It's Only Rock'n Roll
In their first visit to Kentucky since 1989, the Rolling Stones became the first rock band to play the hallowed racing turf of Churchill Downs – and hopefully the last. The place is just not set up to host rock concerts. The paucity of entrances to various parts of the venue made the lines everywhere unbearable. The cigar-chomping cops made matters worse by actually closing off some gateways after the show.
The stage was planted in the middle of the track, uncomfortably close to the grandstand, which seemed to stretch for miles. There is no way the people in the wings would have been able to see anything on stage. Thoughtfully, the organizers posted three additional large video screens along the length of the field. But many fans are probably thinking they should have stayed home.
And then there was the weather. The forecasts made no mention of rain. But the heavens opened during Alice Cooper’s set and didn’t let up until Keith’s turn in the spotlight. It wasn’t as miserable as Halifax, and Mick ditched his hat during a brief lull. Everyone was in fine spirits. Mick noted the “sacred hedge” that separated the stage from the audience, and later thanked us for putting up with the “shitty weather.” During the intros, he referred to Charlie as “dry but not high.” Keith said, “I don’t give a damn about the weather. I take it as it comes.” But he noted the awkward angle of the stage to the grandstand.
It dawned on me that the star of “You Got the Silver” is not Keith, but Ronnie – ably keeping the whole thing together playing bottleneck acoustic guitar. For his part, Keith finally put some effort into the opening riff of “Satisfaction.”
As expected, they played “Dead Flowers” and got a big cheer during the “Kentucky Derby Day” line, which of course drowned out the solemn line that follows about the “needle and a spoon.” It would have been more punk if the Stones had played every song on “Sticky Fingers” EXCEPT for “Dead Flowers.”
|The Stones hit Churchill Downs and ran like no other thoroughbreds have ever run on this hallowed track ! The beer was flowing , mixed drinks were poured and the sweet pungent smell of grass was wafting in the air all the while fans were screaming , singing with all their heart . Mick and Charlie gave the crowd as much as we wanted to give them , When Mick played acoustic on Dead Flowers -- it was surreal ! Charlie was right on target the entire night -- and the boys certainly fed off the delirious enthusiasm the crowd was generating Mick Charlie Keith and Ronnie played as if they didn't want to stop ! Yes there will never be another concert at Churchill Downs -- Why ? It could never match the intensity of this one and only -- truly lifetime event . I have seen the Stones in the 70's , 80's ( LA Coliseum shows ) 90's and now in 2006 Here is some advice-- see them now !! Why ? It is called entertainment -- like no other you will ever experience . Mick Keith and Charlie -- thanks for being around during my lifetime.|
We made our way into the Downs at 5:30. We hung out in the concourse..some real lovely ladies all about. Nice. Very congested to get out onto the track...The grandstand concourse was mobbed. We sat in the 5th row, turf track, Ronnie's side. (Thank You Spires club presale..haha) Nice and close. The stage set looked even bigger than normal. It was sitting higher than usual. And it dwarfed the Downs grandstand. We caught a little bit of Alice Cooper and headed for cover as the showers began !! Our beautiful weather was disappearing !! When we got back to our seats at 8:15 the rain was becoming more steady....
At 8:55, the lights went down and we were getting underway. A bit of a shakeup...Jumping Jack Flash was back in the opening slot. Bang....right in our faces....bright lights and JJF. Mick was wearing a hat and long coat, Keith sported the hat he debuted in the UK. The sound was a bit low at first but came up nicely. The crowd was now able to cope with the rain as the Stones energized the track. It's Only Rock n Roll was next. It was already looking like a warhorse set, but who cares....The song was hot and Keith was jamming. Mick greeted us all after the song, our "first time in Louisville since 1989". And they went into Oh No Not You Again. For me it was nice to hear, since it was missing in Boston and New Jersey. Keith tried to make Charlie crack up but CW was having none of it. He kept avoiding eye contact with Keith as a big grin covered his face. Love the moments like that. Let's Spend the Night Together was solid and featured a nice driving riff late by Keith. A nice little twist. Mick mentioned how great it was to be "playing the first gig here". It was historic. Mick introduced the next one as a little country music for Kentucky. Dead Flowers...a must at the Downs. Played a little faster than usual. Great moment, "making bets on Kentucky Derby day"....huge cheer. I had to think, at that moment, Mick had to be smiling inside...after all these years, playing in the famous venue named in the lyric. You know you're a legend !!! Ronnie's solo was pretty sweet, and he was wearing those nice moon boots. Streets of Love ..I'll say it again, it's a good song live...especially the last two minutes when the band is jamming.
