It's Only Rock'n Roll
Before the Stones came we got to hear Van Morrison, Booker T & MGs, Elmore James, Bar-Kays, James Brown, the Temptations, the Clash and the Sex Pistols plus a couple I didn't recognize over the sound system. Does anyone know who chooses the music?
The Stones were hot last night in Helsinki. Already from the startup Satisfaction it was clear that we had a really good concert coming. It could even have been recorded for a live album.
The sound was not perfect all the time, but clear enough. On the small stage I thought the guitars were to trebly.
I was very happy that they played Let's Spend The Night Together and not It's Only Rock & Roll.
Flip The Switch was great, as was Gimme Shelter. Anybody Seen My Baby started well especially once the guitars came in behind Mick, but got a bit messy in the end. Paint It Black was nice - interesting in it's new version.
I love(d) both Saint Of Me and Out Of Control. My highlights of the concert.
The webchoice was Love Is Strong and it certainly has to be - it was so good to see Keith and Mick side by side when Mick played harmonica. The family that plays together stays together. Street Fighting Man would maybe have fitted the Stones' drive better with only 1% less votes, but LIS was really good - and I voted for it.
Miss You was about 13 minutes - too long, but of course the audience got to sing along... I've heard it too many times recently.
Keith sang Thief In The Night and Wanna Hold You. They were OK. i wish he'd sing Take It So Hard, but I guess he won't...
Small stage: Little Queenie, You Got Me Rocking and Like A Rolling Stone - this is the Stones I perhaps like the best.
The hit list of course started with Sympathy FTD. A nice unintentional effect was achieved by the fact that an almost full moon appeared from behind the clouds as the son started. As the moon faded behind new clouds the song ended and they went into Tumbling Dice. The "SaintOfMe"-like guitar playing on some of the old songs is really a good new spice to the old songs.
Then of course Honky Tonk Women, Start Me Up, Jumpin' Jack Flash and the encore Brown Sugar. We were left with the fireworks after a concert that I think was better than 1995. We got the Saqtosfaction we came for...
Start time: 21:45 End time : 00:05
The set list:
Bridges to Babylon tour has arrived at Helsinki. The reunion is joyous, there are already three years of time from the previous concert. One has had time technically to be astonished the appearance platform of the brilliant tour since Tuesday in Finland. The genuine fans still do not believe that the amazing stageset would have been built to compensate the platform occurrence of the aging band.
The Seahorses was a good choice as supporting act. They played lots of new songs from the forthcoming new album like You Can Talk To Me and old favorites like Blinded By The Sun, Love Is The Law and I Want You To Know. Chris Helme's voice was excellent and John Squire looked and sounded like young Jimmy Page.
The Stones show was in every way splendid, looked and heard. Both Mick, Keith, Ronnie and Darryl were out on Satisfaction wearing sunglasses. I was next to the center stage of which there were splendid views during Little Queenie, You Got Me Rocking and Like a Rolling Stone. Mick started Sympathy dancing to us on the small stage into the dark before walking to main stage. The hits ending was simply fabulous, with that great new intro by Keith into Start Me Up, repeating the single riff three times before the complete one. Highlights to myself were also Gimme Shelter and Paint It Black.
Miss You did some singing and dancing in the crowd, but to me this song some times simply gets boring and long. Ronnie did his best on the guitar solo.
The band was in great shape and Mick threw speaks in Finnish. Mick demonstrated Ronnie as Britain's own Andy McCoy (Hanoi Rocks ex-guitarist). Lisa Fischer was also ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS like always and looked very sexy (Mick sucked her toes).
Well, I was certainly wrong about the band, they bust a gut for us. As for the audience, well, this time I learnt the error of my ways and made damned sure to get on the grass amongst the proper punters, so I can't comment on the ladies and gents in the hospitality tents and bars. Suffice it to say, the stands were still half-empty as The Seahorses wound up their set...
Like I said, I promised myself a decent day out this time, and showed up at the stadium about 2 hours before the gates opened. Much to my delight, the queue turned out to be a throughly pleasant loaf-in in warm sunshine on a narrow corridor of grass, neatly cordoned off by the so-called "Marathon Gateway" to the Olympic arena. Everthing was very orderly and comfortable, and as soon as there were signs of a counter-charge by a couple of dozen folks lingering by the entrance itself, the Stones security people strolled out and summarily dismissed them to where they belonged. I had this nice feeling that the band, perhaps a bit shamefaced about having to get into bed with the business world, were "looking after their grass-roots punters", and making sure they got a fair crack of the whip. There was none of the sort of chaos I recall from Knebworth days - travelling 200 metres at 5 am in a tight stampede of people with your feet hardly ever touching the ground. Here, getting in was a breeze; smooth, and as far as I could see, eminently fair on those who had arrived rather earlier than I. As it was, I was in by about 5.05, and took up a position on the front rail, just to the right of the bridge - "on the Keith side". Just as we were going in, an American alongside me got panicky about a bottle of Scotch he figured the security would confiscate, so we demolished it between us. I told him to meet me during the gig so I could repay the compliment, but we only hooked up again by chance on the way out, and by the look of the beatific grin on his face, he'd had no shortage of back-up stimulants...
