It's Only Rock'n Roll
On high notes, the band played most of the songs incredibly loose, with extended intros, delayed bridges and choruses, and Mick's playful energy showing through at all times. He apologized for being so late in coming, and thanked the crowd for their patience. He complimented them on their singing, saying "it was a lot better than the last time we were here!"
For low notes - try the two middle aged New Yorkers in front of me that used their cell phone at least six times to call friends and say inane things like "Hi Sarah - guess where I am?" at the top of their lungs. Get a life! Or, the mixed age crowd around me that insisted on sitting down through most of the concert and giving me a hard time for trying to stand up during Tumbling Dice! Wouldn't they have rather stayed home and watched television? And why were there still at least 6,000 unsold seats? Just a few of life's mysteries that I still don't comprehend. However, for all of us that know what a Stones extravaganza truly is, it was another in the long list of tent show revivals that we wouldn't want to miss.
The shows are getting better, the band is not tiring, and it was wonderful to see them again so far into the tour (April in North America? When was the last time the Stones played in April here?) Get out, see them, love them again, and you won't be disappointed! Montreal is tomorrow!!!!
Start time: 8:15 End time : 10:40The set list:
Star Star was web choice, very shaky but that was alright. Mick and Ron sang the chorus together in the classic Starfucker pose which started back '75. Bobby and the horns sounded great.
On our way into the Carrier Dome, we saw the Stones' vans pull up, and we saw Keith and Ron. Ron gave a generous wave to us while Keith acknowledged the welcoming crowd.
Our Lady Peace opened the show with a half-hour set at 7:00 p.m. The Stones' came on with a strong Satisfaction. They looked rested and comfortable, and there was lots of interaction between the four Stones. Mick apologized for "not showing up when they were supposed to." And he seemed to make up for the rescheduled date with some new extra-energized moves. He looked great, especially up close (we were in the fourth row!)
Flip the Switch sounds better and better all the time, powerful and exciting. The crowd seemed happy with Star Star, even though there was a misqued start. The Stones' rebound quickly and got it all together.
Charlie got into the introductions. He whistled for Darryl, and he gave a little drum roll for Bobby.
Keith also referred to the rescheduling of the show. He appreciated the crowd that was there. He sounded great and looked great tonight.
All three songs sounded great on the center stage, but we couldn't see much to report on from where our seats were.
The final songs of the show remain unchanged. The crowd is always dancing and singing and clapping and having fun. Syracuse got a great show from the Stones.
Keith kicked it off with "Satisfaction". The band looked great, after being in South America, they had a tan and looke refreshed and invigorated. The sound was a little muddy in the Dome but it got better as the show went on, and was top notch for a Dome setting. The boys were in top form, crisp and energetic. "Let's Spend the Night Together" followed as the stage was bathed in black and white light for that old-time look. "Flip the Switch" was great, Keith's guitar was sharp and shredding, and the sound mix was now much improved. I have to say two things that stick out as highlights: Keith looked tremendous, the clothes he wore tonight were dapper and slammin', maybe Charlie helped him out!!.Keith looked really alive, which we all know is a problem sometimes. The other thing is, the video screen was so damn clear and the camera shots and edits were incredible!!!!
"Gimme Shelter" was classic as usual and had the drive and tempo that makes it take off. "Sister Morphine" was the best I've heard it on this tour, the guitars of Mick, Keith and Ronnie wove togther nicely. "Bitch" was greta, though the sound mix was low at the beginning, but the horns kicked, as usual. "saint of Me" got the crowd hyped and "Out of Control" took it to another level, Mick worked it. Mick also made many apologies for having to cancel in January and appreciated the fact that the fans were patient. patience paid off. "Star, Star" was the web choice and it was loose and free. Mick ad libbed the lyrics all the way through. "Miss you was an incredicble version, ten minutes long and full of new twists on the choruses. Mick really made this one cook. Unlike most people, it is one of my favorites, and on nights like this, you can tell the band loves it too. The opening basslines and guitars were new and funkier and that seemed to lead to a better rendition. The New West Horns and Bobby Keys took it to another level as well.
Intros brought great ovations for "slightly crazy" Ronnie Wood and of course Charlie and Keith. We were also impressed tonight by the backups. Lisa, Bernard and the horns were fantastic and they showed high energy throughout. Chuck and Darryl were top notch as always.
Keith took over and said, "Hey, we made it!!! Well, we knew it would be nicer in spring. But hey, it's a Friday.... on with the show." "You Don't Have to Mean It" was spirited and "Wanna Hold You" had Keith slashing the axe with the usual abandon.
