Obviously, the Stones had no idea what was to happen at Altamont when they hired directors David Maysles, Albert Maysles, and Charlotte Zwerin. They simply didn’t like how they looked a year earlier when Jean-Luc Godard showed them creating, and seemingly never finishing, “Sympathy for the Devil,” in his lethargic, hypnotic same-titled film. The Maysleses and Zwerin fulfill their obligation to catch the fervor and brilliance of live Stones shows — particularly in songs like “Honky Tonk Women” and “Street Fighting Man.”
They also, in the process, happen to catch a fan being stabbed in a crowd, footage that they then run past singer Mick Jagger. This snippet makes <em>Gimme Shelter</em> cut deeper than any rock documentary: Jagger’s bitter expression as he shakes his head at his own arrogance and naivete is a remarkable moment. Bouncing between the band’s debauched tour lifestyle (including a shaggy, funny session mixing “Wild Horses”) and the fateful, ultraviolent California show, <em>Gimme Shelter</em> lets it all hang out.
This 30th Anniversary DVD edition boasts a new, loud DTS version of the soundtrack, deleted scenes and radio excerpts from the live KSAN broadcast of the four-hour show, as well as a booklet of essays on both the tour and the cultural climate of the 1960s. This is a documentary and a document that is truly worthy of such elaborate treatment.