It's Only Rock'n Roll
The Thrills (warmup) : 8:10pm - 8:50pm The Rolling Stones : 9:45pm - 11:25pm
Privileged and fortuntate to have tickets for the event my position three rows from front of stage directly in front of Keith Richards was the perfect vantage point to witness and participate in the most fantastic show.
From the moment the lead guitarist let rip the opening chords of "Jumping Jack Flash" there was no let-up. To liken this opening to "light the blue touch paper and stand back" understates the show tenfold.
Seeing the band operate at such close quarters really brought to the fore their tightness, energy, professionalism and passion for their art. They care. They really care.
Mick Jagger, presence, charisma and raw power personified engaged and enraptured the audience as only the world's greatest frontman can - his gyrations, movement and timing underscored a performance that totally captivated his audience. He never stopped. Quite brilliant as the range of songs seriously tested his vocal abilities.
Keith Richards for me the man who musically leads the band. You see very clearly how he starts, develops and ends each song - on his terms. The band are dependent on him. And on Wednesday night for all to see the master craftsman was at his very best as he took his art to the highest standards. Many times he looks as though he's on his own planet apparently oblivious to all around him as he becomes totally engrossed in his music making and the pleasure he quite clearly brings to himself and everyone else. But he knows exactly where he is and what he is - the greatest lead guitarist in the world's greatest rock and roll band.
And then there is his geniality - yes, geniality - after many of the songs he made a point of picking out a member of the audience in the front row, walking to them and giving them his guitar plectrum. Eye contact, engagement, smile, hand contact. Magic.
Charlie Watts was everything you'd expect - strong, tight, fabulous rhythmic drum playing, keeping a disciplined beat as the band's backbone.
Ronnie had a very good show - lovely acoustic guitar playing on "No Expectations" - weaving guitars symbiotically with Keith to great effect on many of the numbers played.
The supporting members of the band complemented the show superbly - taking their opportunity to showcase their talent at the right time. Bobby Keyes a particularly strong performance on saxophone.
Particular highlights - a fantastic version of the rarely played "Hand of Fate", a rousing "Ain't Too Proud to Beg". The standards - Satisfaction, Brown Sugar, Start Me Up - played a thousand times before were played with a verve and freshness that betrayed the passion and professionalism of the performers.
And perhaps most of all the Astoria provided a throwback to what it must have been like in the earliest days - tightly packed audience, crowd surges to the front as the band launches into the opener, adrenalin and sweat join as one, the audience shout, sing and jump as one. The crowd give, the Stones give back - the one feeds on the other.
The show was all anyone could expect or ask for and much more. Thank you.
After waiting for hours to get in, (and having number 138 in the queue), I finally found myself 4th row, death center. Due to rude people and all the pushing, I ended the show somewhere in row 12. But row 12 at a clubgig is the same as being closer then front row at an arena or stadium :) After the opening band, it took the roadies for ever to prepare the stage for the Stones, so people started screaming each time a roadie tested a microphone, a guitar or whatever.
But then…… the lights went out and a few seconds later…. JJF erupted! Contrary to what some other people say, I immediately loved this version, and I was ready for the best show of the tour. The sound, the guitars, Mick, Charlie, were giving it all. "Live With Me", "Hand Of Fate", "No Expectations" were all great versions, you wil not hear me complain :) .
"Worried About you" was, IMHO, not as great as in Vredenburg, but that is the curse of seeing more than one clubshow. Don't get me wrong, this was a great version and Mick was great. But spoiled for me by some guys in front of me who where more interested in discussing the best way to roll a joint and using a flashlight to prepare it, then listening to the song (I really had to controll myself to not give them a push so their stuff would fly into the air).
Then came "Heartbreaker; a first for me and I immediately fell in love whith this song again! "It's only Rock 'n' Roll" ; even some response from behind row 15 ! "Aint Too Proud To Beg", and "Everybody Needs Somebody To Love" were brought with lots of enthousiasm and "I Liked It, yes I did" :)
"That's How Strong My Love Is" ; again, not the Vredenburg killer version, and also shorter, but still one of the highlights. (Mick looking up to the balcony a lot, probably at his family?) "Going To A Go Go"; great cover version, and it definitely pleased the crowd.
The introductions were cut short, but contrary to what has been said, Chuck WAS introduced. Bobby as usual almost blushing when he was introduced, Ronnie got a loud "Ronnie, Ronnie, Ronnie,… chorus started, Charlie was "worshipped" by Keith when introduced and as for Keith, well, another chorus started.
Then it was time for Keith's set and he started by saying "What a great joint" (and the one he was holding was BIG :) ) ,But then he said "Let's get on with the show" and threw it away. And now for a confession; on the B2B and VL tours, Ididn't like his singing, but on the 40 Licks tour, I started (again) loving his singing. A nice version of "The Nearness Of You" and when that was finished, someone in the public screamed vey loud "Little T&A" and Keith laughed and said "You little rascall" and announced "Before They Make Me Run". IMHO a GREAT version, and some very good work from Ronnie.
