It's Only Rock'n Roll
First off I kept asking myself is this even the same band? I have never heard Keith and Ronnie so dead on and tight. Never! The sloppy and sometimes crappy guitar playing that I complained about at various times over the past few tours was GONE. Get a bootleg of the show and listen for yourself. You will hear the band in top form.
How good was it? Even Tumbling Dice, Honky Tonk Women and Satifaction (three war horses that I have started to DREAD) sounded reinvigorated and rocked. I'm not kidding. Honky Tonk and Satisfaction in particular were upped in tempo and they really took off. And Just My Imagination, which is not my favorite cover, won me over and was among my favorite songs of the night.
What a wonderful surprise the whole evening was. The setlist was inspired and featured EIGHT (count 'em eight) songs that they didn't play at any of the 5 NY shows over the past year.
And let me, a big -- BIG -- Mick Taylor fan, give the man his due and sing the praises of Ronnie Wood. I LOVE his playing with the Faces, and I've always felt like he sold his soul when he joined the Stones (life security and stadium tours in return for clowning and taking a creative back seat), but last night he was so focused and great. From his pedal steel playing on Far Away Eyes, to his beautiful finger-picking and slide on You Got The Silver, to his unleashed and on fire solos on Tumbling Dice, Rough Justice and others, he really redeemed himself in my eyes.
And finally Keith....because I've loved and been inspired by his playing so much (I coped so much from him), I've really been very hard on him when he downright sucks. And he has had some very off nights, but last night wasn't one of them. And his guitar was mixed up very loud in the mix at times and it was like a religious experience having the chords and notes just ringing and growling away.
I don't know what happned to this band over the past few months -- soul searching, interventions, serious practicing, whatever. But they should do it more often. I think the change in ethic showed most glaringly in Keith's set, where he focused on singing the songs rather than playing and let the and kept the music tight. It was the first Keith set in 10 years that I didn't use as a bathroom break. :)
And don't think I've fotgotten about Mick and Charlie, they were brilliant. But over the past 10 years, I've found them to always really carry the show, and that Keith and Ronnie were always the question marks from show to show and song to song. So that's why I focused on them in this review.
All in all a great night. Get a copy of the show and hear for yourself. I'm sure it wasn't 100% perfect (and I've stated my issues with the band enough in the past), but for the Stones it was an amazing night I wish everyone could have enjoyed.
I cannot believe some people are writing them off -- including me at times. These boys can still kick major ass. God love 'em.
Far Away Eyes provided the most magic of the night. Before the song, Mick thanked Kanye West for the opening set. I was psyched to see Kanye West, but he disappointed with a sterile performance that had some cool stage moves, but unbelievably used cleaned up radio-style lyrics on his biggest hit. There were plenty early arrivals to see him, but his timid set complete with a tentative rant that suggested he had to win over the audience because they didn’t like rap was lame. When I saw Peter Tosh open for the Stones, he did not lament about people not understanding reggae. Mick’s Kanye West reference before Far Away Eyes made me think in terms of rap, and to a lazy country beat and Ron Wood’s pedal steel, Mick seemed to rap the lyrics of the song. Rather than the twangy accent of the studio version, Mick shouted the words like a preacher. “Bakersfield California, truckDRIVEer, Thank you Jesus!”, cast a religious feel over Giants stadium, with the refrain coming from all directions of the congregation.
The new song Streets of Love was excellent with Mick’s focused intent on making the song stand up in the company of rarities and classics. Mick’s vocals were every part a blues singer laying down his soul, so Otis Redding or Muddy Waters could not have done better. Anyone used to the studio version will be in awe of the way this song is played live.