Then, a trademark moment...12 minutes of greatness and ass kicking work...Midnight Rambler...in a driving rain. The visuals along with the sounds were amazing. There are some great photos of Mick from Steel Wheels, playing live in the rain. This was one of those moments. Through my binoculars, I could see the water sloshing off his feet, drops flying from the mic stand....his hat getting pelted. The rain did not stop this song or shorten it. It intensified it. It got darker, more bluesy, more powerful. The slow jam was slower, deeper, lower. Watching Mick take to the front catwalk edge and steer the crowd....with dark skies in the distance. wow. He went lower than ever.... with the "oh yeaahhs"..... so low , you could barely hear him say "yeah"... then it was "Muddy Waters said oh yeah...". How cool is that? Then when the song took off for the finale, he danced wildly across the slippery stage, as Keith, Ron and Charlie...and Darryl cranked away. it finally wrapped up in blazing fashion..."yes it hurts", Jagger called out into the rainy darkness.
Before Tumbling Dice could begin, Mick thanked us again for "putting up with this shitty weather". Dice got the crowd singing and swaying..and ro-ro-rollin. Keith did his run to the left wing, in front of us....and then as he went back to the main stage, did a slide across the wet floor...like a little kid, in front of Chuck and the backups singers...seeking approval.
When Keith took over for his songs, he greeted us all and in that nonchalant way said, " I don't give a damn about the weather. Ya take it as it comes. great to see you all...all those way down at the end, it's a weird angle we got here. (the grandstand seats stretched way off into the distance hundreds of yards from the stage and back pretty far as well) Then Keith turned to the onstage boxes, "how's everybody in the heavens?" He's always got a way with words. And wouldn't ya know it...The rain disappeared...for the rest of the night. You Got The Silver was soulful and sweet. Keith dropped to his knees on the wet stage floor at the end. Little T&A was quite ragged by everyone...but who cares...I'll take ragged T&A any day...I keep reminding the naysayers, it's the song we've been begging for from Keith.
We made our way to the back and got fairly close to the b-stage, about 25 yards to the left. Again, a great visual point. We could see a cool perspective of it all and the binoculars as always were great. Miss You returned and then Rough Justice was tight and loud, Start Me Up was energetic. Smiles were everywhere with the band..The fun was in effect. Honky Tonk brought them back up front and we boogeyed our way back to the front too. The place was rocking. Sympathy was fiery and had the crowd transfixed. Again, some powerful visuals with smoke, misty fog and red everywhere..and rock legends outlined against the Downs backdrop. Paint it Black was also a crowd pleaser and very wiry and hot. Brown Sugar began with a blast of pyro up front, and featured long jams all around. Much like at East Rutherford, Keith stayed center and wailed away.
A double encore tonight, You Can't always Get What You Want was solid and then soared as Mick hit some screeching good notes around the Chelsea drugstore verse. and Ronnie kicked in a controlled solo that raced and took flight with great results. The show closed with Satisfaction, again, a chugging powehouse driven by Mick's super energy and Keith's effortless play. Just like at Giants, Keith hit his solo on time, and on this night he did it in a fast pace I've not seen before. They really do put little twists on the old songs each time out. Mick ran out to the b-stage and I took some photos of him framed with the grandstand behind him and then the famous Churchill spires as he raced back up front. Keith was off to the right wing and as he came back he did a little hop and strut...for a quick second or two it was Keith's version of the Angus Young strut...You had to see it to know what I mean. The final swing flourish by Charlie and the horns also grabbed Keith, who added some final riffs.