But then the show somehow changed … Not only the strange thing about skipping "Rock Me Baby", but "Can't Turn You Loose ", "Honky Tonk Women ", "Start Me Up", "Tumbling Dice" and "Brown Sugar" were played with almost no rest between songs. They really wanted or had to get it over with, probably due to some curfew rule???
"Satisfaction" was a little disapointment as an encore, we already had that one in Vredenburg, and I was secretly hoping for SFTD. Nevertheless a solid performance of the song.
And then it was over after "only" 1hour and 40 minutes…. Last bows and a bombardment by the Shidoobeeans in the audience. Stonesdoug had been giving out little yellow blimps while waiting outside, and on command we throw them on the stage. The band looked quite surprised and Ronnie picked one up, had to read what was on it to Keith and then tucked it under his t-shirt.
Closing remarks: We didn't get MT on the stage, although eveybody (even the non-MT fans) were hoping for that to happen. The crowd was very lame, only when Mick, Keith or Ronnie came to the front, hands were raised and there would be some handclapping. And I can assure you that Mick really tried hard to work the crowd. When he tried to let the public sing along; it all died within seconds….a pity; the Vredenburg crowd was much more responsive and didn't need Mick to start singalongs. Lots of rude people in the crowd; pushing, shoving, talking straight through the "calm" songs. From a certain moment on, Mick had problems with the mix and was constantly turning the buttons on his transmitter, so I do not believe that he had voiceproblems, I think something was wrong with the mix. The guitars….BETTER than Vredenburg, again IMHO. I read reviews from the Twick gig, saying that Keith was playing a lot better and he certainly did at the Astoria. And he showed us that he still knows the opening riff for BS!!!!!! He stepped right to the front of the stage with this expression on his face "See guys!!!"
During the first part, Ronnie was having problems with the slide guitar; he made signs to the mixing desk and even had a technician standing by him at the start. He was also very concentrated, almost no fooling around or clowning and his guitar work was damn good ( in the eyes of a non-musician ;) ) Charlie…..Charlie is Charlie and I don't think it is necessary to repeat how well he is doing! So, would I go back to see this show again? Definitely yes! And I am pretty sure that all those who heared their first Clubgig that night will remember it for the rest of their life. (As I will!)
The show started with JJF, and the sound wasn't good. Keith was WAY too loud, the bass was booming all over the place, Jagger's voice was low, and Ronnie was completely absent. Things improved with LWM, and this was one of the best renditions I heard so far. It just really rocked. But, having seen the disaster at the Olympia and the top notch performance in Vredenburg, Hand of Fate got me a bit worried. Again, nobody really seem to know what to do. Keith messed up the bridges, Ronnie's solo was out of tune and it just never really went anywhere. For No Expectations Keith was too loud and Ronnie messy. The next couple of songs were, unfortunately to say, decent at best. To me, the band just never really seem to get in to it. The energy level was low, the crowd enticipation was low, Keith made lots of mistakes with chord changes, and it just didn't feel right to me. It felt a bit like the Stones were performing in a large stadium instead of a club (in their hometown!).
On to the introduction, because something clearly happened hear. Jagger went to Leavell, and started to really complain about something. Leavell "massaged" Jaggers back for a bit, and nodded in a somewhat fatherly way. Jagger then appeared to be a bit pissed, and from this point really started to rush. The entire band was announced in one minute (Lisa! Bernard! Charlie!) and he even forgot Chuck.
Nearness is a true beauty, BTMMR was messy, and when Jagger returned, he just wanted to go home. All songs were rushed by, all played too fast. Jagger hardly sang anymore, sometimes even lip-synching on Bernards voice. He clearly wanted to get over with it. We saw one song of the set being scratched out, and before we knew it, we were into the hot rocks section and the Stones were gone. No Mick Taylor. On our way out, we saw the song they ommited: Rock Me Baby.....My guess is that in Rock Me baby Jagger is on his own, and with HTW he can get help by Lisa and Bernard. Taylor left the Astoria after 30 minutes from the front exit, and left walking with some friends.
All in all, this show could have been a historical high light. But in reality it was a bit of a let down to me. It was a stadium show in a club, and unfortunately, Jagger lost his voice. But it really start to make me think. If the guitarist are unable to remember the chords of half the songs, and if the singer is not able to sing any longer than half an hour anymore, shouldn't you then stop........ well, they probably go on forever. And they should.
