It's Only Rock'n Roll
The Rolling Stones arrived to Moscow directly from Tallinn, Estonia after the show there. A press conference were held at their Balchug Kempinski hotel on Monday, and they had press photos taken at the Red Square the same day, as seen in the papers The Moscow Times and Isvestia. Others than these small front page photos, there were very little press about the Stones in Moscow, as the press outside Russia probably covered their first ever Russian show in a bigger way than the Moscow press.
About 1,200 police guards were inside the stadium to take care of our security, and even more took care of the security outside. But even if the Moscow fans on the field were crazy about the Stones, they were nice and polite, and the police were not really needed.
It had ben raining heavily all day in Moscow, and during the show it kept raining. Especially during the center stage appearance, and during the last part of the show, it rained a lot, and both Mick, Keith and Ronnie used hats to keep the rain out.
But the rain did not make any problems for the show. The sound at the Luzhniki stadium were great, may by Mick's voice were fading in ad out at times, due to the PA system and wind/temperature variations, but keith's guitar sound was outstanding tonight.
Flip The Switch was my favorite of the show. The best version I have heard of this song so far. Keith did some outstanding guitar playing. It simply makes you aim at the next show and the next version of Flip The Switch when you hear such great playing!
Anybody Seen My baby was very popular. Moscow and it's nine million people may not be too concerned about the Stones visiting for the fisrt time ever, but the fans at the show surely knew the new songs!
It's Only Rock'n Roll was back in the set list tonight, and it was really popular. During Saint Of Me the stadium was lit up by thousands of lights from people burning thei lighters. It was a great view and a great song.
Out Of Control was great too. The crowd liked it. I was amazed to see that this new song was more popular than Gimme Shelter played earlier in the set. Then it was paint It Black - web choice winner. The crowd on the field was made, jumping and dancing. People on the seated area were still relaxed, sitting down in most parts of the stadium, but they seemed to love it too.
During the band prewentations Charlie Watts left his drum kit and walked up to the front of the stage, to take a bow to the Moscow fans. It was the first time I have seen Charlie doing this. I guess he loved to be in Moscow.
Keith loved it too, as he delivered a great set of his own. During Thief In The Night the crowd fired green rockets at two occations. Everyone were cheering, and it fitted nicely for the song. The rest of the show were great as usual. The sound was good even during the small stage songs. Even people in the seated areas were on their feets as Start Me Up was on.
As I walked out of the stadium, I felt so lucky to have been able to see this show, gread stadium, crowd and show, and I didn't really care about the rain, still pourinmg down all the time. Moscow was in Stonesland now, and I was there. Thank you Keith. I will never forget your playing on Flip The Switch tonight!
Start time: 21:30 End time : 23:45
The set list:
Then, after they finally vacated the stage, - another hour of waiting, they're making the final preparations, and then... the lights finally go out, the curtains are drawn, we have a comet bursting, and the band breaks onto the stage with 'Satisfaction'. I really can't describe what's happened to the audience. Suffice it to say that most of the song passed me by - I couldn't hear anything but the crowd. 'Let's Spend The Night Together' was better - I actually got to hear the keyboards; still, unfortunately the sound was not that great. Either it was too obscured by the crowds or they plain had some problems. The worst thing was with the guitars: Ronnie's guitar, which is the weaker one, wasn't heard at all, while Keith's riffing was discernible but his soloes were not. Never mind, though. As far as I could see, everybody was in top form.
Mick has learned some words in Russian and said 'Hello Russia!' and 'We're here at last!' which further enraged the audience (in a good sense, I mean). 'Gimmie Shelter' was terrific, with Lisa Fischer's screeches overcoming the roar of the crowd. She is a great singer. The new songs (from 'Bridges to Babylon') were good, too. I don't really like 'Anybody Seen My Baby' 'cos it's too un-Stoneslike, but 'Out Of Control' was just superb! When suddenly you have Mick dancing and playing harmonica at the same time, Keith wildly tearing at strings by his side, looking him straight in the face, some of the most fiercest and enthralling sounding you can ever get, and all this punctuated by lighting and other special effects, it can simply drive you insane!
When I looked at the web page that morning, the obvious winner was 'Love Is Strong', but they preferred to ignore it and played 'Paint It Black' instead. They probably got fed up with it (having played it for the last three concerts) and preferred something else instead. I have a strong feeling that the voting list is being trumped up as often as they consider it necessary. In fact, 'Love Is Strong' has disappeared from the 'voted-for' song list today! Anyway, I don't care: 'Paint It Black' was just superb.
Then 'Miss You', with Jagger asking the audience: 'Would you like to sing?' (first in English, then in Russian). Of course, everybody did, and it went off fine. Band introductions. Mick introduces Ronnie as 'sumashedshy hudozhnik' (which is Russian for 'crazy artist', of course) and Keith as 'tsygan' ('gypsy'). Charlie gets the most applause, as usual, but everybody gets his share.
Keith's small set. As soon as he starts with 'Thief In The Night', the rain starts falling again; however, it doesn't spoil anything. I don't know whether Keith was pleased or not, he just muttered something like 'blessed rain'... 'Wanna Hold You' is great, a very good choice for a live song. Still, I wish he'd do 'Happy' or 'You Got The Silver' instead of 'Thief'.
Then the bridge! They do the standard set which is 'Little Queenie', 'You Got Me Rocking' and 'Like A Rolling Stone' on the small stage. For me it was a blessing because all the people rushed off to the center and the pressure was gone - finally (I almost wasn't able to breathe when they did 'Saint Of Me'). All the three songs were great, but I was rather far away.