The bridge then opened up to the small stage and we crowded around. "Little Queenie" "The Last Time" and "Like A Rolling Stone" took us to the top!!! I got great photos of the band just 15 feet away, what a thrill.
As the band headed back to the main stage Mick donned the brown and black Sympathy robe and strutted down the runway solo. "Sympathy For the Devil" was as good as ever and the power took over. "Tumbling Dice" was a real rocker and "Honky Tonk" featured an extended opening riff by Keith, I again got great photos. "Start Me Up" also featured re worked riffing. A timeless moment as Keith plays the opening riff five or six times before the band joins in. What a night. "Jumping Jack Flash" was scorching, literally and Mick prowled the stage, Ray Bans on for the whole song. Keith worked the pit for the long solos.
Encore time brought "You Can't Always Get What You Want" and Mick came down the runway almost all the way back to the small stage. Great job. "Brown Sugar" closed things out, with the confetti blowers positioned one right next to the small stage, so we got a blizzard of it!!! Great sounds and the closing bows and fireworks and the boys head out for Montreal, Chicago and Toronto. I love the way Charlie and Mick now take the final bow as they leave the stage, maybe it's in recognition of their design efforts for the stage. Thanks guys, you are the Greatest!
I picked up a free local "What's Happening" kinda newspaper...Cover story was an article about how wild animals are encroaching on urban areas...and I could understand it in Syracuse. A moose wandering down S. Salina St wouldn't have surprised me.
There was an article about the Stones inside with an INCREDIBLY negative tone. How old they are, how it's a good thing they had 4 days to rest before the show, how the spectacle has increasingly overshadowed the music on the last 3 tours..how maybe the Stones are the highest grossing act this year but not in THESE parts, attendance records were dutifully trotted out to show a downward trend since '81, they pointed out that opening act Our Lady Peace has sold more copies of their album than B2B, they seemed gleefully proud of the fact that they don't LIKE the Stones, and THEN they dropped a clue as to the reason for these sour grapes....the Dome had not sold out, they repeated for the 3rd or 4th time, making this the most poorlly attended Stones concert in Syracuse since The Infamous Flag Incident concert in 1966. Slowly I made the connections...at some gig in some bohunk backwater (Syracuse, it turns out), Brian had taken a huge amerikan flag off the wall & worn it as a cape, leaving it trail on the ground...a sacreligious offense, of course, our Flag being defiled by funny-lookin' Limey sissy drug addict millionaires no less! I forget how the incident turned out...I believe tar & feathers were involved...but Syracuse, evidently, has NEVER FORGIVEN THE STONES FOR THE INFAMOUS 1966 FLAG INCIDENT. The article didn't even explain what it was! They assumed that everyone knew all about the Infamous Flag Incident, as if it was something everyone learns about in grade school. (1492: Columbus Discovers America; 1966: Infamous Flag Incident) .Snotty remarks about the reasons for the cancellation of the January dates and mentioning that tickets were still available ended this vitriolic promo piece from hell.
I started to worry. Christ, I thought, don't they know Brian's dead? Maybe I should call the mayor & iron things out. I didn't want to go to a half-empty dome and see a lukewarm reception to a tired lackluster performance. They had just come from South America where they were evidently quite well-received by stadiums full of people who had removed their shirts & whirled them over their heads to show their appreciation. Now they're Live in Bumfuck NY in a town where their name is mud because of something Brian did. Maybe THAT'S why they pushed him out of the band!
After Chinese at Ling Ling's , we were off to the show. A long uphill walk to the dreary, seedy, rundown Dome. Inside, our seats were GOOD...halfway between the Big & Little stages on Woody's side. Our Lady Peace was just ending. They sounded like a transistor radio with an Oasis song playing on it. Then the same warm-up tape....Clash, Pistols, JB, then (WHY?) Prodigy....getting close to time. I looked behind me. Grandma & Grandpa. Behind them: more gray hair. I thought about Blue Lena in Vegas & loudly announced that I WOULD be standing throughout. I was still worried about that damn article. But the Dome looked to be PRETTY full to me.
The show started. I stood on my chair & took a picture JUST as the fireball exploded. Satisfaction ROCKED but I scrutinized the Stones' faces for signs of phoning one in...they all looked grim, determined but fatigued. Woody seemed tired. This impression continued into Let's Spend The Night Together....but the crowd did seem noisy & appreciative, & the band sure wasn't playing BAD. It's just that the last show for me was MSG3 & I'm jaded....so I looked at them with a somewhat jaundiced eye. And I watched them work themselves up into a full head of steam with moments of absolute brilliance!
