It's Only Rock'n Roll
As with all the arena shows I have been to, the security, facilities, queuing and all of that have been just excellent, and so for the United Center as well. I had a great seat close to the center stage, and I just could not wait for the show to start.
The merchandising section had for sale the new home video from the tour, as they did in Montreal. It seems like a copy of the St. Louis show, but it lacks some 3 - 4 songs. I'm sure there will be a separate review of this video on the IORR pages soon. Also, on sale at the merchandise, they had a great and rare T-shirt specially made for the night. It had the golden tongue on the front, and had the skyline of Chicago on the back, with the letters Bridge Closed and United Center Chicago April 23 written all over the back. Probably the greatest special T-shirt of the whole tour. Too bad it was all sold out one hour before the show started.
Buddy Guy was on shortly after 7pm, as stated on the ticket for show start time, and did a half hour set of blues. Then the crew made the stage ready for the Stones. They seemed to be in a hurry, because 15 minutes later they had this standard announcement about people getting to their seats, so I knew the Stones would be on in 15 minutes.
Exactly twelve past eight the intro was on, and soon after Keith started up the show. The sound was awful, simply terrible. This is possibly to blame the United Center acoustics, as I have seen the arena show many other places, and the sound has been crisp and clear all the time. It seemed like the United Center had little or no sound damping materials, so it worked like a dome, having the bass sound bumping around making resonances all over. Anyway, I decided not to worry about the bad sound, and rather listen to the real Stones behind it.
Mick said this was the place they started, and this was the placed they finished in the U.S.A. They did Flip The Switch, great version, and Gimme Shelter had the same great crowd interaction as I've seen all over. People just love Lisa, and Keith is doing a great job too on this song.
Sister Morphine is so strong, yet so plain. Mick in a pink jacket, pink shirt, with his acoustic guitar up there, running the show. By the way, Mick worked really hard tonight, as if he had decided to get everyone up on their feet. And within half-way into the show, I could not see many people sitting down at all.
There were some terrible feedback on Out Of Control, but the crowd didn't care. Keith joined Mick during his harmonica solo, and they made the perfect rock'n roll pair. During the center stage performance I had front row seats, what more can I ask for - it was simply amazing, as I was close enough to see every detail, then seated so that I didn't had to fight in the close up "war-zone". Everyone real far up was on their feet, on their chairs.
During Sympathy For The Devil Keith and Mick made rush hours behind the stage, as they both walked behind Charlie on the walkway. Keith playing the "Sympathy" riffs, Mick dancing and singing. Keith did his Start Me Up teasing by doing the first riffs several times, and Mick filled in by running up to the fromt of the stage, as Keith did his riffs, and Mick shouted: "Come On!", as he was now down to a red T-shirt.
The rest of the set was over in no-time. Too bad these last songs go so fast. Confetti, final bow, and then it's all over. As we walk out, there is a brass band outside playing a jazz version of Miss You. And as I enter the bus heading downtown, there is a guy playing the saxophone, doing his own jazz version of Miss You as well. His version of Miss You goes on and on and on and on, as I realize this is all over.
Thanks to The Rolling Stones for many, many great shows from Sept. 23 up to now, and I hope ho have the honor to see them soon again...
Start time: 8:10 End time : 10:25
The set list:
These problems were minor in the context of an excellent Gimme Shelter with Lisa sounding better than ever, the new crowd favorite Saint of Me, and a tight and inspired Thief in the Night highlighted by Keiths scat like vocals toward the end of the song. The evening was punctuated by the small touches that make each Stones show distinctly memorable, like Mick kicking his drink cup into a watery explosion as he sang the dying to get wet line in You Got Me Rocking, Ronnie appropriating Micks discarded sunglasses during Jumping Jack Flash, and even Mick licking Lisas toes as she lounged above one of the stairways during Miss You! Keiths guitar playing was especially hot during Sympathy for the Devil, starting off the last seven songs which developed so that it seemed the United Center was zooming along through the bright lights and confetti at a million miles an hour, propelled by the crispness of Charlies drums, and the delightful sonic collisions of Keith, Ron, Daryl, and the horns.
Just as each show ends too quickly, on a larger scale it seemed the United States part of the tour was ending too quickly. Though it seems like just last week we were intoxicated with anticipation at a cold and windy Soldier Field, Mick coyly offered some reason for encouragement before Flip the Switch: he said this was the last U.S. show, for a little bit, anyway.