A blur of two hours in rain and non-rain. Lots of hats for everyone, even Tim Ries donned a fedora. Big smiles and huge waves from Charlie on the final bow. Mick and Keith were arm in arm. A memorable night to be sure. Chalk up another landmark moment for the Stones. No big fireworks, but we didn't need them , the once in a lifetime feel of this show provided all the blasts we needed. And no amount of rain could extinguish that spirit. It was my first, and maybe last rain show...It was special, especially during Rambler.
Then to encounter the bottleneck option to herd us fans into non-grandstand sections annoyed me. And though this was my 31st concert, with the continual rain, cool night and little protection the thought of perhaps leaving early - completely uncharaterstic of me, especially for a stones concert - even journeyed through my mind.
But the lights went out and here comes intro sounds indicating ok here we go. Unfortunately RIGHT as Keith begins a fan is late getting to seat and gives me a firm excuse me, so i turn aside and him thru and miss the fricking open chord of thrill of seeing Keith play it. dangit, small thing but still annoyed me. So not the best start but alas the boys, as usual, soon got me in the mood to just loosen up, enjoy the moment (the night) regardless of circumstances. Aptly JJ Flash kicked the night off. Mick greeted the crowd, hey/how are you (or similar) Louisville hey/how are you doing tonight Kentucky and apologized for the weather.
A little while later the rain ceased and Mick, if i recall correctly noted that, hopefully the rain's stopped.
Weather and all I thought the acoustics were incredible. I could clearly hear the Mick and instruments, unlike some of the arena concerts i've attended. It was amazing how clear the sound was. Mick was outstanding as always and the band, as they've continually demonstrated prowess at, turned a recorded version of a song into a delightfully different creature in concert with "Streets of Love". I don't dislike the song but it's not a favorite, but the boys extended it into a slow ballad into a genuine concert gem that really seemed to please the crowd. I'm sometimes concerned with how audiences will respond to "new" selections (even though i could listen to whole album of new stuff, i figure the typical concert-goer will just wanna hear the bread and butter stuff.) So i was warmed by the crowd's response to SOL.
I haven't written this in a particularly compelling fashion and i'm rambling so i'll try to hit high points. Midnight Rambler was a delight!!!! I've seen it many times in concert, each time love it, but delighted at how Mick really really really really lengthened the crowd participation segment with. He began with the customary "everybody say ow!" a few times but then a seemingly endless stream of "everybody say oh yeah" with some of the "oh yeahs" almost inaudible. Particularly impressive was that the rain really kicked back in during "Midnight Rambler" and Mick is all over the place and way out on the bridge among crowd doing a very extended audience participation part so the rain didn't slow him down at all. The rain, Mick's very long crowd bit and the low oh yeahs and band kick butt playing made this arguably the high light of the night.
Additionally i was in last seat (which i never sat in) of a row and big area to my left dividing my section from neighboring section. That big area turned into a dance floor and M Rambler was big hit there (me dancing my butt off at my seat) so that enhanced the thrill of the song.
Mick made a somewhat offhand but extremely amusing comment about the "shit weather we're having". Think it was something like hope everybody's having a good time despite "the shit weather we're having". struck me as very funny.
Then later during the intros he introduces a "sloppy" wet or sloppy soaked (or similar) Keith Richards (whose hair was drooping wet). Once alone with the microphone Keith remarks "I don't give a damn about the weather". The comment framed by the man with the dark quasi-sunken eyes, skull and cross bones hat, lines on face that indicate a life lived true to such a comment rendered it not only amusing but very believable.
Random notes: The way Keith and/or Ronnie played part of "Sympathy" actually reminded me of "Ya-Yas" version. I don't know crap about music but the guitar was more of the thick/bluesy rhythm sound of the Ya Yas version. Ronnie during You Cant Always Get, solo really worked it into a gem as well, harkened back to older stuff (maybe Love You Live not sure).
