Selvin triumphs with a detailed, unsentimental exploration of who, what, when and where, drawn from interviews with those who were there — from the medical staff and stage crews to the musicians themselves — and extensive documentation ... With this lurid yet deeply cautionary tale, Selvin shows what a bad, strange trip it was.
[Selvin's] approach — equal parts rock journalism and true crime — neither minimizes nor sensationalizes the violence on that dreadful day. Rather, he walks readers through the careless and mercenary decisions that led to Altamont’s lethal outcome ... If Selvin is right that Gimme Shelter went easy on the Stones, his book may do the same for the home team. But he certainly deserves credit for bringing the famous concert and its various backstories into sharp, vivid focus.
Four people died at the concert, and Selvin’s detailed account of the day’s events actually makes you wonder why more people didn’t ... One of the most insidiously frightening insights that Selvin’s Altamont allows us is that a day now remembered as 'rock’s darkest day' was seen by the majority of its participants, at least in its immediate aftermath, as a pretty good concert. Even the performers themselves weren’t entirely sure what happened until later ... Selvin relies heavily on an artificially omniscient point of view: Altamont is deeply researched, but Selvin merges the hundreds of voices that inform his account into one coherent vision. It takes what might have been a collage of disparate voices and turns it into a smooth page-turner.
Plenty of accounts have been written about the concert, and the moment of Hunter's death was captured on film for the world to see. But Altamont serves as a valuable document, cutting through the hallucinogenic haze of the times to provide greater understanding of an American tragedy.