Just My Imagination extended the Some Girls theme (though nicely unlike the Licks tour, album themes are not declared), with the horn section joining in a nicely complimentary way . Keith’s set was refreshing with Little T&A, and it was a tender moment when he said to the Meadowalnds, “It’s great to be back…you guys are always so cool.” I was oddly frightened by the version of You Got the Silver because Keith just sang the song, without a guitar. Ronnie Wood’s extraordinary acoustic work and Blondie Chaplin’s rhythm guitar made the song sound fine, but through all the times of the Stones and Expensive Winos, I had never seen Keith onstage without a guitar for an entire song. The strange sight uncomfortably reminded me of the only time I saw Willie Dixon live, when he just stood and sang without using an instrument to mesh with the band. I just think everyone would feel much better if Keith rang a few chords during You Got the Silver.
Under My Thumb was the perfect slinky replacement for Miss You as the song for traveling to the small stage. When Rough Justice followed, the crowd hooked into it as a familiar song, maybe from the Superbowl or other shows so that it was clear a year old song was as welcome as a forty year old song The night finished with an encore of Brown Sugar, where Mick ran all the way down to the small stage, leading the crowd in Yeah Yeah Yeah Wooooo!!!, and later running right to left the entire length of the main stage. Any other singer of any other age could not have conveyed this degree of energy. The band and the people of New York and New Jersey clearly appreciated Mick’s effort. It was a fitting conclusion to an evening that proved to be like a homecoming for a band and a crowd that are still very much in love with each other.
I'm not sure if the introductory video broke down or if it has been cut short due to the change in the sets, but once the band hit the stage to IORR, everything was off and running. The other accounts have it about right, the set was outstanding. I was glad to finally hear "Sway" on this tour, and "Far Away Eyes" was a hoot, the first time I've heard it since '78. Keith looked as awkward without a guitar during "You Got the Silver" as Mick used to look WITH one, but the song was outstanding. For once, I didn't see people sitting down during this part of the show. We were ringside for the B-stage set, which was interesting, featuring "Start Me UP', an onstage stalwart.
I can't believe that my daughter and I were the only ones who spotted U2's the Edge standing backstage just behind Charlie for the last couple of numbers, and the fact that he didn't join them on the encore was the only slight disappointment to an outstanding show.
Expecting the usually swaggering and smiling Keith leading the charge with riffs of an opening number, I was surprised by his intro on "It's Only Rock 'n Roll" coming from the dark stage, and as the spotlight fell on him, there he was in firing position, with serious rock 'n roll face which was very cool and exhilarating! As Ronnie's guitar joined the weave, it was a sweet sound that was to drive the performance throughout the night! High energy and out front in the mix, enough can't be said about the "in your face" show Keith and Ronnie put on! Let me add that Mick was superb as were Charley Darryl and Chuck, the triple anchor of the group!
The opener was such a rockin' version and the trend continued with and old live favorite of mine from Ya Ya's, "Live With Me" and to Angie's delight, "Monkey Man" and "Sway" with Keith staying with the fat sound of the semi hollow Gibson and Ronnie on a variety of guitars playing straight and slide.
Then came the jewels of the evening in my opinion, a 3 punch combo that saw Keith start to bring out the Tele's and acoustics and Ronnie sit at the pedal steel beginning with "Far Away Eyes" a real treat! It was just awesome to enjoy Mick's true greatness as he came out of delightful country character into the high point of the evening for me, a bleeding heart emotional delivery of "Streets of love," accompanied by a luscious blend of guitar work and the always incredible playing of Chuck Leavell on piano.
They nailed the third punch with "Just My Imagination" and really rocked it out with Mick sounding great surrounded by Blondie Chaplin, Lisa Fischer, Bernard Fowler, and Chuck on backing vocals!
While we're still on the high from the refreshing set list change from their last area visit the band came out next with rousing versions of "Midnight Rambler" and "Tumbling Dice," the later, jamming on while Mick sprinted out the cat walk to the center of the stadium.
