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Rolling Stones, Giants Stadium, NJ: It’s only rock & roll September 27, 2006

Posted by Anton A in British music, Rolling Stones.
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Saw the Stones again at Giants Stadium on Wednesday.  It was like they sat down and said, OK, we’ve come here and done our greatest hits package and plugged the new album umpteen times, let’s dig down into the catalog and do a show for the hardcore fans.  And so they did:

It’s Only Rock & Roll, Live With Me, Monkey Man, Sway, Girl With The Faraway Eyes, Streets Of Love, Just My Imagination, Midnight Rambler, Tumbling Dice

band intros and Keith’s songs:

You’ve Got The Silver, Little T&A

small stage:

Under My Thumb, Rough Justice, Start Me Up, Honky Tonk Woman

main stage:

Sympathy For The Devil, Jumpin’ Jack Flash

encore:

Brown Sugar.

Now that’s a setlist IMHO.  One of the best in years.  Just so many moments to savor there.  I’m still singing “Just my imagination, runnin’ away with me, Runaway runaway runaway runaway run run run run run” in the shower every morning.

The energy on stage was unbelievable, as always.  Well, not always, there was the Eighties and early Nineties, but in recent years they have been playing every gig like it might be their last.  Which it might.  Jagger is still out there on a mission, selling every moment of every song and working the crowd like no one else.

Keith spent a lot of time playing on his knees or hunched over like that Notre Dame guy.  My wife figured that, after the palm tree incident, he’s just trying to stay as close to the ground as possible.

Ronnie is smoking again, though I only saw him do 2 cigarettes over the course of the 2-hour show, which is much better than he was doing.  And Charlie just has a blast all night.

Yeah yeah yeah whooooooo!

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Rolling Stones, Madison Square Garden, NYC: Let’s spend the night together January 18, 2006

Posted by Anton A in British music, Rolling Stones.
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The Stones always seem to bring their best game to Madison Square Garden.  They mixed up the setlist quite nicely from last September’s show at Giants Stadium:

Jumping Jack Flash, Let’s Spend The Night Together, Oh No Not You Again, Love Is Strong, Rocks Off, Worried About You, Rain Fall Down, Midnight Rambler, Tumbling Dice, Gimme Shelter, Empty Without You, Happy

small stage:

Miss You, Rough Justice, Get Off My Cloud, Honky Tonk Women

main stage:

Sympathy For The Devil, Start Me Up, Brown Sugar

encores:

You Can’t Always Get What You Want, Satisfaction.

They were really on all night.  Jagger was grinning at the end of virtually every song, it seemed obvious that he knew they were nailing one after another.  (Me, I was grinning too for two hours straight, there is just nothing like a good Stones show.)  Keith was really focused – for once he didn’t turn the opening chords to Brown Sugar into a pile of mush.  When he hit the first chords to You Can’t Always Get What You Want, and then did a little duet with the trombone player – man, chills down the spine.  They got the tempo for Gimme Shelter just right – you know how sometimes they rush it and the drama gets lost, but they kept it slow and milked it for all it’s got.

Of course there were some sloppy moments; the tempo transitions in Midnight Rambler were messy, as they often are, but somehow it doesn’t seem to matter much once they find the groove. 

Toward the end of Satisfaction, Ronnie’s tremolo bar came off in his hand.  Surprised the hell out of him.  Apparently not quite knowing what to do, he used it to play a few bars of slide, then tossed it backstage.  A few seconds later a tech ran out with it (or a new one?) and somehow reattached it, but his guitar was out of tune for the rest of the song.  I don’t know why he didn’t just switch guitars.  Stuff happens.

Love Is Strong, Rocks Off and Worried About You were terrific surprises.  Jagger sold each one to the hilt, belting the falsetto parts of Worried About You with astonishing strength while playing the keys.  His harmonica work on Love Is Strong and of course Midnight Rambler was dazzling.  There’s no hint that his performance is anywhere near a downhill slide at this point; his stagecraft is still the best there is.

Early in the show Jagger said something about, “Glad to be back in New York, we were talking backstage and this is as close to home as it gets for us.”  A bit later he plugged their upcoming Super Bowl gig by saying, “The network was a bit concerned about what we’re going to do, but I told them not to worry, I was going to show both of my tits, no problem.”  He got the laugh.

This tour, the Stones make you believe again that this is the best rock & roll show ever.  There are few other acts that can keep the entire Garden, not just the floor seats, on its collective feet for two hours. 