Buddy Guy opened the show at 7:00 p.m. with a half-hour set.
Our seats were the worst of the tour - last row, third level, behind the stage. However, this view of the stage was very interesting. The seats were sold all the way around the arena. At the start of the Stones' show, there were still many floor seats unoccupied. The crowd by us, behind the stage and up so high, was very into the show. There was lots of dancing and clapping and singing. The enthusiasm was exciting.
The sound was very muffled in our area for the first two or three songs. It must be very, very difficult to keep the sound crisp in all sections of an arena. It was improved as the show continued. There was a screen on the scoreboard in the center of the arena for the seats behind the stage. The screen was on for all the songs, except during the center stage it was off for Little Queenie and half of I Just Want to Make Love to You. Without the screen, the seats behind the stage on the third level were completely obstructed from the center stage.
We were able to see things on the main stage that we hadn't seen previously, like Keith playing to Charlie, which he seems to do so often. Lisa spent part of one song toward the end of the show bumping up with each member of the horn section, which we hadn't noticed before.
The interaction among Mick, Keith, and Ron was exciting. In particular, there's a few moments towards the end of Sister Morphine when Mick, Keith, and Ron are standing together, all playing their guitars, looking so cool.
The start of Start Me Up, now with a teasing start as described in previous reviews, is very well received by the crowd. Tonight's crowd was very happy to hear You Got Me Rocking, lots of audience participation. There was plenty of singing along with Like A Rolling Stone, Miss You, and You Can't Always Get What You Want.
The Stones worked the crowd like it was a cocktail party. They made sure that every corner, every level had a chance to be recognized. The energy level of Mick is astounding. It seems like every show brings more moves and more showmanship than the previous show.
The sound was absolutely dreadful (as it always is at the United Center, the world's worst concert venue). The guitars were buried in the muddy mix for the first 2/3 of the concert. There was a swirl of bass and mud at the beginning, except for Charlie.
I did get within about 12 feet of the center stage -- thanks for the tip about it being easier to get close on Charlie's side. Darryl was making eye-contact with everyone. Being that close, you can see the artifice and work that Mick does: making gestures for the crowd, relating to the band, making eye contact with people around him, dodging panties, being aware of his surroundings.
Mick did catch one pair of panties and kept them inside his belt for the rest of the song. He then placed them on one of Charlie's drumsticks, to Charlie's amusement. Charlie passed them over to Darryl or Ron.
(It was also fun being on the very spot where Michael and Scottie take off for the basket.)
Ron didn't seem to be relating to the crowd -- he seemed to be making stage gestures towards it. He still looks mod.
Charlie was in great shape. He seemed to be enjoying himself more than in any concert I've ever seen. His playing was still impeccable, and the rock from which the music was based.
The guitar playing was very good, but I've seen them better. The new intro to "Start Me Up" was a welcome change.
The trombone intro to YCAGWYW reminded me of hearing Mick Taylor play it in '72 -- that was the most emotional, aching guitar solo I've ever heard.
Perhaps because of the high ticket price, and the high percentage of lawyers in their '50's, the main floor crowd was relatively sedate. Average age was probably 40's.
Keith's introduction of Ron's daughter was heartwarming. After she sang backup on a few songs, Keith gave her a big, god-fatherly hug.
In summary, they spend less energy now in 2 1/4 hours than they did in 1972 in 1 1/4 hours. "Jumping Jack Flash" is now "Sliding Jack Flash." But it's still a hell of a good show.
Weather was nice on this particular day in Chicago. We were on 70 degrees Fahrenheit (22 celsius) and had a sunny day. When I woke up in the morning, I turned on the TV set and saw the news on the local independent channel WGN. They had a remote control live from the United Center, and talked about the event to take place that night, recommending people to take their time to arrive early, due to heavy traffic coming from downtown Chicago. The venue is in Madison Street, about 3 miles south downtown.
As you surely will remember, the Stones were not supposed to be in this part of the world at this time. They had to come back to North America to stage the show that were cancelled earlier this year. Syracuse, Montreal, Toronto. However, Chicago was not on the script. This made us think we would have a very special night in this last tour show in the United States.
Tickets were sold out two months ago in twenty minutes. However, you could have bought any ticket with scalpers, that were surrounding the place very openly. It seemed to me they were desperate for selling them as few potential buyers appeared.