After the introductions, Keith was his usual charming self and delivered a very poignant "You Got the Silver" with Ronnie on delicious acoustic slide, followed by a great smokin' version of "Little T&A"
"Under My Thumb" was a nice choice for the ride out to the "B" stage and "Rough Justice" seemed now to be enjoyed as an old standard."Start Me Up" was a nice surprise while out there and the group had a ball, rewarding the crowd by throwing guitar picks out a plenty! Chuck was like a little kid, tossing them from a stash he had stop his keyboard!
"Honky Tonk Women" took us back to the main stage and through a line-up of mainstays Sympathy For The Devil," "Jumping Jack Flash," "Satisfaction" and encore, "Brown Sugar" with a very exciting solo from Bobby Keys on sax. JJF was particularly rich in guitar with Blondie chipping in on gold top Les Paul.
Yes, a very memorable night for me and Angie! No, they didn't play "Angie" this night, but it was still a very special Rolling Stones show, I think the best we ever saw ......... until the next one!
The Stones certainly are exemplary in making it known that they are artists of the first order whose performances blend past and future into an event that is not only about music. It is about constant renewal without selling out musical integrity. The creativity flowed even with numbers that are so often played such as "Satisfaction." I didn't even realize Keith was about to launch into it until after about twelve seconds of caressing the guitar with a pick that seemed to be made of the smoothest plastic around. The guitar he used had a muffled sound interspersed with a mysteriously far away clarity that eventually lit up with the theme that remained distant but not nostalgic.
The "tender rhapsody" lyric in "Just My Imagination" was delivered with the same eloquence as Olivier in Hamlet or Paul Robeson in Othello. I was hoping they would do "Love Train" but paying tribute to the Temptations was as poignant as it was entertaining. Nobody knows how to blend R and B or soul with rock and roll like the Stones.
"Monkey Man" reminded us of how Richards and Wood know exactly when to overlap with each other so that rhythm can become lead and lead can become rhythm. Yes, ladies and gentleman...it is possible when two grandmasters are inspired. "Under my Thumb" complemented the set beautifully and was a perfect transition to go to the B stage but not an afterthought. It is a song of dominance and the politics of love to attain romantic entanglements and then some. "Far Away Eyes" made me finally laugh at the travails of unrequited love and the self-proclaimed concern over age dissipated and vanished by the time the ending fireworks exploded while a sense of initiative at looking forward to my next decade imploded in me in the most cathartic of manners. All because of Mick and company.
Huge Shidoobee taligate party....thanks to all who did the work. My friend Jessica and I, along with my friend Kevin and his buddy Chris worked the parking lot and box office for tickets... Jessica and I finally nabbed a great pair at 8:45 from the box office. Section 132 Row Z...the front row "club seating"... a great spot, just off the left side of the stage eye-level to the band.
The opening fireworks and video montage came off, and then there was a long pause...guitars seemed to be not on. Finally Keith started ripping into IORR, and we were off . It was loud and clear right from the start...I think our location was perfect. Keith and Charlie were very loud. Keith was into Chuck Berry mode all night. Live with Me had a nice hard groove. Mick greeted the crowd after the song and commented on the 6th NYC show in a year. "We have to stop meeting like this" Monkey Man was great as always... I was already spolied having been in Boston last week. After the song, Mick said what a beautiful night it was..."a great Indian summer" Sway was next...Ronnie was on fire. Keith hovered over him like the approving father. Then Keith shared his cigarette with Ronnie, and a laugh. I have to say, our angle made the visuals of this show so great. We were on even height with the stage, no one in front of us. The huge stage set hung over us like a monster, but we had a great full view of everything. And whenever Mick or Keith came out front, the smoke and fog and lighting made them look like true legends , framed with the other side of the stadium and the crowd in the distance.
What we got next was a real treat. Mick said "I heard that NYC loves country music...well, that's what I've heard... So here we go...this is Far Away Eyes". Just brilliant. Ronnie's pedal steel. Mick's singing was so good, he was smiling and really getting into it. Keith on backing vocals. And Mick's super rapid fire delivery of the long verse. Way cool. Streets of Love is pretty damn good live. Mick again was in great voice and was doing his facial and hand gestures, really giving great effort. He hit some real long notes. You could tell the whole band was having fun throughtout the show.
