It's Only Rock'n Roll
Show time: 9:10 p.m. to 11:20 p.m.
The boys were into an experimental mode last night playing a number of tunes off the Exile on Main St. album as a set within a set. Sweet Virgina was a huge surprise with beautiful violin work from Frankie Gavin as guest. This was done to an Exile on Main St album cover as backdrop. Heart of Stone came off well with Mick wailing the refrain and the crowd singing along.
Later in the show things slowed a little when Mick went offstage for a couple of tunes and Keith sang Thru and Thru. Mick came charging back on stage and whipped the crowd and band into a frenzy on Start Me Up and away we went. Noone has the ability to instantly triple the energy level of a show like the man himself.
The Can't You hear me knocking started off on a somewhat slow note and took awhile to take wings- but ended with smokin solo work from Woodie which simply slayed us all. This is the great song of this tour and is not to be missed.
As an aside the sound started off being somewhat jumbled and low key, and as the night progressed got clearer through the arena and far louder until Sympathy for the Devil came out of nowhere for the encore and whipped the crowd into a ear ringing sweat covered lather. Once again, the boys outdid themselves and were sublime.
San Diego anyone?
To be totally honest, I missed some of my favorites - Midnight Rambler, Monkey Man, Gimme Shelter, just to name three, but there were plenty of chestnuts this night. Can't You Hear Me Knocking was a great song to pull out of the archive I was happy to hear that one done, and done very well. Sweet Virginia was great but the violin didn't work too well and it seemed like they have sound problems with it. Heart of Stone! I guess this was just the third time they've played it on this tour and it was fantastic. Charlie Watts, Charlie Watts, Charlie Watts! Just perfect on this song. Wow!
I'm a big Exile fan, so All Down the Line was great to hear. Woody's a natural Stone, but I'd sure love to hear Mick Taylor play that slide part just "once in a while". Can't complain. As long as Keith pounds out his part, the song rocks. Simple as it is, Tumbling Dice is one of the most underrated Stones song and it's always great live. No exception tonight.
When the Whip comes down is a great B Stage tune and finally, I got my Brown Sugar! Interesting experience. I was "elbows on the stage" when they opened with it at the Hollywood Paladium in '72 and I've seen them do it from close range about 12 times over the years. But since they played it on the B stage, I was all the way on the other side of the arena, so I really had a chance to just listen since I really couldn't see too well down there. What a treat. It was, is, and will always be the perfect rock song.
I expected Sympathy to be the last song of the night and then JJF begins and my night is made. Gotta hand it to the guys - 65 songs played through 29 shows. This is the most I can remember them mixing it up on any tour. Good show, not the best I've seen, but even a merely good Stones show is better than just about any other show out there! Looks like they're coming back to San Jose in February. With a little luck, I'll get my Midnight Rambler then.
The biggest surprise of the evening was Heart of Stone, with Mick sounding better than ever and the crowd really getting into it. I remember hearing a few regrets by Aragon attendees, as we came away not seeing this one in September. It was unbelievable to also get this one tonight!
The show then switched to an Exile theme. Sweet Virginia was followed by Loving Cup, adding to the amazing quality of the evening. The effect of the traffic jam scene on the big screen like in Anaheim added a visual to the California feel of Sweet Virginia. When Mick says the line, "Thank you for your wine, California", it gets the same type of response as the "New York City" line in Honky Tonk Women does at Madison Square Garden. I had never seen Loving Cup before, so this was another feature that made tonight's show so excellent. It had the country feel like on the recorded version but the "Gimme little drink" part was rowdier live. The star of Loving Cup was Charlie, with his drums crashing perfectly on the breaks. Then came a great version of All Down the Line, better than the one in Anaheim ten days before. Next was the most energetic version of Tumbling Dice that I've seen in years. During the part where the song speeds up again, the horns kick in, and the audience claps, Mick ran halfway down the walkway to the small stage. This really whipped things up, as Mick did not use the walkway in a deliberate dramatic way as in You Can't Always Get What You Want, instead using it to get into the middle of the crowd to raise the energy level even higher.
Keith was also very fresh with song selection, playing Thru and Thru from Voodoo Lounge (again, one I was seeing live for the first time). It came off as a great blues number, with Keith sounding more like Howlin Wolf than the crooner he has become on Slippin' Away. Charlie's drums were again perfect in complimenting Keith's blues guitar. When the crowd reacted to the "Fuckin blues" lyric, Keith repeated it with a voice of scorn and hardship that sounded like it came straight out of the Chess Records catalogue. We then got a spirited version of You Don't Have To Mean It, with Keith introducing the song with, "Ronnie Wood on keyboards, watch out!"
Ronnie's guitar playing continues to be his best ever, with great examples tonight being Don't Stop, Tumbling Dice, and Can't You Hear Me Knocking. After Can't You Hear Me Knocking, the large screen showed someone in the crowd with a sign that said "Ronnie B. Goode". It was well timed, as a Ron Wood/Chuck Berry association is not a stretch on the LICKS tour.
