It's Only Rock'n Roll
They rehearsed Saint Of Me during the afternoon, as we were listening to broadcasts from radio stations being inside the stadium, but they did not play it live. Probaby, it will show up soon.
But we did get Memory Motel for the 2nd time during this tour, and Flip The Switch seems to have made it's spot as song number 3, replacing Bitch.
Mick seemed to lack the extra sparkle in his eyes, he almost looked sick. And that was actually the problem - he had caught the flu. But professional as Mick is, it was not so easy to spot. He was doing his same usual running around, but had some more cloths on, even if Philly was quite warm for the evening.
I had waited for 3 years to hear Memory Motel live, and when the web choice for tonight were up there, I really could not believe it! Am I right? Yes, it's up there! Mick is putting on a long white coat/jacket outside the "Out Of Control" silver jacket. He sits down on the electric piano next to Chuck Leavell. Then he starts playing. They really play it! Keith fills in on the vocals. The crowd love it. Ronnie is doing the greatest guitar licks, like crying. Charlie and Darryl keeps the beat steady. What a song!
During Miss You, Lisa was all over Darryl, literally wrapping herself around Darryl from behind, while good ol' Darryl just kept on playing, business as usual, I didn't noticed any reaction from him at all! Another professional for the night!
Brown Sugar had the worst start I have heard in a long, long time, and it was a good job by Keith to get it on track so soon.
The set list:
Blues Traveller did a commendable job of the difficult task of opening for ths Stones. The Stones have, in the past, made me sit through bands I HATED, like Foreigner & Journey. The best opening act ever was the Voodoo Drum troupe who cast a spell over RFK stadium on August 1 1994. Mainly I thought about how damn good the sound was, knowing that the opening act only gets a fraction of the PA's potential.
As it darkened, the sound system played some neat stuff: The Clash's "I Fought The Law", the Sex Pistols "Holidays in the Sun", reggae, bebop, "Ball of Confusion". We tried to guess which Stone picked which song, realizing it might have been a roadie's tape. Still, it passed the time.
Soon, the lights went down by degrees. An absolutely insane sound collage rattled our teeth with its volume: a lion's roar, drums, voices. Babylon beckons. The stage is bathed with blue light; the center curtain parts, revealing the huge projection screen. Keith Richards trotted out in his full length pimp coat of leopard skin and the crowd roared. A comet on the screen approached and seemed to burst out when a ring of propane cannons blew flames out over the stage as Keith started the most famous riff in rock history, the riff he dreamed up (literally) so long ago. Satisfaction at last!
Mick appeared from the extreme right, coming down the steps from the drum platform. In contrast to past full-blast horns & backing vocals versions of this anthem, this one was pounded out by just the Stones & Darryl. It absolutely killed. The audience came to life instantly, singing along. Philly has always been a Stones town, and tonight was no exception.
Keith switched to a cherry Gibson ES-335 for a raunchy, raucous version of "IORR". Then Mick finally said "Hi" to the crowd, introducing "a new one". "Flip The Switch"!!! It was PERFECT. Every note, every nuance, especially Bobby Keys blasting out the baritone sax riffs. This song sounded like they'd been playing it for years, instead of being the second run-through. I'd been praying they would play this. Prayer answered.
Then Chuck Leavell started the instantly recognizeable intro to "Let's Spend The Night Together". Background vocalists Blondie Chaplin (a fine addition, the only new face from the VL tour), Bernard Fowler, and the luscious Lisa Fischer made the song come to life with "Bada dada da da dada da" riffs, and Keith weighed in with perfect counterpoints to Mick's lead, understandably lower than the '67 original.
Then it was Lisa's turn to shine. Keith began the sinister riff that leads into the apocalyptic "Gimme Shelter", and Lisa, her black form-hugging dress slit up to the waist, soared like the goddess she is. The third verse was all hers, and she buried the Merry Clayton original. The crowd roared it's approval and animal arousal. A highlight among highlights.
Going further down the road to darkness, Mick appeared in a long black leather coat with an acoustic guitar and soon the band was performing an absoltely frightening "Sister Morphine". The crowd cheered the each dramatic pause. Ronnie's evil slide intertwined with Keith's angular lines. he song was absolutely amazing. Perhaps the highest of highlights.