Then, another first for me...Just My Imagination. awesome groove, great slinky horns. the guitar solo was super. and Mick sang "she's doesn't fucking know me!" nice. Midnight Rambler...my standard favorite. 10+ minutes of pure musical bliss. Mick's harp was super. He did some real long waaaaaaahhhhh notes to start. Mick was out on the front steps and crouched low and sang lower to the crowd "everybody say oh yehh"...real real low. Keith eventually went to his knees for a godd two minutes to wail out his great riffs during the rev up. For Tumbling Dice we saw Martin Scorcese walk by on the floor down in front of us. Can't wait to see how he films the band. Keith sat on the stairs near the left wing during the song...pretty funny. so relaxed.
When Keith took over for his songs, he did not have much to say, seemed drunk or out of it. But he was not out of it. He gave heartfelt performances on You Got the Silver and Little T&A. On T&A he was all over on the vocal ad libs.... the rhythm un-huhs...with the drums. This song has a great groove with the horns. I really like it this way live.
Under My Thumb returned as the b-stage transport song. Guitars were real good. and the visual for us was awesome as the stage floated to the back. Once they got there, Rough Justice was sharp, loud and raw, but still tight. Start Me Up had a ton of energy. Honly Tonk was also very loud and clear...Keith was driving. Charlie was booming all night.
Back to the front and Sympathy had all the fire and flashpot excitement. Keith was late on his solo but then ripped it once he got going. Mick had a big smile and laugh with Ron later in the song. Lots of smiles all night from the whole band. Jumping Jack Flash was back on the main stage, where it really explodes...literally. The front edge of the stage had the big pyro bursts to start the song. Loud and powerful,,,high high energy. Mick got crazy right in front of Keith. They knew there were in the zone with this show. I missed that Keith did not do much of his famous leg and arm kicks and jabs. But it was because he was so focused on jamming. On JJF, he was blistering. The song ended with those long growling notes from Keith.... it is so poweful. Satisfaction began with an even deeper, heavier riff than in Boston...It was like a heavy engine. Keith got real nasty on this one. He did not go out to the stage wings, he stayed in the center and just cranked out the guitar greatness. He nailed his solo dead on time, which is really striking. And he just went on and on and on and on. His end solo featured a little hop and that open mouthed enthusiasm he likes to show when he's really on the prowl. Charlie and the horns put a little twist of swing into the very finish. Charlie was as loud as I think I've ever heard him. I think where your seats are can have a huge difference. But I think most would agree it was a loud show start to finish.
Brown Sugar for the encore was as long as I've heard them go. Mick was all over the place....running to the very back of the stadium. Keith stayed in the center again and just really pounded it all out. He eventually did a nice walking rhythm riff....
So much electricity and fun in this show..I like late starts in New York...this one was underway at 9:45 and went two full hours again. .Charlie was beaming and laughing at the final bow, pointing to peole in the crowd and laughing with Ron and Keith. The powerful vision of the band was huge. The big long riboons that hang all over the stage at the very end...the big fireworks finish . Keith in that black trench coat, looking so ominous...Mick out on the catwalk....alone and with every eye on him. .They all looked like true rock icons...and sounded that way too. See ya at Churchill Downs.... bring on more country and soul !!!!
Following the opening of It's Only Rock and Roll, the patron to my left (a retired labor lawyer 61 years of age) commented that after seeing 20 or so shows, "Keith is on tonight". We agreed and knew we were off to a great start. Much to our delight, they pulled out some old favorites and material that we had not heard in concert for years. In 1969 (my 2 brothers and I) attended our first show in the Garden. Mick referred to it as the "breakfast show" since it was the first of 2 performances for that Friday after Thanksgiving. We sat in the upper deck, side stage (tickets were $3.50 each) and heard Live With Me as well as many other gems performed tonight. It was great to hear it (and the rest) again.
