It's Only Rock'n Roll
It was a revved-up all-ages crowd who showed up and packed every one of the 55,000 seats. I even brought my own personal crowd to sit in my best seats of the entire tour - in the seventh row: there was my brother (40-something), my daughter (21) and my son (19). It was her second show and his first ever. I'll tell you what he thought later.
As Satisfaction finally began, the crowd was energetically rocking and giving the band what they gave us - pure, unadulterated fun. Never mind that the band could do this on autopilot - the point is that they don't. It's always just different enough, regardless of how many times that you've seen them on this or any other tour. The band does give a damn, and so do we.
The first three numbers suffered from the usual muddy acoustics common to large bowls that the technicians are unfamiliar with. However, Gimmie Shelter opened with a sound like someone had just flipped a switch on - never mind that was song three, but it didn't have the same acoustical treatment from the building. But, Gimmie Shelter is where it blossomed out for us as our jaws dropped open when Keith took that determined stroll down to the lip of the stage and finger-picked and plucked out that seemingly never-ending introduction to the song that can still send chills up and down my spine. Mick lets him play 12 bars, and then he too comes to the edge of the stage, extends his arms high over his head, and weaves back and forth in time to the music. Lisa Fischer's throaty, high-pitched whine begins her invocation once again, Ronnie weaves his notes in between Keith's, and you are mesmerized once more by their magic. Then it all juxtaposes into one gigantic experience, and you can't remember anything else on an individual basis, because the Stones have done it to you again. The guitar solo, each note pure and free, Lisa's wonderfully received breathtaking spiral up our spinal cords as she tries to raise the roof, and Mick meanwhile insistently pleading "give me shelter!" Too soon, it's over for who knows how long. Will they even play it on the next tour?
The fifth and sixth songs are always being rotated, so it was with great anticipation that I waited to see what we would hear. The roadie wheeled out an electric piano to the front of the stage, and I wondered, could it be? Then, Mick answered my prayer. "We're going to do Memory Motel. I hope I remember the chords." Yes! Twice on the same tour! They did it for us in Buffalo back in Oct, and since then, I've been waiting to hear it again. Well, they didn't disappoint. Even though the words were not all the same, with some of the verses forgotten or changed, and others repeated twice, it was Memory Motel from Black and Blue in 1976. Keith's choruses were exceptional, and Mick's twang on the words caught just the right accent for us as I recalled the first time I had heard the song. It was a very special moment.
It's Only Rock and Roll was the next number, and boy, did they do it up right tonight! It was extremely hot, raucous, and a definite good time. Mick was having so much fun, dancing and throwing himself all over the stage, that he forgot to let Ronnie assist with the chorus until the very last one. But, was it worth it! It was better than I can ever remember hearing the song live. When it was over, Mick said: "I think that was even better than they did it in Montreal!" Well, he knew how to be popular in Toronto all right, as 55,000 voices erupted with a roar of approval.
Saint of Me and Out of Control are definitely songs for the ages, and I hope they do them at every show until they retire. They are a very fitting response to the usual critic's comment: "What have you done lately?" The lighting, dancing, harmonica and the insistent wah-wah pedal in Out of Control are totally awesome and are a delight that European audiences will soon be learning to experience.
The cybervote song tonight was Love In Vain. Keith sat on a stool, playing his acoustic, smoking a cigarette, hunched over his instrument, as he played the blues. Mick stood at the front, and didn't move around much at all, and clearly was enjoying the opportunity to let his vocal chords glide effortlessly up and down the scale, "When the train...left the station....she had two lights on behind..." Then Ronnie's slide would hit the notes perfectly, exactly as how we all learned it from listening to Get Your Ya Yas Out, because most of us bought it before we went back and bought Let It Bleed. This song was over far too early also.
Keith's set tonight began with Thief In the Night, accompanied by Blondie Chaplin on the guitar and Ronnie's daughter, Leah, on backup vocals with Lisa and Bernard. It had a different, and more intriguing groove than it did in Montreal. They appeared to extend it further, and I could see from my close vantage point that the singers had very wide grins to accompany the very wide grooves that Keith's voice left for them to follow in his footsteps. It was magnificient.