I'm serious. It was fascinating. Mick seemed hoarse when he talked, & he apologized rather humbly for rescheduling so many times. I could SEE the fatigue in all of them...and I watched them totally overcome it and become THE STONES. They did it in many ways. Charlie started kicking his drums between songs, throwing fierce outbursts of rhythm into the air...rolls & crashes. Their MAIN secret weapon is Lisa, in my opinion. She woke EVERYBODY up with her performance last night. During "Miss You" she & Mick looked like they should get a room, fer crissakes. After flirting with everone else she pressed her body against the flexiglass screen around Charlie. She pointed at him as she pressed her lips against the glass....Charlie's reaction was priceless, & the song certainly kicked into high gear! Woody played a STERLING lead in Miss You. His playing overall was great, as if he's perhaps been stung by the comments of cyberwhiners & Taylorites & decided to PLAY.
Sister Morphine got played but a drunken asshole was trying to tell me I was in his seat throughout it. There is ALWAYS an asshole. Why is that? I showed him my ticket. I showed him the seat number. "Yeah, but I'm HERE now so how bout we all just spread out?" There was NO ROOM to spread out. "How about we WATCH THE FUCKING SHOW???" I offered. He called one of the 12000 orange shirted security people who determined that the drunk was wrong & I was right but by then the song was over. People next to me showed up with identical tickets for the seats that were already occupied. One set was 1/7, the other 1/17. Ticketmaster fuckup! Where's Eddy Vedder when you need him?
Now. About Keith. He looked & played SPLENDIDLY. When he took the leopardskin off he had a white shirt & black vest on. After the introductions (Charlie wins as always) Keith puts on a blue pinstripe waistcoat, over his vest & dress shirt, his black pants & chain, & blue boots...he really looked great, IMHO, and he turned in the highlight of the night for me," You don't Have To Mean It". PERFECT. Absolutely. Every vocal, every horn, every thing. The Dome shimmied along. Grandma & Grandpa too. Woody played the plinky piano part, Blondie played NICE guitar on a Gibson goldtop les paul....and Keith sang SO well. Every show has one moment you remember. This was it for me.
During "Wanna Hold You" I made my way to the 2nd stage & got closer than at any of the other shows. People around me started taking pictures & no security people bothered them so I started shooting with my camera zoomed in. I am praying that these pictures turn out half as good as I think they will. Queenie, Last Time, LARS....perfect. They guy next to me threw his pack of Marlboros up as an offering for Keef. I thought that was kinda funny. It was like he HAD to give him something. Everyone else was opting for gifts of underwear. I took a picture of Mick, standing alone as the others return to the stage, holding up a particularly large brassiere.
Time for the Inevitables. A test of the band's sincerity if ever there was one...who could blame them if they phoned in the last set? But NOOOO....Sympathy was furious, Mick's dancing INSANE. Start Me Up....Keith playfully staggered the intro to build tension. All of these last songs were played ferociously.
All night long I'd seen Mick work. In an interview he said the challenge is putting on a good show even when you don't feel like it & he had every reason NOT to, so he FLIPPED THE SWITCH. He sang things differently, phrasing things differently, taking chances...his Out of Control dance was the MOST out of control I've seen. He didn't cruise through ANYTHING. Starfucker, the cyberpick, was sloppy & tenative but that made it really cool to an old sycophant like me. I thought it sounded great! "Is 'at 'ow it goes?" Mick asked at the end. Yeah! Somethin' like that!
Grandma & Grandpa, it turns out, had no qualms about standing during the show, or dancing. This might be Syracuse but it ain't Las Vegas. I turned around during "Saint Of Me" and ALL of the senior citizens behind me were singing along! Ha!
We got the 2 song encore, both stretched out...they didn't seem to want it to end. I turned around again as we were enveloped in confetti (it's late in the tour & they're cutting down on the glittery ones) and both Grandma and I had the same amazed-child look on our faces. She was catching the pieces of paper like snowflakes as her husband boogied down beside her. I love being in the cloud of confetti with the Stones.
Next morning the local paper gave the show 4 stars out of 4 and mentioned that the songs from B2B were the highlight. So I guess that Syracuse has finally forgiven the Stones for the Infamous 1966 Flag Incident.
Now...to encapsulate....this was NOT the best show I've seen, or in the best 3. But it was great, and the Stones, I am happy to report, are at this moment still the Greatest Rock & Roll Band in the World.
Setlist same as usual, oddities being Sister Morphine, Bitch, & You Don't Have To Mean It.