The new single, "Anybody Seen My Baby", was the weakest offering of the night. Take that in context: it was still great. Bernard & Mick inserted a cool rap in the middle. Then Keith started the volcanic riff to "19th Nervous Breakdown" a bit too fast, and Charlie had a moment's trouble finding the groove. Ever their mistakes were great: hearing THE consummate drummer of rock correcting the tempo was a neat moment. Keith's backing vocals again shone. Yet another magic moment. The mistakes gave it a raw, vital quality. Another new one that sounds very well rehearsed, "Out of Control", was the polar opposite of "19th NB" - complex, slinky, and perfectly played. Ronnie's wah wah washed over the mix. The choruses found Mick at his most manic of the evening, a whirling dervish, his mirrored shirt reflecting the flashing white lights. Kent Smith of the New West Horns turned in some very tasteful muted trumpet which harkened back to Darryl's earlier gigs with Miles Davis. The huge monitor intercut close-ups of the trumpet with jazz afficionado Charlie Watts smiling his approval with obvious delight. This song is absolutely amazing live with power only hinted at on the album. One can only hope they will add more new tunes to the setlist (I understand they rehearsed "Saint of Me" in the afteroon.)
The B2B website cybercast choice was next: "Memory Motel" with Mick at piano. Mick looked at Chuck for cues as to the intro, perhaps just a bit of showbiz since he played it perfectly. Keith's solo vocals brought roars of "Keef! Keef! Keef!". Just beautiful. Then came Darryl's turn to jam : "Miss You". Darryl's slinky bass has taken this song to a whole new level. Mick's falsetto seemed to fail him and he soon switched to a lower approach. Mick had introduced the song with "Do you feel like singing, Philadelphia?" and the song gave 50,000 a chance to join the band on the "oo-oo-o-oooo"'s. Lisa, rather than seducing Mick as she has on past tours, slithered over Darryl, inserting her tongue in his ear. Ah, a tough job, Darryl's, but someone's gotta do it!
Mick then introduced the band, starting with the vocalists, the horns, Chuck & Darryl, and finally the band. Charlie had to take three bows! This is becoming a tradition: America loves Charlie, and loves to see him blush. Then: "On guitar & vocals -- Keith Richards!" The stadium exploded! Adding to the rumours of a new rift between the Glimmer Twins, Keith, who has in the past neglected to introduce the singer at all, mumbled a barely audible "thanks Mick" before performing an absolutely beautiful, stunning, perfect, (insert two dozen more adjectives here) "All About You." Lisa and Bernard hugged Keith from each side on the last verse. The song, a archetypical Stones ballad calling the object of emotion variously a dog, a bitch, and a jerk, was crooned perfectly on pitch with so much tear-jerking emotion, especially the last line: "So how come I'm still in love with you?" Keith, the devil incarnate, reveals himself to be a soft-hearted sentimentalist in front of 50,000 people! He followed this by saying, "OK, let's rock it up!" and launched into "Wanna Hold You", a much better live song than the studio version suggests.
Then the shining bridge, newly added to the stage a few dates earlier in the tour, spanned the distance to the second stage, which rose hydraulically to meet it. The band trotted out over top of the crowd and took their places. Soon the huge stadium was transformed into an intimate bar-room, an absolutely brilliant move which takes the stones all the way back to Ealing. They turned in sloppy and transcendant version of "Little Queenie", "Crazy Mama" (with Mick adding third guitar) and "The Last Time". This last classic suffered not at all from the obviously unmonitored and off-key harmonies Keith yowled; in fact, again, their gaffes were endearing and proved that, at heart, the biggest band on earth is still a scruffy bar band.
I watched this spectacle from a mere few feet away, absolutely in awe at what I was seeing and hearing. Keith, I noticed, looks better up close than in photos; fit, trim, and roughly handsome, his grey mane positively aboriginal. Mick, as always, was a panther-like sex-machine, the ultimate Rock Star, jamming in sloppy abandon in the midst of a sea of adoring fans. This magic moment will forever be engrained in my memory.