The small set tonight was Little Queenie, You Got Me Rocking, and Like A Rolling Stone. I decided tonight, watching my final Babylon performance, that Charlie Watts is even better than everyone says. As he powered You Got Me Rocking, I was behind and below him and could see exactly what he does. The man is able to push a bass pedal harder than anyone I have ever seen. He dares Keith to keep up to him in the song, and the rest of the band are left in their wake, slashing the chords and hurling the vocal invectives about butchers, washed up fighters, and hookers who have lost their looks. But, if you listen closely, the song is really Keith paying homage to Charlie. Go ahead, listen to it again the next time, and tell me if I'm wrong!
Sympathy for the Devil, Tumbling Dice and Honkey Tonk Women were all superb as usual, with not a lot of changes. However, as Keith triple-started Start Me Up, just as he has done at every show since South America, the crowd is eating out of his hand. Finally, Mick runs to the front, pratically falls over on his face, and then Keith slams into the song proper. Also, the other amazing part of this song is how Ronnie's solo is getting even more powerful (if that is possible) If there is an official live CD of this tour, they have to put one of these latest versions of Start Me Up on it. It's positively messianic.
Tonight we were so close, that when the fireworks explode at the beginning of Jumping Jack Flash, I could feel the whiskers on my cheeks warm up. What a thrill! Then, at the end, there is all the fireworks and the propane explosion off the top of the scaffolding, since the Skydome roof is so high, and made of metal that it could never be hurt. I hope the pictures turn out. I took a whole roll tonight, and the security were very lax. You could run down the aisle right to the barrier when any of the band came down the ramp. Mick's smile and Keith's mischevious grin are even better from 15 feet!
Finally, my seventh Bridges to Babylon show was over, far earlier than I wanted. The fireworks were still erupting, the band were taking their final bows, and I had a deep feeling of loss in my stomach already. Nevertheless, it was an incredibly exuberant, and emotional evening that was everything that I had expected. My son's reaction? As I looked at him when it was all over, and hesitatingly asked: "So, what do you think?" He surprised me by saying "it was amazing! They never stop playing hits!" He had a very wide grin and I could tell he had been surprised by the experience. Oh, by the way. My daughter is six months pregnant. So, in a few years, I'll ask her child if they like the Stones too. Then, I'll be able to tell my grandchild when they heard the band the first time! Rock on Europe...you're in for a thrill!
Start time: 9:10 End time : 11:35
The set list:
For this Toronto show our seats were so far back and so high up that we had a great perspective of the full stage. It really is huge. The Skydome is extra wide since it serves as a baseball field, and the runways spread to each edge of the stadium. Since the people in our section were so busy carrying on conversations, we moved to an unsold set of seats up high on the side. From there we had no distractions for this final North American show. We were able to see the Stones' vans pull into the Skydome from these seats moments before the show's start time, and then all of a sudden the lights went out, and Keith took the stage, and the final show began. It was very exciting.
Flip the Switch continues to be an early show favorite, but then comes Gimme Shelter, and so on. Memory Motel was great to hear again, even though Mick did some improvisation on the lyrics. The human factor of each of the Stones is part of what makes the shows so great!
There's so many highlights, and some nights one part of the show will really stand out. Keith's two songs this show were topnotch. Keith is so dynamic, and it was as though every essence of Keith was put into Thief In the Night and I Wanna Hold You. In addition to Keith, the rest of the people on stage were so much a part of this outstanding performance. It was a remarkable performance to experience.
The center stage songs were great and it got the audience up on their feet to sing and dance. From Like A Rolling Stone all the way through Brown Sugar, the people up in the rafter seats were singing, dancing, and clapping as if the Stones were only a few feet in front of them.
Sadly, this show ends the North American tour for the Stones, and also for us. The 25 Stones' shows we went to since September have taken us all over the midwest and eastern states of America. We look forward to future Stones' tours, and we also look forward to reading the reviews from the rest of the 1998 Bridges to Babylon tour.
See review in Canada Online.
Thanks to Erik Engholm for supplying the link info!
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 -
© The Rolling Stones Fan Club Of Europe