It's Only Rock'n Roll
Rolling Stones 9:05pm - 10:55pm
After four shows filled with shocks and surprises, it was perhaps inevitable that the Stones would take it easy at some stage. I just wasn’t expecting it to be in Chicago, where they sped through songs such as “Rain Fall Down” at a dizzying pace during their one hour, fifty minute show.
On the other hand, just 11 songs from last year’s gig at “Soldiers Field” – as Mick stated – were resurrected at the United Center. “New” songs like “Gimme Shelter” and a breathless version of “As Tears Go By” certainly thrilled the fans, though it’s the oldies like “Honky Tonk Women” and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” that bring the house down.
Mick barely spoke during the gig. No sooner had he asked, after “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” if any fans had seen them in town last year, than Keith cut him off with the opening licks for “It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll.” Mick seemed a little surprised, and we got an extended intro while Mick tried to find his place in the song, covering himself with some “oh yeahs.”
It’s a pity that the Stones have decided not to dig deeper into their almost-forgotten new album. We can only hope that Wednesday finds the band in a more relaxed, adventurous mood with regard to their back catalog.
P.S. the concert came on the same day that tour sponsor Ameriquest, one of the largest mortgage lenders to people with poor credit, agreed to pay $325 million to settle claims of abusive lending practices. An investigation found that salespeople at the company concealed interest rate and loan costs during the loan process, pressured appraisers to inflate the values of borrowers' homes, and engaged in other high-pressure tactics to close deals, according to a statement from New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer's office.
We went to Chicago on Saturday after the ultimate Stones show at MSG in New York City on Friday night. As we had tickets to see
Buddy Guy playing at his own Legends Bar that evening, we went there a few hours after arrival. Buddy is an amazing guitarist,
singer and songwriter that has to be seen at least once. Being able to see him in his own smoky Chicago bar is icing on the
cake. No Stones made an appearance, which is what I had expected, but that took nothing away from the memory of the experience.
The United Center on Monday night was revved up for the Stones show. There were all ages represented and we commented on how many young people were in attendance. Antigone Rising, the 5-female member support group, were also very young. They played a lively and interesting set which was fairly well received. They commented on how proud they were to be opening for the Stones.
Jumping Jack Flash kicked off the show just before 9:10 PM. It was followed quickly by Let's Spend the Night Together and It's Only Rock & Roll before we had much of a chance to breathe. Everyone around me was really getting into the show and enjoying themselves. I was seated in the 3rd row on Ronnie's side and as usual, I believe it is the best place to be. Ronnie never goes over to Keith's side of the stage, but Keith visits both sides nearly equally as does Mick.
A Bigger Bang made its first appearance tonight when Oh No Not You Again was up next. The searing solo by Keith is this one really tears the house down. As soon as it was over the roadies started to bring out a stool. I immediately knew that this was the night for As Tears Go By. It was! What a classy performance of this song. Mick sings his heart out when they do it, and you wonder how much he is remembering about their early history as he sings it. The guitars have a perfect interplay between them, and the crowd absolutely loved it.
We then got another surprise when All Down the Line came next. Ronnie's slide solo in this song nearly sliced right into my brain, it was so fast and loud. It was also perfectly in tune with the original version on Exile. There was a huge roar of appreciation when it was over.
Two top classics then followed. Tumbling Dice and Gimme Shelter form a beautiful pair of songs just before the introductions and Keith's spot in the limelight. Tumbling Dice really rips and gets everyone on their feet, clapping their hands and yelling out the words. Then before we had a chance to catch our breath, Gimme Shelter was began by Keith. Lisa is looking particularly good these days and she had on a very short skirt and a pink bra peaking out from under her black top. When she began her vocal highlight, she grabbed us and never let go. It took a duet with Mick and then the seemingly never ending run out to the end of the song by Keith and Ronnie to take the spotlight back from her, as she simply does her part so splendidly.
Keith's two song set was really well done tonight. This Place is Empty appears to be getting better every night it is played. We remarked after the show how the horns are really fitting well into the song, and Ronnie does a great job backing him up too. As usual, Keith always appears to be surprised when he gets a nice reception and his down-to-earth salute to the audience was returned by all there.
The four-song set on the B-Stage was again highlighted tonight by the inclusion of Start Me Up in the second spot usually reserved for Rough Justice. However, Start Me Up just goes so well on the small stage and Ronnie's attack on the guitar solo was really well done and insistent. It would be a great one to get a bootleg of for sure!
