I've been been playing guitar for a couple of dozen years at the time of writing, and I can confirm for you that Ronson was indeed constantly going out of tune and trying to fix it. I rented the movie (and have no intention of renting it again) a few weeks back so I can't really double check now, but as I recall the problem was particuarly pronounced in "Ziggy Stardust." Maybe he put on new strings before the show and didn't have time to break them in, or maybe he's got a tuning peg issue.
While we're talking about Mick, I could have lived without his constant pick-scraping-on-strings. If I were to ever rent this again, I'd count how many times he did that. You'd think that, with this being the final show of the several-month long tour, he'd have had a lot of tasty solo bits worked out, but his playing is rather uninspired throughout and he seems to fall back on that move as a crutch a bit too often. A pity, since Ronson really was a pretty good guitarist, but I suppose most people are more interested how "cool" this particular band looked rather than little details of that sort that drive musicians like me up the wall <g>.
In The Width of A Circle - one of the high points of the film, to me it's on a par with Jimi's rendition of Voodoo Chile/Banner at Woodstock - Ronson is doing an extended stretch of playing with his right arm flung out high to the side, far above the fretboard of the guitar, while his left hand works the neck. I'm not familiar with the technique of playing electric, but I can see he doesn't lose sny tone, and the flow of notes is crystal clear, not stretched out over each other, blurred or echoing. I guess he may be using feedback in some sense, but not the ordinary one: just what is he doing, how is he able to get this flow of notes without ever slapping/bending the strings down on the body of the axe? Did he put the strings on some kind of auto-strumming with a gadget?
Two things come to mind. With a properly set tape-delay, such an effect is possible in a live situation. The notes would appear to sustain when in fact they are single echoes. Also, you can achieve the same effect with enough distortion and amplification. There's no substitute for a Les Paul and a couple of Marshall stacks turned almost all the way up.
I actually love Ronson's tune on this. Its a very organic distortion, that seems to melt into the wooden floor of the stage they're performing. Its a very beautiful 70's sound that we seldom here nowadays, and it also has a mystic aura about it that goes together with the persona of David.
I don't remember when its not in tune but I have not perfect pitch myself so it doesn't bother me that much, besides I have a lot of tolerance with live concerts not being perfect in that regard. I only remember the beginning of Ziggy Stardust before the song starts but I don't mind the sound of him tuning the guitar before the song has started.
To me this is definitely the best Bowie concert available on DVD because of the awesome raw naked rock n roll feel.
Yeah, I don't think the essence of his playing is to achieve a clean tone all the time, or to have the strings precisely in tune at all moments. It's *meant* to sound thick, gritty and glimmering. There are tons of places in '70s rock where the guiitar or organ is deliberately out of tune - Jimmy Page in The wanton Song is a prime example. Even the original Ziggy Stardust intro riff sounds a tad off tune, it comes out shrill and tingling, but delightful.
Just what kind of a *beep* president are you anyway? Everybody wants you assassinated!
Speakin' of Page, I thought that Ronsons/bands 'solo' rivaled Zeps 'Communication Breakdown' medley on the Zep live DVD, 2 disc, '03 DVD. Mick really cooked !!
While he seemed 'uninspired' 'til that point, I was glued to the screen when he broke out and started rockin'. The rest of the concert I could live without but I'd love to have this part on hand for repeated listenings/viewings.