With my head spinning from all of these unusual gems, I almost forgot to mention Shery Crow's great job again on Honky Tonk Women. She belted out Aretha-like vocals, and kept up with Mick's dancing even while wearing some very tall heels. For vocal considerations alone, I prefer Sheryl on Honky Tonk Women rather than Wild Horses.
This was my 66th Stones show, and arguably the best I have ever seen. There was just so much excellent music packed into two short hours. I will just file it in the same category as Phoenix 1997, Madison Square Garden 1998, or Wembley 1999 as one of the best ever. Anyone still considering going to a show who has not gone before should know: this is a band at the height of its powers, taking risks and making sure they pay off through hard work and preparation (how'd they rehearse all those great songs?!). To experience an evening like tonight in Oakland makes a $300 ticket seem like the bargain of a lifetime.
Had seen The Stones the very first time at this same arena in 1969. Don't remember for sure but the tickets were about $12.50 and they were on the floor. I could still see Mick up there on that stage in '69 with the Uncle Sam hat. It was only a month later that I attended the ill fated Altamont Concert about an hour east. And now here we were 33 years later willingly paying $150.00 per ticket trying not to be like the establishment we spent so much time putting down in those days.
Cheryl Crow opened the show and she was much better than Pacfic Bell Park -- although in some ways it is difficult to compare the two because of the size of the venue. But all in all she was dynamite. Was really surprised at what this little gal can put out.
After the customary delay the show opened and Keith burst out onto the stage. I thought the volume was loud from start to finish. Don't think it really needs to be this loud to enjoy it. I know, they say if it is too loud you are too old. But seriously, it was so loud it was blurring out. They could have used about two thirds of what they were using. But I guess if you spend $6 million on a sound system you've got to use it. And they did --- to the fullest.
It started out a little warm in the building and Mick said something like it looked like he was "going to do some sweating tonight". They must have turned the air on as it cooled down to a more reasonable level after the fist six songs but never got really cool in there.
I was pleased beyond belief that The Stones did an Exile on Main Street theme. I've been into the Stones heavily for 40 years but it wasn't until Exile hit that I really went over the edge That album is so L.A. and when they played those numbers it just took me back to Hollywood Boulevard, Sunset and Santa Monica Boulevard in the 70's one more time. Loving Cup has always been my favorite song on the album so to hear them play it was a dream come true. And they played it well -- maybe the best song of the night. It was a little bit of a country version it seemed and that gave it a little different slant. But it still held to its true feeling and a song of hope no matter how desperate you are.
In my opinion this was a better show than Pacific Bell by far. The only thing it lacked was the open air atmosphere that Pac Bell provided and some of the fireworks but it made up for it in other ways. And it was more pure rock 'n' roll and less emphasis on Mick's devil playing. It was a well balanced show with the Exile theme and even a mini theme from "It's Only Rock 'n' Roll" album. It just left you floored.
Another great song was "Heart of Stone". It came out clear as a bell and Mick sang it better than the original cut. He mentioned how long ago it had been since they did it and the thought scared me half to death.
In the B-Stage performance "Mannish Boy" went over very well. That one appears on the Love You Live album and never did much for me. Last night it jumped out. And watching Charlie on the drums. Charlie does not weigh that much but he beats those drums with such tremendous force. Where does he get the energy? When watching through the binoculars when he hit those symbols it was like he was superman. After the final number Mick faked throwing the guitar into the crowd and got a scared reaction from the person who assists with the instruments.
Speaking of energy, this has been covered a million times, but where does Mick get his energy? Most of us couldn't do what he does now when we were 21. Occasionally he would just burst out across the stage with the amazing burst of energy. Amazing.
Keith was again low key tonight in my view. He seems focused on playing the best show he can play and dispense of the money business and leave the showmanship and craziness to Mick.
Had never heard "Can't You Hear Me Knockin" and had high expectations after all the buildup about Ron's guitar playing. It was everything it was cracked up to me. Was suprised at how long and involved Mick's harmonica part was. He really got into it. A great number all around.
On Honky Tonk Women Cheryl Crow joined the party. Mick and Cheryl were getting real chummy on stage -- even kissing. My question is do Mick and Cheryl have something going? Maybe it is common knowledge but have never heard it confirmed. Anyway, they made a great couple up there.
All in all the show was absolutely awesome -- almost beyond words. Just thank your lucky stars that we have this to enjoy. But the thing is I know everybody does appreciate it, does not take it for granted in the slightest and savors every second, every minute and every hour they have ever spent with the Greatest Rock 'n' Roll band in the world.
Thanks to Dean Goodman for set list information.
Thanks to Monty McKissock / Steve Lombardo for photo.
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It's Only Rock'n Roll 2002 -
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