, and if the clips here are any indication, that is just criminal that we didn't get to see more. If you like what you see here, my advice is to seek out the two-disc Canadian release, which featured full performances by these groups.

Also included is a spiffy 18-page booklet chock full of color photos, including the big assemblage of all the performers together in one shot. The disc itself is cut into 21 chapters—one per song—and oddly enough the subtitle options (English, Canadien, French, Japanese, Spanish, Portuguese, which is misspelled on the backcover) are only available on the extras.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

Rhino has done a solid job condensing an all-day concert into two hours, but if you read between the lines it is obvious a lot of great performances never found there way onto this disc. But that's just being picky on my part, I guess.

Overall, this is a decent collection of mostly old school FM rock, performed with adept precision by a batch of aging rockers (or in the case of the Stones, just plain old guys) sprinkled with a woefully brief dose of absolute brilliance from The Flaming Lips.

If anything, I hope this paves the way for an entire concert by The Flaming Lips to come to DVD.


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