It's Only Rock'n Roll
It's Friday evening in Charlotte, North Carolina. Being a stupid hit and run tourist for the day, I have finished my walking around in what is called uptown Charlotte, being some 8 x 8 blocks of a city center, mainly banks. A nice city, and it's very, very warm for a north European at this time of the year - 80's F is like 25 - 30 C, and that's hot in mid October!
Ericsson Stadium is brand new, just about two years old. It's sponsored by some 20M dollars or so by Ericsson, a Swedish multi-national electronics company, so no wonder the stadium has got their blue color and name... Outside it looks huge and majestetic, with black panthers guarding the entrances, as the Panthers is the team they normally host.
I never got any ticket for Charlotte, so by 4pm in the afternoon I walk down to the Stadium, to do the touristing, walk around it, and feel the circus is coming to town, kinda building up for the evening. Much to my surprise, the box office still have tickets left. And even bigger surprise, they offer me a front section senter area row 30 at $60 - that's an ideal ticket, being up-front, still close to the center stage!
Now that the box office saved me from like 1 - 2 hours of hunting a front row ticket from the scalpers, it's time to hit the bars, currently packed with Stones fans, all over the city. I am ready...
I am back inside the Stadium in due time. The Blues Traveler is like in Chicago, good but not exceptional. The time is 5 to 9, and the lion intro is on. Then Keith is up front, with his leopard coat, pumping up Satisfaction. And this time, there is no mess-up, sound errors, or anything. Just a great, loud version of Satisfaction! Keith is doing the Satisfaction solo, and the crowd is like me, mad for more.
It's Only Rock'n Roll. Mick, being dressed up with a white jacket, green shirt and T-shirt, is stripping off both the jacket and the shirt, as it is so hot tonight. Keith strips off his leopard jacket, and is in a leopard vest, smiling, enjoying it.
IORR is over. Keith is half way to Charlie, a bit behind and to the side of Darryl. He is standing legs wide, like about to doing a split or something. Something is on. He seems eager for some reason. Then Mich says: We're gonna do a new song - it's virgin, we have never done it before live". And then they jump into Flip The Switch. What a great song. Thank you, Keith! I love it. And it sounds like they have performed it forever, even if they barely rehearsed it in fractions earlier today at the stadium. When it was done, Mick say: We did it! - with the look of a cat having just caught a bird! I am sure Flip The Switch will replace Bitch permanently now!
Then we get Let's Spend The Night Together, good and tight. Gimme Shelter, so good, and Lisa, as usual, topping it. Sister Morphine. Such a strange song, but so strong! Mick rules. The crowd love it, and the stadium is roaring.
Anybody Seen My Baby. It still doesn't work. It's nice, but it sound like it is in desperate need of tuning and more rehearsals. The golden infalable women is up now. Then they do 19th Nervous Breakdown. Great Ronnie! Keith has this smile - perfect version... Mick dress up in his silver jacket and does Out Of Control. Just great! In 9 songs we have got 3 from the new album - that's how it should be!
The web choice is Under My Thumb, now in the number one spot, ahead of Gimme Shelter, and Memory Motel, having a lead earlier today... They do Miss You, and Charlotte certainly can sing! Then the introductions. Charlie is doing his most charming smiles, in his usual blue T-shirt. Darryl is descret, as always, all in black. Ronnie has done some great solos up to now, and is really making this concert a winner.
Keith does All About You and I Wanna Hold You. They sound great, so I understand why he doesn't change anymore, like he used to do on previos tours.
Then the PA and video screen is doing strange new sounds and art. I realize they have finally brought in the real bridge! From inside the stage, just right to Charlie, a narrow metallic telescopic bridge is shooting out to the center stage, at a height of 6 - 7 meters (20 feet or so), and bridging perfectly to the center stage. They cross the new bridge. Out there, they do Little Queenie and Crazy Mama. Then they do You Got Me Rocking. The crowd love it. I have used my best ways of silent diplomacy, and is now just a few feet away from the center stage. The crowd is crazy, and the show is just great.
The new telescopic bridge was pulled back immediately, and after the set, they walk back on the catwalk in the crowd. Charlie is first. Somebody is giving him two large red roses. He hurts his hand, shakes it, and smiles, still bringing the roses. Keith is shaking hands with a lot of fans. He loves it!
Then it's down to the greatest hits section. Mick is dressed with the "Sympathy" coat, walking back from the center stage, doing Sympathy For The Devil. When it is finished, he stripps of the extra microphone belt he is wearing on the center stage, glad to get rid of it, and move more freely again!
They do Tumbling Dice. It's like a club gig, but it's 50,000+ out there. It's hot. Then Honky Tonk Women, Start Me Up and Jumping Jack Flash. Some guys is showing a poster saying "Keith the HEART of Rock and Roll". Another poster is saying "Keef riff hard".
For the encore, Keith is back, now with his T-shirt wrapped around his neck. Brown Sugar, Bobby Keys, perfect again, what more is there to say? Then it's the final bow, goodbye, it's over. Two hours and twenty minutes, and it feels like it just started. The better shows are, the shorter they feel... I just sit down. Picking up some golden and silver confetti glitters, to keep as memories. Ten or fiften minutes later they break up the chairs, and ask us all to leave. I would have stayed.
On the way out I meet old friend Stephen Kemelfield from Manchester, England, who lives in Sweden with his family, when the Stones are not touring. He has been on the Greyhound since Chicago, seing all shows, and will see all the remaining ones as well. I'm glad to know there are more crazy people around than me...
The press is great the next day. Three pages with great photos in The Charlotte Observer, praising the show. It's 25 years since they visited Charlotte last time in 1972. I am off for Philadelphia, and I am still having the show in my mind. What a show. It's a new perl in the collection of the greatest of the greatest. I say to myself - it was greater than Brixton, but may be I am down to the earth later on, I don't know. May be it simply was as good. Anybody, if you went to Charlotte, please tell - did you love it?
PS. I think Philadelphia will be great too!
The set list:
Read all about the 1997 tour in the It's Only Rock'n Roll magazine issue IORR 30 out Oct. 15, 1997.
It's Only Rock'n Roll 1997 -
© The Rolling Stones Fan Club Of Europe