They return for the final set. By now it's raining rather heavily - for 'Honky Tonk Women' Mick puts on his hat and raincoat. Ronnie does likewise, then plops his hat onto Keith's head and takes another one. I hope they were not too sad about it - after all, more than half the concert went off splendidly, no rain at all. 'Start Me Up' is great, with Keith repeating the opening line thrice. And they close with 'Jumping Jack Flash', which drives everybody into complete ecstasy.
Charlie had 'You Can't Always Get What You Want' in the encore set, but they dropped it (like they already did before) - either because of the rain or for some other reason. Pity. But they crash on the scene one more time for a stunning version of 'Brown Sugar', with Mick performing his 'yeah-yeah-yeah-OOOH!' ritual with the audience and Keith running around the stage and playing his guitar in front of the audience. Tons of confetti descend onto the front rows and we have fireworks - then it's over!
OK, cut. I'll never forget this show in my whole life and I think that it will be discussed here for weeks and weeks. In fact, this is what we need so much in Russia - a concert THAT great to show everybody what real rock'n'roll really is!
From the looks of it, we had stumbled into the Moscow central police station, not a stadium show by the Rolling Stones. Police and militia squadrons were on hand, and it seemed like a state of siege, with the police watching every move. In their black leather jackets and matching berets, combat boots, these special forces carried clubs, stood around firing up their cigarettes with zippo lighters, and were otherwise poised for action, hassling drunks wobbling to and fro the restrooms.
We encountered security check-points at practically every turn. We were frisked, asked to show our ticket stubs again and again, and were made to unzip our purses, shoulder bags, and back-packs. Meanwhile, rain came down into the partially domed stadium, pelting fans who had opted for field dancing and standing room only near the stage. But once the house lights went out, the formidable-looking police presence waned in the darkness as the Rolling Stones, to a chorus of whistles, shouts, and cheers took the stage. Moscow fans, fortified with giant-sized cups of draft beer, hot dogs, popcorn, some licking ice-cream cones, gave the Rolling Stones an absolutely bearish welcome.
Very much at home in the world community, be it Moscow or Oakland, what the Stones do so indelibly well is make uncommonly uplifting music, giving audiences the world over far more than their money's worth. They're quite cross-cultural and cross- generational, too. "Mick Jagger is cross-everything," a friend quipped.
Inside the stadium, I saw plenty of parents with their kids between them, sitting back and enjoying the show. Even a grandpa was cheering the Stones on along with his children and their children. The worry-banishing music the Rolling Stones crank out had put a great big grin on his weathered face.
His fly-away locks plastered to his head in the driving rain, Jagger and his scrappy mates played, unfazed, happy to be spending the night together with their Russian fans. ( The Stones could have avoided the rain by stepping back under the awnings, but went ahead and got wet right along with the fans dancing it up at their feet just below the stage. ) "Hello, Russia ! Thank you very much !" Jagger said in Russian between songs with characteristic endearing stabs at the mother tongue of whatever country the Stones happened to be playing in.
The Stones belted out a barrage of classic favorites Moscow fans had come to hear. "Paint It Black," in particular, seemed to go over very well. It got people out of their seats, and swaying to the incessant byzantine drum-rolls delivered expertly by long-time veteran drummer, Charlie Watts.
When Mick Jagger, during "Miss You" proceeded to tongue his backup vocalist, Lisa Fishcer's outstretched leg, and sucked and sucked on her wiggly big toe, Moscow went wild. Alexi, and his girlfriend, Ira, who were sitting next us, plied us with shots of schnapps on the sly ( watch out the cops don't see you !) and offered bagfuls of hazel nuts and morsels of dried fruit. They even handed me a spyglass to get a better look at Mick Jagger's voluptuous on-stage antics.
The Stones had opened the show blaring that they couldn't get no "Satisfaction." At that moment, the spotlight was on Keith Richards who was decked out in a full-length mock leopard-skin overcoat and strumming the band's anthem with workman-like devotion. Mick Jagger, meanwhile, did his shtick and worked the crowd, thrashing about in that lightenign speed/ slow-motion Tai-chi way that he's got down pat.
Every inch a showman in the tradition of Chuck Berry, James Brown, a spunky Jagger enticed the audience to get down and boogie to the music, shuffle their feet, and swing their arms. A petite blonde beauty in painted-on black leather pants and matching jacket was raising her arms over her head and shaking her booty to kingdom come, keeping great time to every beat of "Jumping Jack Flash." Stricken by strong drink, her chunky companion sat wedged and unmoving in the neighboring seat, his head slumped forward, with oen arm propping it up, keeping it from rolling away. "I'm Jumpin' Jack Flash. It's a gas ! Gas ! Gas !"
Lovable commoners at heart, the Rolling Stones, drenched with rain, dished out plenty to their adoring Russian fans. Fireworks exploded and illuminated the night sky, bringing the curtain down on this historic show. As the Stones took their final bows, the fans gave them a rousing ovation to remember, having gotten far more than their rubles' worth, their satisfied faces twinkling in a kaleidoscopic glare.
After the show, we threaded our way home past columns of boyish police cadets, some asleep on their feet. They were lined up like honor guards receiving a delegation of dignitaries. Hooded and caped in the rainy Moscow night, they funneled the emerging crowds to the Metro station in an eerily efficient manner. Their stone-faced commanding officers, astride tall chestnut chargers, stood ready in the wings.
The high-strung horses twitched as we passed by. My Russian friend, Anatoly kept shaking his head, lamenting the earlier confiscation of my camera at the entrance gate. (It was returned to me after the show. ) "I don't get it. Such a beautiful show ! Nice singing. People having a good time. But you can't take pictures. How can people have good memories ? It's too bad."
Thank the heavens above Red Square we have words.
It's Only Rock'n Roll 1998 -
© The Rolling Stones Fan Club Of Europe