Soon the band re-crossed the bridge to the strains of the voodoo intro to "Sympathy For The Devil" as Mick changed into a long flowered coat on the small stage. This fascinating glimpse of backstage activity was marred by a scuffle between a drunk & a yellow-shirted security guy in the midst of a knot of sardine-canned onlookers. Visions of Altamont danced in my head; I instantly decided that being trampled to death, after seeing the Stones up close & raw, was not the worst of fates. I could die a happy man. the $40 B2B t-shirt I had around my neck disappeared in the confusion. When I discovered the loss, I decided it was a reasonable price to pay for those three songs.
"Sympathy", what I could hear of it as I extracted myself from the melee, was glorious and frightening, Keith tearing the night air to shreds with his furious solos. Then began the roaring romp down through the Inevitables: "Tumblin' Dice" as always a showcase for the twin guitars; "Honky Tonk Women", "Start Me Up", and finally "Jumpin' Jack Flash". It is truly amazing that they can still breathe life into these songs after thousands of performances, and make even jaded Stones fans like myself dance. The band left the stage, but the crowd knew the drill: They'd be back. Gone were the days of '72, when the band didn't always do an encore. They'd be back.
And they were in a few minutes, refreshed & ready to tear through "Brown Sugar". Keith started the song in the wrong key, the last endearing fuck-up of the evening, before propelling the band through an amazing version of this consummate Rock Song. Bobby Keys wailed with abandon, Keith egging him on, and Mick lead the crowd in the "Whooo!" ritual. Finally, the last bow, the fireworks, and...it was over.
The Stones had proven, beyond any doubt, that they have no peers, and that true rock&roll is NOT just a young man's game. No band on earth, past or present, comes close to the spectacle, the celebration, and the sheer raw power of this band of men in their 50's. The Stones are The Greatest Rock & Roll Band in the World.
1.Satisfaction 2.It's Only Rock'n Roll 3.Flip The Switch 4.Let's Spend The Night Together 5.Gimme Shelter 6.Sister Morphine 7.Anybody Seen My Baby 8.19th Nervous Breakdown 9.Out Of Control 10.Memory Motel 11.Miss You -- Introductions -- 12.All About You (Keith) 13.I Wanna Hold You (Keith) 14.Little Queenie (center stage) 15.Crazy Mama (center stage) 16.The Last Time (center stage) 17.Sympathy For The Devil 18.Tumbling Dice 19.Honky Tonk Women 20.Start Me Up 21.Jumping Jack Flash 22.Brown Sugar (encore)
The Stones took to the stage at 8:55 with an unbelievable rendition of Satisafaction and followed it up with It's Only Rock and Roll. They then gave Philly a little Flip the Switch. Lisa Fischer then blew the Stadium away as she and Mick carried on and were in top form during an extended version of Gimme Shelter. The web choice for the evning was Memory Motel.
Keith was once again Keith as he mellowed out with the crowd to give an ill Mick a rest. Although Mick was battling the flu, it was not apparent as he gave Philly just what they wanted. The bridge was stupendous! I was about 15 yards away from the center stage and was in awe as I watched these living legends kick out three rockers, including Crazy Mama, Little Queenie and The Last Time. They belted them out with passion and intensity, transforming the concrete palace that the vet has become into a club setting. It was then on to Sympathy, Tumbling Dice, Honky Tonk, Statrt Me Up and an encore of Brown Sugar that ended the evening.
Throughout the evening, the diverese crowd stood and danced, encouraging the Stones to be Out of Control. The stadium which normally holds 52,000 for a stadium show, was jam packed with approximately 60,000 fans for this rock and roll revival. They were also blessed to hear a little Sister Morphine and Out of Control, a Babylon production that seems to be one of the highlights of the 2 1/2 hour show. As the show ended, one was able to see the bond that Philly has with these kings of the jungle.
Time passes on for everybody, but I am sure those Stones have something in a bottle that we would all like to have. Very simply, I have seen these rockers numerous times and must say that they were in rarified territory in Philly. It is now on to Ny and other parts of the world as I take a bridge in search of Babylon.
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