Dusting off Far Away Eyes seemed to excite the crowd, and Just My Imagination was a welcome surprise. Although the Meadowlands and Philadelphia are no match for the bucolic splendor of Hershey, Pa., the changes in the set list were certainly embraced. A few notes Keith missed in Sympathy can certainly be overlooked when you consider his otherwise fantastic performance, the superlative effort by Ronnie (we are on a first name basis) and the always steady playing Charlie and the rest of the supporting cast.
Replacing You Can't Always Get What You Want was a plus. The show rocked right through the end with standards and classics we have loved and expected to hear live for the last 30+ years. No disappointment there. Glad Keith did You Got the Silver and Little T & A. Maybe for 2009-2010 tour he will bring out his signature tune Happy, and maybe You Don't Have To Mean It (he did it in Philly some years back). The video highlight of the night was showing the fan holding up the palm tree with the red circle around it and line through the center! Good work by the camera crew to find it!
Regretfully, of our 3 families and 6 kids, only 3 are Stones fans. (Where did I go wrong?) Overall, the 2 kids that were able to attend (ages 14 and 24) gave the show an A+ rating for set list, performance and overall atmosphere. They call Bruce Springsteen "the Boss" because he doesn't play in the "World's Greatest Rock and Roll Band". Too bad for him.
THE WEATHER: It was cool out and I was glad I wore a light jacket. Cloudy but no rain. THE SEATS: They were good seats...sec. 117... but there was a sound tower in our way!!! It blocked our view of center stage (but not the sides) & the BIG SCREEN above the stage... and the sound was sort of muffled. After one or two songs we moved over one section (away from the tower) and the sound & sightlines improved significantly. The stadium looked sold out. The crowd was sort of tame overall but lots of parents with their kids (11 and up) and grandparents too! (No tit flashing from the chicks during Honkey Tonk Women.) I guess that is OK since it was a family crowd but I miss the bikers, druggies, weirdos, etc you only see at Stones concerts.
There was a rumor in the parking lot that Eric Clapton was gonna do a guest spot but no luck. (He was playing MSG the next night.) The Edge from U2 was spotted sitting on the side of the stage but he did not come out to play with them.
The setlist speaks for itself. The first half of the show it was "setlist heaven". I thought it was a ballsy setlist. The crowd was not to into it until they played Midnight Rambler. It was like they played a setlist too "hip" for the crowd....I was really excited by what they played for the first half of the show but like I said, the crowd was unresponsive until they played Midnight Rambler & Tumbling Dice...then the crowd woke up...everyone was excited. Then band intros....then the Keith segment with his 2 songs....NOW I MUST SAY I AM A KEITH MAN MYSELF....but he sang his two songs without his guitar. He looked uncomfortable and it came off like "Keith Richard's karaoke". It was not his best moment and I have seen the Stones 4 times before ('89, '97, '99, '03) and his segment was always a highlight...but not this night....and he played two very good/rare songs...I have no idea why he did not play his guitar. The roadie was standing nearby with a guitar but he never reached for it. A small complaint. A bad "Keith night" is far better than most. After Keith, they played a short set on the B stage in the back of the stadium....that was cool....and my "towards the back" seats were RIGHT ON. I could have thrown a bottle at 'em. After that, the Stones were on "autopilot" for the rest of the show....playing a slew of hits back to back that got the crowd excited. The encore was very well played and was not "autopilot". I enjoyed the fireworks and it is really a nice touch and the only fitting way to end a stadium show of this grand scale.
On the ride home, I stopped at an empty rest stop for a piss & a burger and it was full of fellow Stones fans heading back to Philly. I got home very late. The next day at work was a little rough but I smiled through it. When I got home from work I got a call from a friend offering me a ticket for a band called "Tool". I told 'em my story and declined:"I saw the f***ing Stones last night at Giants stadium and I'm pretty beat!"
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