I don't recall details but they did some twists and diff arrangements to some of the bread and butter stuff as well which I found EXTREMELY refreshing.
Mick and the stones turned what portended to be perhaps an uninspiring or less than pleasant evening into another lifelong memory to cherish, a genuinely delightful experience.
The enormous Bigger Bang Stadium Stage was set up on the infield just inside the "Sacred Hedge," as Mick referred to it, with floor seating on the turf and over the dirt track. The narrow layout gave almost a rectangular feel to the setup and favored everyone except maybe the sections far stage left. Both Mick and Keith tried to compensate by recognizing the farout sections of fans.
A beautiful Kentucky fall afternoon gave way to a stormy evening, with Alice Cooper absolutely ROCKING in the opener slot. What a great choice. The darkness brought the rains, appropriately enough during Alice's smoking set of hits. Mother Nature's attempts to fend off The Coop failed and the bad weather rarely let up for the rest of the night.
The highlights of the Stones' set came from the almost obvious inclusion of Dead Flowers which drove the crowd wild "on Kentucky Derby Day." Mick took over on a tremendous Midnight Rambler in an absolute downpour. After hearing them so many times, I am not sure that I've ever seen better versions of You Can't Always Get What You Want and Satisfaction, as the encores.
After walking the hallowed grounds, enjoying a Maker's Mark cigar, and soaking in the glory of the venue, I come away again in awe. Wow. This was the eighteenth show for me since 1981. Incredibly, it was individually as unique and extraordinary as my first. Thank you, Stones. Thank you.
First off, this being my 61st Stones show so far in my life, let me say that there ain't a Keith set that comes close to this. It wasn't only that You Got The Silver and Little T & A are 2 of my 3 favorite Keith songs of all time. It was the way Keith led the charges right through both of them. This was a special night of Keith being, well, Keith.
The pirate's cap to protect himself from the rain stayed on for the entire night, and he seemed to fit the image. Prior to his set, he amazed the crowd during Dice, which was while still while the rain fall down on the track. Rain or not, he strolled all the way down to the end of the ramp on the Ronnie side and did one of his whirlwind solos to a cheering crowd near him. Just a classic Stones moment of Keith disregarding the steady rain and playing to "his" fans for that minute or so. He totally did not have to do that, and it did not look planned at all. Actually, it looked totally genuine.
Keith's set was well sung, or more accuarately, well performed. Keith (again) did not even pick up a guitar during Silver. And during T & A he played it, though not all the time, instead concentrating on the vocals and the arrangement and truly being the leader of the band. His voice does seem to have cleared up (a lot less raspy), or maybe it's that he is singing at a level his voice can better handle. Whatever the reason, it worked. And, Keith being Keith, there were a couple of times when he puffed away on his cigarette, blew a stream of smoke out, and did it in time to hit the next line of the song without missing a beat. What a delight!
JJF got the show moving at a solid tempo. I was hoping to see one of the 'different' songs for the opener (such as PIB), but it did get the show off and running. In the 5 spot was "Dead Flowers", which is rarely played on this tour, but was the expected surprise song among the hard core Stones fans. As orchestrated as it really was, it was a cool experience to get the "making bets on Kentucky Derby Dayyyyyyyyyy" line while standing and dancing in sight of the finish line of where the Derby takes place every year.
Next was my first time seeing "Streets of Love", and I must say I was very pleasantly surprised at how well it was done. Initially, I wanted to see it because it was a song I had not seen the Stones perform, but I found this version totally blowing away the ABB studio version. Mick got totally into it, unlike the more 'automatic' version of Oh No Not You Again which came earlier. Maybe it was because of steady rain becoming the hardest rain of the night, but whatever it was, it sure worked.
Then came that little guitar lick "warning" that Rambler is on the way. This version clocked in somewhere around 12 minutes. (I usually time it, but it was too wet at the beginning to check my watch.) The slow, bluesy part in the middle went on for a couple of minutes with Mick and the audience exchanging "owwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww" before the "Well, you heard about..........." part got underway. Rain or no rain, Mick and Keith all over the place during this one, and the middle part appeared ad-libbed. But I'll put Rambler up there as one of the top 2 or 3 highlights of Mick's set.