I was so pumped, I checked repeatedly for tix to the Friday show, but there were no cheap ones, alas.  On Friday, for the rarities segment, they did Sway, Ain’t Too Proud To Beg, and As Tears Go By.  They also replaced Start Me Up with Paint It Black, and worked a verse of Mustang Sally into Satisfaction.  Damn!  Bring on the Super Bowl!

Rolling Stones, Giants Stadium, NJ: Night time is the right time September 15, 2005

Posted by Anton A in British music, Rolling Stones.
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It was another Stones show at Giants Stadium, and possibly their best since the 1970s.  This is still a band that can take you places nobody else can; in the end, in spite of the high prices and the hassles of stadium shows that we all know too well, that’s what matters.

Mick keeps himself in phenomenal shape and is still a dervish on stage.  Keith, God luv ‘im, one of the most distinctive guitarists ever, drives a band like no one else.  Ronnie doesn’t seem to be smoking as many cigarettes this year.  Charlie, crisp as ever on the drums, looks happier and healthier than he has in years, even seems to have bulked up a bit.  Hope that throat cancer is gone for good.

Set list:

Start Me Up, You Got Me Rocking, Shattered, Tumbling Dice, Rough Justice, Ruby Tuesday, Heartbreaker, Night Time Is The Right Time, The Worst, Infamy, *Miss You, *Oh No Not You Again, *She’s So Cold, *Honky Tonk Woman, Out Of Control, Sympathy For The Devil, Jumpin Jack Flash, Brown Sugar, Satisfaction

encores

You Can’t Always Get What You Want, It’s Only Rock & Roll.

*on the small stage

The first three songs had just the core five musicians on stage, no backup singers or horns;  what a great way to start the show that was. 

Ruby Tuesday was the surprise of the night.  If you follow the tour on line, you know that it’s pretty much the same setlist every night, except something different always  shows up in that slot.  Previous shows got such goodies as Paint It Black or Bitch

The real treat was Keith still doing the high harmony vocals.  A couple of tours back, Mick and Keith didn’t sing together at all, and I thought that might be the beginning of the end of the Stones’ touring life.  The interplay of their voices is one of the things that makes their sound so distinctive, and if the Stones were going to morph into Mick and his backup singers, well….  But apparently they figured that out themselves.  Or maybe Keith’s voice was just shot worse than usual that year.  Whatever, Keith was chiming in with the harmonies in unexpected places all night, which was one reason why this show seemed so especially vibrant.

Night Time Is The Right Time was a total show-stopper, with footage of Ray Charles on the big screen, and spellbinding vocals from singer Lisa Fisher as well as Mick.

The small stage set was superb, as a section of the big stage seems to detach itself and float above the floor audience down to the far end of the stadium (where we were seated).  In reality it’s simply on a big gurney, but the illusion is excellent.

The new songs rock, and keep the flow of the show going.  But when they moved into the last section, starting with Out Of Control (which, at the time of the Bridges album, I thought might be the last great song they’d ever write), they ramped up the energy level to really drive the show home and delivered one of the most thrilling stretches of rock & roll that I’ve ever seen.  Friends and I used to joke that if we had to see them do Sympathy and Jumping Jack Flash one more time, we’d scream, or at least take a bathroom break.  Well, not Thursday night; they delivered those songs with such ferocity and authority, it was like the first time out.  Just pure passion.

Keith seemed so charged up, he rushed the opening chords to Brown Sugar and pretty much turned them to mush, but the band quickly recovered it.  Bobby Keys delivered another scorching sax solo, as always; the guy is in a class by himself.

Satisfaction, OK, I had to take the bathroom break then, and it was the right moment.  The encores were sublime.  “Standing in line with Mister Jitters”; what a song.

Judging from the Net chatter, the Stones irked a lot of their fans by giving Gimme Shelter and Street Fighting Man a rest on this tour.  The way I see it, that just gives us something more to look forward to next time.  They’ve written so many great songs over so many years, how are they ever going to fit them all in? They may not always give you what you want, but I always get what I need.

Rolling Stones, Madison Square Garden, NYC: If you can’t rock me somebody will January 16, 2003

Posted by Anton A in British music, Rolling Stones.
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Being a Stones fan these days is something like being a Deadhead, I think. You either feel that unique pulse and get caught up in it, or you don’t. And it’s no harm no foul either way, I’m not trying to win any converts here, I’m just contemplating last night’s show and marveling at the fact that I can spend $164 on a ticket and come away from the show feeling everything but “I’ve been had.”