After the return to the main stage, Sympathy was followed by probably the best received song of the night, Paint it Black. The band is really doing it well and after the hundreds of times that they must have played it, is is so comforting to see they can still put such energy and emotion into such a song for us to enjoy.
The encore tonight was highlighted by Ronnie's solo in You Can't Always Get What You Want. It was an excellent rendition and brought back good memories of Love You Live's version in 1977. The singing by Lisa was also great on it and Mick got a great reaction from the crowd on our parts of the song.
The final number as usual was Satisfaction. No surprises but simply a crackerjack version.
The energy level was very high throughout the show tonight. Not as high as MSG on Friday, but then again, I don't think that show will be equalled for sometime. The show was also quite short tonight. Even though 20 songs were played, there were not any especially lengthy versions and no Midnight Rambler. Therefore, the show clocked in at approximately one hour and 50 minutes. I didn't hear any complaints however, as I think everyone had yelled themselves silly and didn't have much energy left.
The Chicago Tribune reported earlier today that there was supposed to be a camera crew in attendance doing some video taping. I didn't spot them, but that doesn't mean they were not there. There were mikes on the both sides of the stage pointed at the audience, but I also saw the same setup in New York City.
I really enjoyed the show tonight, and on the basis of what I saw, would have to say the past three shows have been a highlight of my Stones-watching career. It was well worth the expense and time to come to the US and see the band in mid-tour form, firing on all cylinders. They have 49 shows under their belt now, but they still have over 70 more to go. They certainly have not allowed any weariness to set in. Hopefully, their energy level will stay with them for sometime to come. The next time that I see them will not be until Brussels on 1 June. What will I ever do for the next 4 months?
Keith didn’t take any harmony vocals. His voice on his solos was particularly ragged. On the other hand, he looked – dare I say it – healthy, was having a great time, had plenty of energy, and was playing very well.
Ron also looked very healthy, and played very well. Unfortunately, he was given less of an opportunity to shine than on the Licks tour. He played some very nice leads, and his slide guitar work was excellent.
Charlie is still the man. He refused to say anything at the introduction, though, and looked a little weary. His drum playing was powerful and remarkable.
The show was particularly loaded towards the old songs; just about nothing from the past 20 years except the 3 from the new album. I missed Rough Justice. Not enough setlist variation, especially for an arena show that’s a repeat visit to a town.
Thoughts on some of the songs:
JJF - great intro. I was immediately drawn into the emotion of the show. The song was taut when played as an intro.
ONNYA - forgettable in concert. Reminded me of "Don’t Stop" and other songs from the last 20 years that haven’t stuck. (Sorry they didn’t play Love Is Strong again. And what do they have against Mixed Emotions?)
As Tears Go By – Wonderful song, great guitar work, loved Keith’s 12-string, but Mick’s vocal strain was showing.
Rain Fall Down - Very strong.
All Down the Line. Nice surprise, but kind of tossed off. I’ve seen it played better.
Gimme Shelter. Strong, but I would have preferred a cover or two in this slot.
This Place Is Empty. The singing was terrible, but I liked the song.
Happy - less ragged than the last United Center concert, but, again, Keith could have picked something else.
Miss You. I think this song is tired. At least they played an abbreviated version. Going out to the small stage picked up the band’s energy level, however, and the rest of the concert was several notches higher.
Start Me Up – worked great on the small stage. More power than ususal.
Get Off My Cloud. Worked fine, but they’ve often played a Chicago blues song in this slot in the past. Don’t you think the Stones should be required to play a Chess records tune when in Chicago?
Honky Tonk Women. Much to my surprise, played wonderfully. On the big stage, this song gets over-inflated. On the small stage, it was tight and had its power back.
Sympathy for the Devil was the surprise of the night. Nailed it. Played with conviction and fire.
Paint it Black. Absolutely smoked it. I’ve heard it played prettier, but the band was smoking. Charlie was spectacular.
Brown Sugar. Another one that’s kind of dragged in the past few tours. They played it at a very fast tempo, and it was a bit bumpy at the start.
UCAGWYW had the abbreviated intro. It was fine, but not memorable.
Satisfaction. A strong, but not spectacular version. Mick did weave Mustang Sally into the mix.