After Dice and then the Keith set, it was Miss You on the way out to the B-stage. This was one of the nights when M Y was a bit funkier and that helped somewhat. One interesting moment, during the instrumental part just as they arrived at the B-stage was Mick grabbing his guitar and doing a solo like he was possessed by the guitar. He was definitely facing some of the crowd and stood in such a way that he was doing a "see me play the guitar!" stance that I don't recall Mick doing very often, especially not in a song that doesn't generally feature his guitar work in concert. But it was one of those cool Stones moments.
Sympathy was probably the best played of the hit parade which followed. No fireworks at all during or at the end of the show, but they did use the flames shooting up from the top of the stage during at the end of SFTD.
Another interesting moment was during YCAGWYW, when Mick came down the ramp toward the B-stage, as usual. But instead of stopping at the imaginary line about 1/2 way down, he kept on strutting, and came all the way down to the far tip of the B-stage to wave to the crowd, and then all the way back to the mainstage to close it out with Satisfaction.
One other unique moment came during the band intros. Mick introduced Charlie and said something like "Let's let Charlie speak" and twice tried to hand the microphone up to Charlie. Charlie acted as if he was reaching for it the first time, then he sat back down and wanted no part of it. Then Mick gave up, grabbed Keith's arm, and jokingly walked Keith up toward the front of the stage while introducing him.
This was my first Stones show in person since Ft. Lauderdale in March, and this show was 2000 Light Years better than that one. At Churchill Downs, we got the silver....and we got the gold. DK
I got Paul and Ringo years ago, seeing Paul on February 9, 1990 (the anniversary of their appearance on Ed Sullivan) at the Worcester Centrum, and Ringo not long after at the Kentucky State Fair. The Who remain to be seen, primarily because I can't rouse myself to spend hundreds not only for tickets, but to travel hundreds of miles they always seem to be away from Louisville, especially when the backbone of the band is long dead. Led Zep. Well, we know why that won't happen. As for The Kinks, between strokes and shootings, that probably won't happen either.
Which brings us to the Stones. When it was announced I was excited beyond words. My first and probably only chance to see them. I got my tickets within minutes of the presale, and anxiously awaited the big day.
1st... the complaints. Churchill Downs did a HORRIBLE job with this one. After all the fanfare about the event, you'd have thought CD would have used its skills on Derby Day to make a better event. They didn't.
Let's start at the entrance. For some reason, nobody ever tries to tame the lines to enter a venue, so people were lined up blocking through traffic for security and taxis. Once let inside, the ticket takers didn't scan the tickets like at other venues, but instead tore the tickets, and then put holes in them when you got to your section. NOT COOL!
Once inside, the Brantley ushers had no clue how to get to the track seats. We wound up walking way out of our way to find an entrance and then had to walk all the way back to our seats. When we got to our seats, they were poorly marked folding chairs. The marking of each section was a price tag with the section on it and some Post It notes to indicate what seat number you were near.
Problem two became apparent at that point. Because the track understandably doesn't want people on a normal day to go into the track area, there were very few entrances, of too small a size. This created bottlenecks on the track. Plus, because they were channelling two to four times as many people through the entrances underneath the grandstands, there were huge bottlenecks in the back. During Alice Cooper's set, I went to use the restroom and some woman warned me "Don't go, it'll take you an hour to get back." When I saw the waves of people trying to get in, I turned back.
This wouldn't have been so bad had Churchill bothered to put porta potties and refreshments on the track side of the event. The only beverages they were selling was beer.
I was excited because all week they'd been promising great weather, and for a moment, it seemed that it would be nice, if somewhat cool. The sun was blazing.
But then, as the time for Alice Cooper rolled near, the rain started. Never quite a deluge, but enough to get you wet and make you miserable. What if it stormed, I thought. I couldn't imagine a bunch of drunk, wet, people running for shelter in a space that 2 or 3 people could fit in at a time. Worse, the ushers were conspicuously absent, trying to corral the crowd (I guess) so people were funnelling wherever they wanted, including crowding the aisles.