Part of it has to do with the sheer resonance of the Stones in 2003. This is a band that’s always been playing somewhere in the background of my life for the last 40 years, since I was 15. No one else can evoke such a sense of temporal depth and touch on a span of memories on that scale. There was a particular poignance underlying last night’s show that came from what may be the sad demise of the Who following the death of John Entwistle last year; suddenly the Stones are the last ones standing from an age where, for a lot of us, it all began.

But that would all be simple nostalgia if the Stones couldn’t still take a stage and work their particular brand of rock & roll tension, and God bless ‘em, they still do it with a vengeance. They’re a unique collection of tones, with Jagger’s voice, Keith’s chordal sense and Charlie’s clean precision at the heart of that. They also inhabit the beat like no one else; with every song, they seem to stretch some kind of sonic rubber band and pull it to varying degrees of tautness until it either relaxes or snaps and slaps you in the face.

Jagger NEVER stops moving while the band is playing; even when he goes to the back of the stage for some swigs of Poland Spring during an extended instrumental, it’s always a strutwalk or a little dance to get there. Nor does he ever crack a smile, which makes him more enigmatic than ever. He works his ass off for 140 minutes, keeps the entire Garden on its feet every second he’s on stage, and you keep wondering what’s driving him.

Keith is all business when he’s playing, apart from the occasional quick grin at the other musicians, but at the end of every song he breaks out a huge shit-eatin grin & it’s so apparent that he just loves doing what he’s doing. When he walks back to the drum set in the middle of a song and stands facing Charlie, feeling the thump of the bass drum right in his chest, you always want to keep your ears focused on their interplay, some rhythmic magic always happens then. Several times Keith would hit a chord and just let it fade while the rest of the band cranked and you think Omigod, the drugs have finally taken their toll, he’s gone into a fugue and doesn’t have a clue as to what to do next. But it’s just his way of playing with the rhythm of the song, suddenly he’ll dive back into it, maybe on an unexpected eighth note in mid-bar, and that part of the song is suddenly refreshed and rejuvenated.

The Garden stage was clean and spare, like their music seems to have become on this tour; no ornate trappings, just the amps, instruments and mikes, a stepped platform at either side, and the usual catwalk across the floor to the small stage at the other end. In spite of the size of the entourage – 2 keyboardists, the inimitable Bobby Keys on sax, a full horn section for some songs, 2 backup singers – the sound was rarely messy or garbled; the arrangements seemed designed to give every voice space to shine through.

The arena went totally dark just after 9:00. Suddenly there was a lone spotlight on Keith, black leather jacket & jeans, turquoise & teal tunic under the jacket, whanging out the opening chords to Street Fighting Man. Then the lights came up, Jagger bounds out, open white shirt with a duck on back over black T-shirt with seagulls, and they were off.

Here’s your setlist:

Street Fighting Man, Start Me Up, If You Can’t Rock Me, Don’t Stop, Monkey Man, Angie, Let It Bleed, Live With Me, Midnight Rambler, Tumbling Dice, Slipping Away, Before They Make Me Run, Gimme Shelter, You Got Me Rocking, Can’t You Hear Me Knocking, Honkey Tonk Women, Satisfaction

parade to small stage

It’s Only Rock & Roll, When The Whip Comes Down, Brown Sugar

encores on main stage

Sympathy For The Devil, Jumping Jack Flash.

Highlights for me were that first 3-song blast, Let It Bleed, an intense Midnight Rambler, Keith’s pair of songs, You Got Me Rocking, Hear Me Knocking, It’s Only Rock & Roll, and Jumping Jack Flash. Left me well satisfied.

Ronnie Wood gets slagged a lot by some critics; on a few songs I can almost understand that. But I thought he did beautiful work on Start Me Up and Tumbling Dice and quite a few others. Darryl Jones, Chuck Leavell and of course Bobby Keys are exceptional musicians.

And I have to give a nod to Mick’s harmonica playing on Midnight Rambler and Can’t You Hear Me Knocking. Keith once said that Mick is at his very best when he’s wailing on the harp, that is “the purest Mick Jagger you’ll ever see.” Last night I was ready to buy that.

During Let It Bleed, a tall, slim, grey-haired black fellow in a brown suit and horn-rimmed glasses appeared on stage. He had a gold guitar and proceeded to lay down a series of nasty blues runs that seemed to come from that same crossroads where Robert Johnson paid for his licks. Keith spent most of the song in this man’s corner urging him on. My friend Mike immediately recognized him as Hubert Sumlin, longtime sideman for the legendary Howlin’ Wolf. For me that remains the abiding image from the night. And that’s why I’ll do all I can to catch the Stones next time around.