Stones stateside: Rolling with time's changes
The iconic rockers' second U.S. anniversary gig focuses on essence
Special to MSN Music
Opening with 1965's "Get Off Of My Cloud," with Mick Jagger resplendent in a gray-and-white checked blazer and fedora, the set's 22 songs mostly stayed close to the structure of the three prior shows. The first section featured some of the Stones's earliest hits—"The Last Time," "Paint It, Black" — before settling into an array of the late '60s/early '70s classics that constitute the peak of their work.
One highlight was a blistering version of "Gimme Shelter"; where the last three stops featured Mary J. Blige (twice) and Florence Welch singing the female vocal originally recorded by Merry Clayton, this time longtime back-up vocalist Lisa Fischer took the part. The entire band benefited from not having the distraction of an unfamiliar voice on stage (and the advantage of someone who actually knows the song), and all locked into a glorious, soaring groove.
That song was followed by the night's only outside visitor, John Mayer. "You think we're gonna do a blues, right?," Jagger teased the audience. "Well, we're not." Instead, they launched into "Respectable" from the “Some Girls” album, one of the band's most primitive garage-rockers. Mayer ripped a high-octane solo, which was dazzling but almost too good for the song's simplicity. Keith Richards responded with a chugging Chuck Berry-style lick, and he killed Mayer in two chords.
It was a high point for the Stone who is most showing his age. While Richards' guitar work is stronger than the shocking state it had reached by the end of the band's last tour, you can feel him having to struggle to keep up. He sometimes muffed even the most elemental intros, and where he once was always the engine driving the band — locking eyes with Charlie Watts to direct the tempo, pushing Jagger and the other musicians with fills that propelled the songs — now he mostly stays relatively still and keeps to himself, contributing but not directing.
As a result, Ronnie Wood is more important to the Stones than he ever has been. The guy is never going to be the world's greatest guitar player, but his versatility his ability to shift from rhythm to lead, play slide or even lap steel — picks up the slack now left by Richards' limitations. Keith's vocal spotlight, back-to-back performances of "Before They Make Me Run" and "Happy" with impressively strong singing, both turned into showcases for Wood's fretwork.
One song on which Richards shined was the night's most surprising addition, a cover of Chuck Berry's "Around and Around" that was selected in a "fan request" vote. Though Jagger chuckled when he read the choice — "That's an old one! Do you even remember that one?" — he sang and danced with a fever that was still recognizable from the group's first days as a blues and R&B cover band, and Richards responded with evidence that he's still Berry's greatest acolyte. "That was good fun," Jagger said at the song's end.
But the undeniable climax of the show was an epic version of "Midnight Rambler," featuring one-time Rolling Stone Mick Taylor in his first appearance with the band on U.S. soil since 1981. While Taylor's waistline was a bit shocking next to the rail-thin Jagger, Richards, and Wood, and though he tried to pack too many ideas into his one number, his presence elevated the performance of the entire band on their incomparable "blues opera."
Jagger's vocal delivered some of the genuine menace that once defined his style, and the band played with a force that illustrated the revolutionary way in which they actually reshaped the blues into an entirely new and distinctive music. For perhaps the only time all night, they weren't just reminding us of the Rolling Stones magic, they were truly creating it. "Rambler" also showed what the band was capable of when they had a true lead guitarist.
The set closed with a "Sympathy for the Devil" that teetered on the edge of chaos. While most singers lose their upper register as they get older, Jagger seems to have lost some of his low notes, and felt like he was struggling to find the right key. Richards' spiky guitar solos never quite took shape, and the song cut off abruptly. But a triumphant three-song encore included a slashing, stunning "Jumpin' Jack Flash"—one of those great Stones performances when the band grabs hold of a groove and just doesn't want to let go, growing more ferocious until you hope they'll keep playing it for hours. At 69, Jagger is nothing short of freakish, gathering strength as the show stretched on past the two-hour mark (and donning and stripping off an endless parade of sequined jackets of various color and length).
How long can the Rolling Stones go on? What is still left to conquer, as their unprecedented career as a band enters its sixth decade? Like the song says, could this be the last time? There's no way to know, since there's no one who has ever done what these guys have done. For now, all we can do is tune in tomorrow.
The Last Time
It's Only Rock n Roll (But I Like It)
Paint it Black
Respectable (with John Mayer)
Around and Around (Chuck Berry Cover)
Doom and Gloom
One More Shot
Honky Tonk Women
Before They Make Me Run
Start Me Up
Sympathy for the Devil
Jumpin' Jack Flash
(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction
I saw and spoke with blues legend Honeyboy Edwards when he performed live some years back at a small local music club. Even though he was over 90 at the time he put on a great show, playing his music from decades ago while taking some time out to speak about his friend Robert Johnson who he played and traveled with in the south back in the 1930's.
There's no expiration date on people as when they should stop doing whatever thing they are into.
I saw the band in 78, richards was hung over, saw them in 81 they were magic, the best ever, saw them in 91 they were great as ever. The Stones are the worlds greatest Rock n
Roll band. No one will ever come close! Richards is proof that drugs are not bad for you!
HEY standupamericans & Pee Party Member,
The Stones Rocked!!! There is not another band ON THE PLANET as good as the Stones on a bad night OR day! Attitude, Rude, Smug, Entitled...yep that's you! Reading your comments here I see you are the Dumbed-Down & Left Behind 20-30 Moron Generation, the XY Whiners who don't have a CLUE about Life, Love OR Rock & Roll.
Your "parents" taught you nothing, your schools taught you how to cheat on test and how to google and **** your way thru life. Your jealous! Over people who are more talented, smarter and older than you and you are sickening! Next time the Stones or any other TRUE Rock & Roll Band are playing please stay home and turn-off your TV and your PC. All your thoughts suck and so do you! Check YOUR numbers....you've got more Thumbs Down than ANYONE!
NOW SIT DOWN and SHUT-UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
" Im disappointed in micks attitude at sandy 12 12 12 concert."
I didn't stay long enough to see The Stones. I tuned in to see the last 30 seconds of Springsteen perform before he spent over 5 minutes bragging about his Jersey Wh0res.....................and had to turn on something else.
Yes, I realize that it was a "benefit concert" but surely everybody who tuned in (or was there) knew this. It doesn't have to be talked about after EVERY song.
Just play & sing. You are SUPPOSE to be entertainers.
Rock and Roll doesn't die. it goes on tour. I say keep it up Mick and Keef, I would much rather listen to the Rolling Stones put on a decent live show than this crap they call Rock and Roll these days, with its auto-tuned vocals and computer generated guitar "tones", give me a break...
Thank God I have great parents or I would be another confused youth thinking Nickelback is cool....