I met a cheery middle-aged Englishwoman from Wembley who had been following the band throughout their European tour - she hadn't missed a single date. She always stood in the same spot, with a small sheet draped over the railing bearing the words "Keith: Sex on Two Legs". On the one occasion when she didn't make it all the way down to the front, Richards had apparently looked very worried, scanning the upturned faces in vain for his admirer, and she was clearly on first-name terms with the regular security crew. Anyway, if this spot was good enough for her, it was plenty good enough for me. She was somewhat puzzled that the crowd wasn't fanning out more along the wings of the stage, but I guess people up here were not prepared for the energetic leapings from side to side that Mick and the others had in store for us. My kids, who turned up well after 6 o'clock, certainly had no trouble getting down to the front about 15 metres to my right, facing the horn section, from where my photogenic daughter managed to get her mug up on the video screen and into the evening papers.
We've had a pretty lousy summer, and the weather forecast wasn't that great, so when the sun went in and some heavy-duty clouds came over, people began to look a bit worried, but as it turned out the gig went off in great conditions at about 20 degrees and late-evening sunshine. The Seahorses got a bit of a raw deal, since we on the grass accounted for at least 50% of their audience, and they compounded the problem by taking a rather diffident "You've never heard of us, anyway" approach, only really opening up on their last number, where the lead got in some quite tasteful licks and warmed things up a bit.
We did our best to produce some communal excitement, but it's tough getting Mexico waves going from the grass, and the suits in the stands didn't seem to be into it. Fortunately for all concerned, the band came on and everybody went duly apeshit. Then again, kicking off with a slamdunk "Satisfaction" as though they meant it, and with a few well-chosen words in Finnish from Mick, they could hardly go wrong. According to the local tabloids, he'd asked for a lesson on his arrival here on Tuesday night, and he'd got a few lines down pat that went over very well. Describing Ronnie Wood in the band presentation as "Britain's answer to Andy McCoy" (Finland's only example of the toothless, earringed, thoroughly spaced, large-hat-wearing, old school rock idol, and a former member of Hanoi Rocks) was a masterstroke.
The first four numbers were utter dynamite, and the version of Gimme Shelter featuring Lisa Fisher on back-up vocals had the people around me nodding their heads in expectation of a totally humungous night ahead. "ASMB" was a shade fuzzy in my opinion, but Mick was working the crowd like a dervish, and the energy level was up all the way to the web-choice. I don't know if the band were disappointed that Love is Strong had narrowly beaten out Street Fighting Man, but there seemed to be a tiny sense of the routine slipping in there. But any doubts that this was, after all, going to be a set of the "Hey, is this Copenhagen or was it Warsaw? - Aww, who gives a fuck, let's get it over with anyway" variety were quickly dispelled on a very extended Miss You, with Mick indulging in a foot-sucking, leg-stroking shtick with Lisa (who later had the male contingent out right-side slavering with some dirty dancing) and rushing from side to side to pump up the chorus-singing from the audience. The Miss You stuff was naturally taken up by today's (Thursday's) afternoon rags, who described the concert rather stupidly as "reeking of sex". Still, it sells papers, I guess.
Keith's two numbers were very tasteful, but were received more politely than ecstatically - probably an unfamiliarity thing. The girl next to me got within a whisker of one of Keith's picks after Wanna Hold You, but it fell to the floor at the feet of one of the security heavies. There was a short awful moment when he mumbled something about keeping it for himself, but then he gallantly passed it to her. Full marks, by the way, to the front stage bouncers, who rapidly removed one flailing idiot who'd had a headful of Koskenkorva and was using his elbows to everyone's discomfort, but otherwise they were models of decorum.
Out came the bridge, and the small stage set went off behind us - it was a bit difficult to follow, but we'd made our bed up front, and had to deal with it. Certainly, earlier complaints I've read about the sound seemed misplaced, because it came across OK to me, and You Got Me Rocking and Rolling Stone both went down bigtime.
The rest was simply sublime - standard Stones fare done with panache, with balls, and above all with nothing held back. These guys were working out there, and hats off to them for it. It's easy to knock a band like this, but they all played their nuts off for us. The lady from Wembley got her regular fix as Keith strolled down right in front of us, right on cue, and he tossed her a grin. Putting Start Me Up so late in the gig seemed an odd idea at first, but it's such a flat out blast of a song that it worked perfectly where it was. The glimmer came down, the chimneys erupted, we erupted, Charlie got inundated with cheering as usual, and even if we might have liked to hear YCAGWYW as well, I doubt there were many serious fans who could fault the show.
Many thanks to the guys - onstage and off - who made this definitely a night to remember. Finland is a promised land for cellphones - roughly half the population, men, women, and babes-in-arms included, have one of the things, and I could see plenty of them being held up for others not present to get an earful of the action. Interesting to think that in a couple of years, they'll be replaced by videophones - I wonder what the tour promoters will have to say about THAT?
The band will hang out and recharge in Helsinki's Strand Intercontinental until Friday, when apparently they head over to Tallinn for Saturday's gig. It's a nice natural amphitheatre, and pretty big. I don't know if it's sold out, but I'd guess they could get 80,000 in there easily.
Till the next time...
It's Only Rock'n Roll 1998 -
© The Rolling Stones Fan Club Of Europe