I remember looking around and thinking the people in line with me and sitting around me were old enough to be my parents. How was that possible? This is a rock show. Then I realize that the Stones were old enough to be my parents. It made me realize how timeless the band truly is.
Alice Cooper did a competent if rather bland set. I'm not a big fan, but it was cool to see him perform. His set was short and rather lacking in theatrics he's known for.
Then the Stones came on. OH MY! From the first bars of Jumpin' Jack Flash, it was clear that they weren't letting the rain get to them. I'd seen video and heard live CDs of Stones performances in the past. You'd think that in 40 years their performances would get more and more like other contemporaries. Essentially lifeless recreations of their hits with some nice stage effects to try and distract you. Instead, based on all accounts, including those of longtime fans, the boys are doing some of the best shows of their lives. They were incredible! From a sound mix that was far better than any show I've been in, especially one of this magnitude, you could hear almost everything clearly. Mick was actually singing, not talk singing or spitting out lyrics like in some shows I'd heard. He was hitting notes that a guy his age who has been doing that many shows for over a year should not be hitting. Charlie anchored the band as always, getting a huge sound without looking like he was even breaking a sweat. Ronnie and Keith looked like they were having a good time, lost in their own guitar playing. All of it was played out on a huge stage that added to the show without becoming the show.
Because it was their first time in Louisville in years, they stuck mostly to hits, to the delight of the many casual fans there, I'm sure. But each was performed with a vigor that belied the number of times they've performed them. While the rain sucked, the rain added a cool element to the video of the boys hammering out the hits. It all came to an early climax with Midnight Rambler, surpassing the Get Your Ya Ya's Out version for all 12 or so minutes. The obvious Dead Flowers kicked the studio version's butt as well, as Mick brought cheers to the crowd singing about "making bets on Kentucky Derby Day." Mick was a marvel, strutting around, playing to the crowd, and looking about 30 years younger than he is. His stage moves bordered on self parody, but somehow he pulled it off.
What amazed me about these shows is that the $240 I paid for two tickets was more than worth it. Not just because I saw living legends, but because the guys put on an incredible show. The sound, stage, and above all performance was far superior to any concert I've been to before. Rather than sounding like a cover band on their own songs (a charge I could hurl at the recent Journey/Def Leppard concert I saw), they sounded like men who have been playing together for years and still find new reasons to enjoy it. Songs that had no reason to be played with anything but competence, such as Satisfaction, sounded fresh again. Even the new tunes off A Bigger Bang had the crowd rocking and cheering.
In the end, I got more than I ever thought I could hope for. I got to see classic songs performed with most of the core band intact in an energy filled concert that musicians 1/3 of their age couldn't have pulled off. For two plus hours, all of my cares, including being soaking wet and the fact that I was trapped with several thousand drunks disappeared. And I was in music heaven.
I had 18th row, Keith's side, and from that vantage point the band looked like they loved the venue. Mick was the very active with new moves and lots of smiles. The crowd around me was the by far the coolest I've been associated with. Every single one had smiles on their faces throughout the show, which made me, in return, feel a great positive vibe. From my seat, I also noticed that this was the most flawless-sounding musical production in all my years of going to shows (02-06). The mix was just right and the speaker system gave me goose bumps. I think the thunderous sound waves that hit my body warmed me up a little, along with short pulls off the Jim Beam I had snuck in.
It was basically a European style set list without Sway and replaced by Dead Flowers, which many know was superb. Everybody cheered at "the part." I'm not going to go through the whole set list because every song they played was so well organized and unblemished. One song was not better than the other; every song was equally mesmerizing.
So, to sum this show up I'll tell you it was the best show Louisville has seen or will see. It is by far the most top notched Stones show I've ever been a part of. Louisville fans went home happy with no complaints. Maybe people will bitch about lines, traffic, and the venue not being set up for a concert, but if they really enjoyed the show they will be talking about THE STONES BABY!
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