Despite the bumps, I was thrilled to see them again. I sure hope this wasn’t the last time.
Even though I'd rather the opener be SMU or IORR to get it out of the way, when they open with JJF, as they did again last night, it seems to give them more momentum going into the next couple of songs. But it does make for a more concise and to the point JJF without the over production toward the end, and that helps too.
Let's Spend The Night Together was solid, even if there's too much piano. Interesting that Keith does not sing any back-up on it this tour (at least not this show), and that Lisa and Bernard were not on stage while backing up.
Mick was starting to do his chatter about being back in Chicago, but Keith, unfortunately, wouldn't hear of it. Mick got to his "It's good to be back in Chicago! A lot has happened since we played at Soldier Field...." and suddenly Keith started IORR, and that was that. Guess we have to wait for Wednesday night for Mick to mention the World Champion White Sox.....
When getting ready for the 5th spot, out came the stool and acoustic guitar for Keith, so I knew right there we were getting ATGB. It was very well received by the crowd, and turned into (another) one of those Stones concerts moments that totally justifies all of the things we do to have them. Mick and Keith, especially, were totally into it. The focus was there. It was not just another song at another show. No way! They continue to improve it from the earlier versions I've heard, even rocking it a bit for the chorus and toward the end. Best way I can describe that is that it was done in a style similar to how Ruby Tuesday was done for most of the Steel Wheels tour.
Rain Fall Down continues to shine, and has become my favorite live song from ABB. They seemed to enjoy doing it a lot more than ONNYA.
Getting All Down The Line is always a great surprise, and this was the tightest version of the 3 I have seen this tour, the best so far, even if the horn section part at the end was starting to be a bit much. So it wasn't a debut of something they haven't done this tour, but ADTL, followed by TD, made for back-to-back Exile songs, so no complaints from here whatsover!
Dice also found Mick doing his falsetto during the ending part, which he also did, and quite strongly, later on Sympathy. In fact, SFTD had him doing his falsetto "tell me baaaaaaaa-beeeeeeeeeeee" while doing the spaz dance.
Next was my first Gimme Shelter of the tour, and Lisa cooked as usual. This was more the bluesy version, and it stayed that way. Mick seemed to lead the way to keep the band from speeding up to the more traditional style, and it totally worked.
The Keith set was my first time seeing the 'different' songs. This Place Is Empty does suit Keith's vocal style these days.
No set surprises the rest of the way, but a great version of Get Off Of My Cloud, which is totally coming together. To the best of my knowledge, that's only the 3rd time GOOMC has ever been played in Chicago, and that's if you count the "medley" with If You Can't Rock Me from the '75 show at Chicago Stadium.
On SMU, which turned up on the b-stage (I'm sure to the major disappointment of the high rollers who spent up the you-know-what to be there.), Ronnie did, as best I can describe it, a "train" solo for a guitar solo. He did a fast loud strumming making it sound like a fast moving train, in 2 different keys for the instrumental break, while Mick kind of stood and watched as if to give the stage to Ronnie. Interesting twist on a tired song which brought some needed life.
As a couple of other observations, one is that the favorite color was cherry red. Mick wore red for a few songs, Keith had a reddish jacket early in the show, Ronnie had red in his shirt toward the end, and Charlie wore a bright red t-shirt the entire night. And I rarely notice that stuff, but I did last night.
I also noticed that Mick did not run last night. He walked at a brisk pace a few times, but he did not do his across the stage run and he even walked back to the stage the couple of times he came out on the middle ramp.
But overall, this show was one great run!
As the stones busted through JJF the whole first two levels started to jam and move their feet. During the show I really like the early images of the band that were shown on the bands display. That reminds all of us to stay young while growing old, especially when you are tackling the years like the Stones. Again we were reminded of this as Mick picked on Charlie during intros saying "Say a few words Charlie" - he did with his drumsticks as Keith was being introduced.
I am writing this on the bus going down lake shore drive and smiling at all the stopped commuters as I know that in another 13 hours (8.26am right now) Mick, Ronnie, Charlie, Keith and their band will be rockin my shoes again - You Got Me Rockin ?
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The reviews will show up here soon! Thanks!
Thanks to Jim Pietryga for the great photos.
Also thanks to Gary Gallmyer for photo of Ronnie&Mick Jan 25.
Thanks to B. Miller, Axel Schumacher, B. Miller and Arcadio J Ramirez for news links!