It's Only Rock'n Roll
The ecstasy came from 14,000 fans whose deep pockets or casino connections allowed them to see the band play its first indoor show of the tour in a relatively cozy arena.
The relief belonged to the players: the scaled-down stage meant Mick Jagger didn't have to run around so much in order to work the crowd; and his colleagues were just happy not to be freezing to death in outdoor stadiums, as they did in Nashville and Washington DC.
That said, the band did not take advantage of the favorable conditions to take too many risks. The set list remained largely the same apart from the Internet choice of "Like A Rolling Stone," the first time the band has performed the song on American soil.
"I've always been grateful to Bob (Dylan) for writing that song especially about us," Jagger deadpanned after singing an abbreviated version of the song. The upscale and younger-skewing crowd lapped it up.
But the surprise highlight could well have been "Saint of Me," the upcoming second single from "Bridges to Babylon." Whereas the album's "Flip the Switch" and "Anybody Seen My Baby" earned just polite applause, "Saint of Me" managed to generate a response bordering on mass hysteria. Not bad for an ersatz gospel song with odd lyrics. As Jagger sang the chorus, the crowd almost drowned him out, spontaneously transforming the arena into a southern gospel church.
Jagger seemed overwhelmed by the response, and the band may finally have a U.S. hit single on its hands, although it would require imaginative promotion from its rudderless Virgin Records label.
As usual, "Out of Control" was another highlight. One almost wonders whether "Bridges to Babylon" isn't so bad after all, and whether the band might eventually play promising tracks like "Too Tight" and "Gunface" -- and finally consign the dire "Anybody Seen My Baby" to the scrap heap.
As he did at the final Oakland show last week, guitarist Keith Richards performed the album's "You Don't Have to Mean It" to a respectful crowd. Ronnie Wood played keyboard and guitar at the same time, and back-up singer Blondie Chaplin donned a guitar to help Richards out on the reggae song.
While Richards' "All About You" is a quietly devastating song that helps bring the tempo down a bit, it could also be time to give it a rest. Maybe the Christmas season will inspire him to do "Run Rudolph Run" or "You Got the Silver."
Among other differences from the stadium shows, the band dispensed with the retractable bridge when it ventured to the small stage to play "Little Queenie," "The Last Time" and "You Got Me Rocking." Likewise the pyrotechnics were necessarily kept to a minimum.
The "Who killed the Kennedys?" line in "Sympathy for the Devil" took on extra meaning, coming on the 34th anniversary of JFK's death, although this was probably lost on the crowd.
By Stones' standards, it was probably the most polished show to date, with barely a flubbed line or wrong note. Now that they're in a comfortable groove, maybe now's the time to toss in a few curveballs and enjoy whatever chaos emanates.
The set list:
With an All Access pass I could watch the show from anywhereound that the sound was best on the floor in the back. I started out 2nd row center and the sound wasn't too good....you couldn't hear Keith! Un acceptible in my book so I moved.
Out of Control was better than ever! 19th Nervous was awesome too...I really like this song live...Mick phrases the verses slightly.."After a while you realize".
All About You was truly moving. Keith ended it with his big smiling face on the screen and a wink.
I managed to get a guitar pick that was tossed out by Keith at the end of the show. He did it just when the confetti was the thickest which made it very hard to find, but it seemed no one else even saw it as I was the only one to go for it. I think it may have come off of Darryl's mike stand as says "Not Bill Wyman" on one side and "MUNCH" on the other.
When it came to showtime at 9:45 (a late start) the crowd was more than ready to rock and the stones once again delievered what they do best. Mick was pleased with the attire of the crowd as he said "this is truely a special night. It's nice to look out and see everyone dressed up and the women in there Evening Gowns. We are used to seeing jeans and T shirts".
The new stuff keeps getting better live. "Flip The Switch", "Anyone Seen My Baby","Saint Of Me" (the crowd was getting into this one), "Out Of Control" (Mick went off on the harmonica and it sounded awesome indoors) and Keith dumped "I wanna Hold You" for "You Don't Have To Mean It" (with a true Reggae Feel and backed up on his left amp with a picture of Bob Marley. Keith never seems to be to far from the Jamaican vibe).
The web choice was "Like A Rolling Stone, once again highlighted by excellent harmonica by Mick . Ronnie seemed to also really enjoy this one as Mick asked him "do you remember how to play this one Ronnie" and in classic Woody fashion was jumping up and down waiting to do the intro. The B stage consisted of "Little Queenie", "The Last Time" and "You Got Me Rockin" (great slide guitar by Ronnie on this one).
There was once again a return to a dual encore." You Can't Always Get What You Want", with a french horn intro and "Brown Sugar". The chorus in Brown Sugar "just around midnight" was made more special due to the fact it was being played about 5 minutes til' midnight. The show ended at 11:55.
We purchased our tickets by flying to Las Vegas from Indiana on the day they went on sale; however, we were the exception. All of the people around us got theirs through "connections" - and that's what I found the most disheartening - that a lot of these people were attending because they thought it would be an entertaining show, not because they wanted to see the greatest rock and roll band in history perform in an awesome setting. They just made a quick phone call, shelled out some crazy amounts of money, and flew there.
Still, most of them were ready to party, and some must have been real Stones fans because the screams and applauds were deafening. In fact, many times you could barely hear the guys for the sound of the crowd singing with them.
The Stones were just amazing! Mick seemed exceptionally revved up. Ron was laying on the floor playing the guitar, then racing around the stage. At one point, Keith ran over to the piano and started playing it with his feet.
You could tell that the adulation for the Stones was immense that night, and all of the guys - especially Mick, seemed to feed on it. He talked to the crowd a lot - "It's so nice to see all the sequins and spaghetti straps." he quipped and seemed to genuinely enjoy performing.
At one point, I had a dream come true. They moved to the small set, and not twenty feet away from me their they were! Anybody who is a Stones' fan knows how I felt. It was a moment I'll never forget.
I won't go into the set lists. I won't try to describe every detail of this event, except to say that it was all extraordinary. They were the epitome of what makes the Stones the Stones.
A final note - at the very end, when Ron, Keith, Mick, and Charlie were standing in front of the audience for the last bow, Mick stretched his hands out in his kingly fashion and the crowd went wild. Ron and Keith slowly left the stage. Near the corner of the stage, next to the exit, Charlie and Mick still remained, and again Mick raised his hands out, turning right and left, and again, the crowd went wild. Looking at Mick, Charlie shook his head, gave an ironical grin and started laughing as he walked out of sight, leaving the crowd and the stage all to Mick. It was a perfect ending.
Read all about the Bridges To Babylon tour in the It's Only Rock'n Roll magazine issue IORR 31 out Jan, 1998.
It's Only Rock'n Roll 1997 -
© The Rolling Stones Fan Club Of Europe