It's Only Rock'n Roll
Show time 9:10 - 11:20 p.m.
After Keith's set, the Stones teased before going to the small stage with Midnight Rambler, Start Me Up, Satisfaction, and Honky Tonk Women. It was kind of strange to see the outline of the Stones trademark tongue in fire during Satisfaction, especially because that effect on the big screen had only been used during Sympathy for the Devil before. For Satisfaction, Keith hung out stage left sharing a mike with Blondie for vocals. This enabled us fans on that side to get a full view of Keith's raucous guitar solo during the song, one of the high points of the show. For Honky Tonk Women, Chuck Leavell's piano really stood out, complete with the Jerry Lee Lewis foot tap to end his solo. It was great to see the band work through the song, though I am always so damn distracted by that great and sexy animation they show during it. It would be nice to see that animation as a new techno-era treasure on the Stones' official website (hopefully downloadable), so we don't have to choose between the band playing the great song or the video during performance.
The small stage had an especially spirited version of Manish Boy, followed by Like a Rolling Stone. While many were really into the Dylan song, the effect did not reach the upper level as people sat, perhaps confused that the band was playing their namesake song even though they did not write it. That would be a difficult one to explain to fellow propane salesman on Monday morning! The small stage finished with a rocking version of Brown Sugar, with the "Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Whoooo!" part in full force long before Mick's prompting.
It was great to see Texan Bobby Keyes do his mean sax solo in the middle of the venue to finish of the main part of the show. An encore of Jumping Jack Flash finished us off, with Mick wearing a shirt covered by many of the popular flashing red and blue tongue pins that have made both arena and stadium crowds sparkle. It was great to see the Stones christen another new arena with an excellent performance. We all know Texans will of course "Remember the Alamo", but San Antonio should remember this excellent show just as long.
The crowd was in it from Keith's opening riff on Street Fightin' Man and was begging for more after Jumpin' Jack Flash. If You Can't Rock Me has always been one of my favorites and it sounded great with Keith churning the signature riff on the open G Tele and Ronnie playing great lead with the help of the pedal. This song is light years better than what we hear on the 75 and 76 recordings. The Sticky Fingers section was incredible, like watching a piece of history before your eyes. Wild Horses had the crowd singing along, Dead Flowers had Mick on the acoustic and Keith playing fills on the Gibson. Bitch brought out the brass section in full force, complimenting Ronnie's rhythm riff while Keith played the some mean Chuck Berry riffs in his solo. Can't You Hear Me Knockin' was the reason I came to this show. I have tickets for the Houston show, but that will likely be the stadium set list that does not always include this tune. Since I've waited decades to hear this in concert like everyone else, I drove three hours to catch this song and it was everything I've been hearing. Great intro, great solos by Bobby on sax and Mick on harmonica in a long extended jam, and Ronnie smoked the Taylor solo. After the song you could see the other band members acknowledging him, and Chuck even shook his hand. This was my 17-year-old son's first Stones concert, and after the show he told me 'Man, that Ron Wood was awesome'. During the band introductions, Ronnie got the biggest crowd ovation I've ever heard him get. Tumblin Dice was another crowd pleaser, with the ending part played for an extended period of time. Mick held Keith's arm and led him to the front of the stage when he introduced him. We got a beautiful rendition of Slippin Away and a great rocking Before They Make Me Run. To these ears, both Mick and Keith's voices sound better this tour, and Keith is singing more back-up vocals than I've seen him do in a while.
I knew the middle part of the concert would have a couple of surprises for me based on the set list up to that point, and the first was right after Keith's songs. The stage was dark as Mick rejoined the group, but then you could hear the guitars running up and down the B chord, and then Mick noodling around on the harmonica, and anyone who's heard some of the older concert recordings knew what was coming next. Suddenly, the stage lights flash on as Keith crunches the opening riff to Midnight Rambler. It looked like both Keith and Ronnie were playing Les Pauls for the only time during the night and their distortion settings were perfect - the sound was right off of Ya-Yas. It was an awesome sight to see Keith, Ronnie and Daryl all standing together in front of Charlie just blazing away, and then Mick joins them on harmonica. During the slow part, Mick screamed like I didn't think he could anymore, leading the crowd like you hear on 72-73 recordings. After a rousing Start Me Up, I saw Keith slipping the Gibson back on and wasn't sure what to expect and then heard the beautiful opening notes to Gimme Shelter. Mick and Lisa sang great harmonies without any phony hamming. Chuck took advantage of his time in the spotlight with a great keyboard solo on Honky-Tonk Women. Half-way through Satisfaction, I motioned to my son and we started working our way to the back of the floor towards the B stage, as I knew what was to happen next. We kind of milled around with a few others and security tried to shoo us away, but as soon as the Stones started down the ramp and the rest of the crowd saw what happening, security could not stop the press toward the B stage. My son and I were just ten feet away as the group eased into Mannish Boy. Great slide work by Ronnie and harmonica by Mick. The crowd really got into Like a Rolling Stone and Brown Sugar. As I looked around, I could see the looks of wonder, amazement and disbelief on the faces of the people standing around the small stage, just a few feet away from these legendary musicians. One of those faces belonged to my son.