At precisely 5:30, they opened the doors to the United Center. A special t-shirt was made for this concert: golden tounge on front, CHICAGO, UNITED CENTER, APRIL 23RD, BRIDGE CLOSED on the back with Chicago buildings. The regular program was sold as well, but this time printed with the day and venue on the front cover. It seems to me they made only a few of each, because at 7:30 both were sold out !!!
The stage was mounted on one end of the stadium. It was fully open, reminding me of the European Tour 1976 arena shows. On top of the stage, they had the lights structure, in gold and black, maintaining the Babylon motives with curtains and details, a la MSG. At some point I thought, it looked like the spaceship of "Close Encounters", especially when lights were on. People seating in the back had really good seats, they were close and could see other angles of the show. Even Mick, Keith and Ronnie gave enough time and attention during the show to this backstage fans. Mixing board was on the lower level, to the right, and was not obstructing sight to any fan. They didnīt have the telescopic ladder they used in stadiums to get into the small center stage. They simply walked over the center to get there.
Newspapers in Chicago didnīt have big news on the concert. The Chicago Tribune had Jaggerīs picture on the front page. The Chicago Sun Times wasnīt aware the Stones were in town.
Buddy Guy, a legendary Chicago bluesman, opened for the Stones. He was very brief, only half an hour. It wasnīt really the best performance of his life, you better go to his place in Chicago and see him perform. Some years ago, I saw him even walking around the audience with his guitar. This time he was very low profile, no emotion at all. He left the stage and I thought he would maybe join the Stones later, but he didnīt.
The Stones appeared at 8:25. The first thing to mention is the bad sound we had this night. Lots of feedback during some numbers, big sound distortions. Even Jaggerīs voice had a low volume, you could hardly hear him, mixing was awful at some point. It improved with as the show progressed.
I had the expectation they would do special things for Chicago, something different to what they had done so far in the tour, maybe one or two special songs. To my surprise however, this was not the case. We even had one song less as compared to the now regular 22 song set. For the people of Chicago however, it was special, because they played some songs they didnīt do at the start of the tour here: Flip the Switch, Gimme Shelter, Sister Morphine (played only on the second night at Soldier Field), Saint of Me, Thief in the Night, Like a Rolling Stone, I Just Want to Make Love to You. So it is 7 out of 21, which means they did in fact 1/3 new songs for Chicago.
Thief in the Night choruses were made by Lisa and Ronnieīs daughter. Mick licked Lisaīs feet during Miss You. Keith led guitar on Sympathy, Ronnie did it on Tumbling Dice. The nicest part of the show was reallly the center stage one. I had a seat real close to that part, so I really enjoyed it. In fact, after seeing the Stones for many times, this was the closest I have ever been from them. During this part, they made a wise and intelligent decision, and did 3 cuts that pay tribute to American Music. They played Little Queenie, I Just Want to Make Love to You, Like a Rolling Stone. Only Buenos Aires, Osaka and Montreal had the opportunity to hear those three songs together in one night. For Chicago and the USA however, this was like saying thank you from the Stones to their early influences. During Jumpin Jack Flash we had the regular fireworks explosion at the start of the song, but that was it.
We had no web choice this night. I thought they would give a second encore this night, and bring maybe Buddy Guy to the stage. But it didnīt happen. As soon as lights went up, the venue security people were asking everybody to leave ASAP, because they had to clean the place for next day event, the BULLS/NEW JERSEY NBA playoff game.
I wish the Stones a good second part of the tour, when they start to play in Europe next month.
The Chicago Sun-Times is keeping up their negative vibes lead by journalist Jim DeRogatis, like he did back in September, for the opening shows (see IORR news insert of Sept. 21: Chicago frustrations. Certainly Mr. DeRogatis have to look somewhere else for satisfaction. And the fact that the 20,000 crowd at the United Center last night seemed to enjoy every minute of the show seemed to have passed by his attention. Their headline is Stones wind up tour, still on autopilot, and my favorite quite is: The folks who paid $300 a ticket heard 21 songs -- $14.29 per tune. Instead of one night with a human jukebox, they could have bought one of the Stones' albums on CD for every tune they heard.
Read all about the Bridges To Babylon tour in the It's Only Rock'n Roll magazine. Next issue IORR 33 out May 20, 1998.
It's Only Rock'n Roll 1998 -
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