OK, back to yesterday. Mathijs and I picked up our tickets at 13.00 and we were very excited. This show had all the ingredients to make it a real legendary show: tough to get tickets, playing in London, Mick Taylor rumours etc. We entered the Astoria at 19.00 and we had the third row. Not too bad but we decided to change our place: 3 meters behind us the floor was higher, just in front of the mixer. A perfect overview, 6 meters from the stage. The show started at 21.45 with JJF. Really great to see the Stones again and everything looks very promising. We heard great versions of Live With Me, Hand Of Fate, No Expectations and Worried About You. Stones played really well and they really seemed to enjoying themselves. My expectations were real high and to be honest I expected a little bit more than the average set, but OK, I won't complain. I was also a little bit dissapointed about the audience; big difference with the Utrecht show is that the crowd in Holland went absolutely crazy.
Next song was Heartbreaker; real great and the horn section was absolutely brilliant (they really were the entire evening). Ain't Too Proud To Beg was also great to hear. During Everybody Needs Somebody Jagger sung several times "I'm so glad to be home'. Jagger was singing really great again with That's How Strong My Love Is. Keith' guitar was very loud (I don't mind) and this was very obvious during Going To A Go Go. Bobby did a great solo (longer than planned and longer than Kent Smith expected). After this song the 'problems' started. I've never seen Jagger doing the band introductions so fast: it took a minute or so, why? From our spot we also could see that they had changed the setlist but we didn't know what.
Keith songs were great and Keith didn't rush at all. Jagger did because when he was back on stage he immediately started Can't Turn You Loose when Keith still was behind his amps. So Keith had to play when he was still in the back and he was in front of the stage again when the song was in progress for at least 30 seconds! Jagger was rushing the rest of the show and he really had problems with his voice.
They left us with Satisfaction and when I saw the original setlist I could see that Rock Me Baby was on postion 15 but they played Honky Tonk Women instead. We all know that Rock Me Baby is often played with guest musicians and I think that during the show was decided to skip Mick Taylor probably because of Micks voice problem (Honky Tonk Women is easier than Rock Me Baby). Hope to know the real reason soon. Anyway, we saw a great show but our expectations were to high and probably due to Micks voice problems and due to to average club setlist it wasn't the the legendary show we expected but I'm glad I didn't miss it.
But let's start at the beginning. The Thrills were a really good opening act. Good music, good spirit and a good set with a nice mixture of slow and fast songs. It took the roadies an incredibly long time to prepare the stage for the Stones, God only knows what the problem was. But as the stage was ready the Stones rocked it and rock they did.
Jumping Jack Flash was KILLER, the sound, the roughness, the music, everything. Next up was Live With Me. Again, just perfect, incredible, better than ever before. Hand Of Fate ever SOOO good, only point of criticism here: Ronnie's guitar was not loud enough during the solo. No Expectations was also great, maybe Ronnie's guitar work could have been a bit better, but i imagine how hard it must be to play that song in a perfect way where nobody has anything bad to say about it. As mentioned above Worried About You was beyond everything I have ever experienced before. W O W Heartbreaker was breathtaking, Ronnie played the best solo ever there. Thanks man, you brought tears to my eyes. Ain't Too Proud To Beg was nailed perfectly. Since I am in a Stones cover band I know how hard it is to play that song and Ive seen the guys fuck it up a few times too but this time it was incredible. Gotta give it up to Chuck and Keith and also Charlie for that. THSMLI was, and I didn't think I would ever say that, just as good as the Roseland version. Mick obviously worked harder since a lot of his family and friends were at the gig (he did look up a lot to the VIP balcony).
Prior to the gig the big talk was about whether Mick Taylor would join them on stage or not. I was one of the people who said NO WAY but when I saw "Rock Me Baby" on the setlist I was sure he would and I was looking forward to it. Before Rock Me Baby was due Keith's guitar technician came up on stage and pointed at the setlist...the guys looked at each other and all of a sudden Keith started Honky Tonk Women. Nobody knows why it was dropped and why Taylor never came on stage but I was kinda disappointed after that. I'm not exactely his biggest fan but that would have been one historic moment. The setlist then changed into a stadium setlist but nevertheless the guys were still cooking, performance wise so good. I'm not sure about Satisfaction as an encore in a club, but whatever floats Mick's boat I guess.
Ok this was my 4th club gig (Roseland-Cirkus Krone-Cirkus Stockholm-Astoria) and probably also my last gig on this tour, if they don't tour again, my last gig ever, who knows. In any case, if this was indeed my last Stones show it's something I will always remember them by. An evening of pure joy and awesome music. Thank you so much guys, you made a grown man cry ;)
P.S. My rating: performance wise: Astoria - Cirkus Krone - Roseland - Cirkus Stockholm. setlist wise: Roseland - Cirkus Krone - and a tie between Cirkus Stockholm and Astoria
Thanks to Iris Nölle-Hornkamp and Joelle Bonnet for news links!
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It's Only Rock'n Roll 2003 -
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