After that, it was back to the main stage for JJF and then the final bows to a huge ovation that went on long after they left the stage. My son, like his father, was amazed at the spectacle he had just seen. I told him this is as good as it gets. Nashville, you're in for a treat.
The first four songs, SFM, IORR, IYCRM, Don't Stop and YGMR were really mushy after the first few chords of SFM. However, the band appeared tight and inspired.
Once the screen showed the Sticky Fingers album cover, the band kicked into Wild Horses and Dead Flowers. As both these contain more spartan arrangements and noticeably less volume, the sound was clear and well defined. Mick sang these two songs beautifully -- even playing acoustic on Dead Flowers. Bitch started well, but then as the Ronnie and Keith came together at center stage and jammed on the ending, we could hear nothing but the horn riff. How frustrating to see but not hear their firey playing!
CYHMK, which too was delivered in such a way as to allow each star to deliver his section without too much else, was AWESOME. Mick's harmonica was pure and bluesy, Bobby Keys played a faithful sax line, and then Ronnie played a haunting solo with the aid of some wah-wah. It really cooked, and we heard everything.
The next highlight was Slippin' Away. Keith sang that song like he really meant it. "First the sun and then the moon/One of them will be round soon" seemed like a beautiful note of hopefulness. Before They Make me Run was a true dud. I love Keith, but he played about half the time, and the bloody horn section came in during the second half and drowned everybody out. Horn section? On BTMMR? That was the first truly bad performance I have ever seen in 11 shows. Oh, well.
Midnight Rambler was great, Mick's harp really taking control. Start Me Up raised the roof on the building. Lisa's singing on Gimme Shelter cut through the murky mix; she really is unreal on that number. HTW was the clearest song on the main stage and actually, the best version of that song I have ever heard. Satisfaction was a real loss sonically, but I thought I heard a cool, new keyboard part from Chuck Leavell, a thick, organ part, but it was hard to follow.
THE B STAGE. WOW. If only they had used those speakers all night long. Mannish Boy, LARS, and Brown Sugar just cooked. Great lead lines on the first; superior, driving harmonica on the second; and just an incredible sendoff on the last. The band exited through the back and returned for JJF on the big stage, again a little dense at the lower end; the chords were there but not the sprawling solos. I could see them just not hear them.
What was so disconcerting was that just a month ago, we saw Paul McCartney at a similar sized venue, the Compaq Centre in Houston. I had low expectations for the show, but the sound was absoutely pristine -- overwhelmingly so. Even the jams that night were clear as bells. I talked to another Stones fan after the San Antonio show who said that the sound in San Diego was nearly intolerable and that tonight was superior to that. He did say the Edison Field show sounded splendid. Maybe we just caught a bad night? Others haven't said much about the sound in their reviews.
I have tickets for Reliant Stadium in January. I just hope it's warm enough to leave the roof open.
We really appreciated the acoustics in the new building (SBC). Traveling a long distance to see The Stones perform such a high energy show was intensified by the unique atmosphere of San Antonio. After the concert, folks were all over the Riverwalk late into the night still sporting the blinking Lips.
And ya know what really topped the whole trip off..... people in Texas are friendly. I might just have to visit again..... hmmmmm.... when do they play Houston?
The sound for most of the show was not the best I have heard the guitars sounded a little light especially in iorr, cyhmk ,ygmr even the intro to GS was not clear ---not that I was disappointed --I just have been spoiled especially in Hartford . it was thrilling to be right in front of the b-stage and be so close to the boys really watching the grove they put down. I really liked the love train I wonder why they seem to have dropped it? also one more encore SFTD maybe ? .
Keith songs where really well down (just another day that's slipping away ) loved it and my favorite before they make me run ---great version perfect timing! I did ask a lot of people after the show and Sunday morning what they thought everybody said it was the best show they had ever seen so over all I give the show 4 tongues .I cant wait for them to get back to NYC till then happy holidays to the boys and all the other stones fan out there
It was also good to hear from the other guy who had problems with the sound in my section. Guess it wasn't just the "old ears" afterall!
Thanks to Dean Goodman for set list information.
Thanks to Axel Schumacher, Høgne Midjord and Pete for news links.
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It's Only Rock'n Roll 2002 -
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