The seating capacity for this concert was listed at 38,000. It was described in the local papers as a "near sell-out". I would estimate approximately 35,000 as there were a few corner sections in the upper levels which didn't seem quite full.
As usual with a dome stadium, the sound was bouncing off of the roof and had an echo. I was fortunate to have a seat in the 16th row (center) and the sound was still very distant. The vocals seemed as if they were hitting the ceiling and bouncing back. It must be a nightmare for the sound technicians to try to get the right balance of the instruments. I can only imagine that the sound in the rear of the building must have been horrible.
The show started at 8:15pm with the usual opening of Satisfaction & Let's Spend The Night Together. Before Flip The Switch, Mick took a moment to say to the crowd that they "finally made it and everyone onstage appreciated their patience", referring to the prior postponements of this show. Then it was on to Gimme Shelter which the crowd was really into and very responsive by swaying side to side with their hands in the air following Mick's lead. Tonight we got Sister Morphine, played beautifully.
Next the horn section was in place and the band launched into Bitch. This version was by far the best I've heard on the tour with just the right balance of guitars and brass. It was more guitar heavy. Saint of Me and Out of Control were great as usual. The leading web choice selection all day was Shine A Light but Starfucker mysteriously was the winner by show time! I have not heard Starfucker since Washington in October and the arrangement was very different, certainly nothing like the 1975-76 or 1978 versions or even the versions in Giants Stadium or Washington last year. The tempo was a little slower. Mick said after the song that it was "casually arranged". These changes really make audio collecting great fun.
During Miss You, Mick took the opportunity during an intimate moment on the song with Lisa to lick her face and she responded by slapping him on the ass. All in great fun of course. After the introductions, with Charlie, of course getting the biggest ovation; Keith said "we made it! I knew we were better in the spring". Keith did his set of You Don't Have To Mean It and I Wanna Hold You. The center stage gave us Little Queenie, The Last Time and Like A Rolling Stone. Then it was on Sympathy compete with somewhat modified pyrotechnics due to being indoors. Keith really blistered some great leads on his section and the sound was much better by now.
Tumbling Dice was perfect as it seemed that the sound techs had the balance just right. Honky Tonk Women was great, balanced and had the crowd primed. Keith then teased the crowd by playing the first 3 chords of Start Me Up-- very slowly --3 times prior to launching the band into the full version. It was a perfect touch and the audience loved it. During Jumpin Jack Flash and Brown Sugar, Mick did full sprints the entire length of the stage right to left while the band ripped through extended full stadium versions of these classics. The show ended about 10:30pm.
The local papers gave the show a four-star review the following day.
First off, you've got toreally admire the Stones for making up this show at all. Many lesser bands would have bagged these make up dates, but the Stones are men of their word. I thoght that they would give a lackluster performance, and I didn't get too excited about the first couple of songs, but then the Stones proved once again that they are the world's greatest band. Flip the Switch and GImme Shelter are always hot, but Bitch seemed to kick it into a higher gear. I was in the eighth row center, the sound was superb from where I was, and the Dome looked really full. They seemed to be playing better than earlier on the tour, Saint of Me gets a great response, and they thankfully have dropped Anybody seen my baby.
I hoped for Lowdown, but you can't always get whay you want. Keith replaced the melancholy All About you with You Don't Have to Mean It, and it is a welcome change. Wanna Hold You really rocks, Mick could have left for Montreal then for all I cared. Keith better get the Wino's together soon, because he epitomizes rock and roll , and life in general for me. Center stage is incrdible. I left my spot and rushed to the back of the small stage and was awestruck at how well they play and enjoy themselves for those three tunes. Last Time is so special, cause this just might be the Last Time I see them, but that's what they told me in 1981, too.
The hits part of the show is for the casual fan, not the trly obsessive compulsive demented ones like me, but they are playing the "hits" better than ever. Keith has this hitch-in-the-delivery beginning to Start Me Up that really funks it up, and revitalizes it. The boys really impressed me tonight for their effort and professionalism. Woody didn't fuck around too much and played great licks, Charlie was his rock-solid self, Bobby Keys wailed as usual- I love it when Bobby's there-he didn't make it to Syracuse in 1994. Mick really paid tons of attention to our section, and we responded thusly.
This show was way better than a crappy place like Syracuse would ever deserve. Our hotel- University towers should be avoided at all costs-what a dump- but nothing could take anything away from a glorious Stones performance. Well worth my 10 hour drive from Maine. I only wish there were more U.S. shows.
Also, see Syracuse reviews in the press:
Thanks to Jim Carlson for supplying the links!
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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