It's Only Rock'n Roll
Show start : 8:45pm Show finish : 11:10pm
See the IORR Tell Me forum the live comments and pictures from the show here:
Show number 3: Brooklyn NYC Dec. 8 updates
But there I was outside the Barclays Center, bundled up against the cold, half-heartedly trying to scalp a ticket for my 200th Stones show. I had $600 cash on me, but was hoping to spend far less than that. Far, far less. I was of half a mind not to bother at all, but I had a professional obligation and had to get in. Unfortunately the pickings were slim out there, and there were plenty of other lonesome dudes wandering around waving their index fingers in the air.
With 10 minutes until showtime, I submitted myself to the equivalent of a prison rape, and bent over at the box office counter ... to hand over my credit card for a $754 ticket. It was all they had. I could barely sign the credit card receipt, and fumbled as I picked up the prized ticket. As I headed to my section, feeling like a right charlie, the usher wished me a good concert. "Yeah, right," I replied.
Well, at least the seat was good (Section 19), and there was no one annoying around me. I should point out now that I have deliberately not read any of the reviews from the London or Paris shows. I wanted everything to be a surprise, although I had accidentally read about "I Wanna Be Your Man" getting dusted off.
I loved the relatively simple staging -- the stacks of (largely pointless) amps marking off the backstage hobbit village were ditched. And I was also happy about the staffing cuts, though I don't see why they need two saxophone players.
The Stones look largely unchanged from six years ago. Maybe Mick was dancing around less, particularly during "Jumpin' Jack Flash." Keith stayed close to home base, venturing out to the circle only three times. Ronnie barely showboated for the fans in the circle. These men were focused, as you'd expect after such a long layoff. Charlie, oddly enough, seemed to be having a ball.
A couple of other observations. A bit overkill on the video game. We don't need animated dice during "Tumbling Dice" or random sequences during "Start Me Up," and the topless woman segment during "Honky Tonk Women" was embarrassing. I was also disgusted by the occasional appearances of the gorilla, hideous product placement for a useless greatest hits album that no one cares about.
I appreciated the fan montage during "It's Only Rock 'n Roll," if only because it served as a reminder of how fans used to go to concerts to listen to music, rather than observe performances through smartphones, update their Facebook pages and send out tweets.
Song choice. Nothing special. I hate that Beatles song, but at least the ballads were kept to just "Wild Horses." The concert didn't really come alive until the fifth song, "Gimme Shelter," and I was thrilled that Mick took my post-"SNL" advice on these very boards and brought in Mary J. Blige for the best rendition I have ever seen. Clearly she doesn't get to Lisa Fisher histrionics, but still makes the song her own by infusing it with improvised gospel and sexual moaning.
Gary Clark, Jr. was an excellent guest on "I'm Going Down," which may have been the best song of the night after "Midnight Rambler" (also spoiled by video animation). Watching three guitarists up stage taking turns on soloing it was a clue as to how Lynyrd Skynyrd might have evolved.
Between the two guests, and the montage of blues/soul heroes cited on the video for "All Down the Line" (Bob Dylan was an odd inclusion, though), I felt the Stones were painting it, black -- and I liked that.
Mick was chatty, although his joke about bumping into "Jay-Zed" on the subway might have had more resonance if he hadn't read it from his teleprompter. He did refer to the ticket price fiasco, obliquely. Perhaps most shocking was a little speech during the warhorse segment - he never speaks after the intros -- in which he told us that "you're the reason" the Stones keep playing after 50 years. It may have been his most honest moment ever.
I could have done without "Sympathy" - and the dreadful gorilla suit he wore briefly - but the crowd loved it. "You Can't Always Get What You Want" - with Mick on acoustic - was given new life by two-dozen (freshly Grammy-nominated) choristers.
So, how do I feel? Still a bit annoyed (with myself, not with the Stones), but happy I saw them. Still, I don't feel that I need to follow them around so relentlessly in the future if they're going to play it safe on the song choices.
All photos by Bjørnulf Vik
Come on boys, you can do better, you DID so much better last week!!!
There might be personal reasons to this judgment. I have just flown from Saigon on the morning of the show, 18 hours… bad mood, tired, and of course very high, much too high expectations after having seen one of their best gig ever in London with guest like Bill Wyman, Mick Taylor or Eric Clapton. Plus an impeccable and impressive choreography that for some reason was not as good here in new York.
While in London the concert really took off with Gimme Shelter, here the same song was the beginning of a series of mistakes and messy stuff. Mary J.Blige did not really know when to sing and when to leave space to Mick or the guitars and the overall impression was that of a rehearsal more than a performance.
They messed up again with All down the line and during the entire concert there was a vague feeling (my opinion only of course….) of lack of concentration.
The sound was really different from London also. Volume problems, I don’t know.
Opposite to London where they were nervous, focused, super pro, super excited, supported by a tense crowd, I had the feeling here that they just did their gig, a bit too relax and the result was a lack of emotion that could be felt in the public as well.
There were some good moments though, as usual, but not enough…. And of course, Mick Taylor was missing on Midnight Rambler.
Let’s see what happens on the 13th……
Photo by Gricha Safarian
The easiest unfavorable comparison for tonight's show versus London is that Bill Wyman and Mick Taylor were not there. The press on Wyman's fear of flying made his absence expected, but I really thought Mick Taylor could find the time to come over for the shows. Oddly enough, the Stones absolutely rocked on the songs that Wyman and Taylor played on in London. They were not missed as Jagger worked the crowd to perfection on It's Only Rock'n'Roll and Honky Tonk Women (Wyman's two songs in London), and Keith's guitar work on Midnight Rambler made it seem like he had the freedom to take more chances without Taylor there. That experience left me wishing for more dates in 2013, with the Rolling Stones just doing what they do best as a band, free of the distraction of special guests. The best show is the band playing, not star power cameos that fill up a few lines on the evening news.
Gimme Shelter featuring Mary J. Blige seemed tentative and confused at times; Mick even had to yell at her to prompt her vocal part. I thought it would be as good as her performance in London, but it was not. And it paled in comparison to the magnificent job Florence Welch did on the song at the second London show (a YouTube clip I've watched fifty times).
Gary Clark Jr. joined the Stones for Going Down, but did not come close to equaling Jeff Beck's performance on the song in London. Clark's playing seemed competent but unspectacular. There are probably ten guys on any given night on the South Side of Chicago that play as well as Clark. He seemed to get more of a crowd reaction not from one of his leads, but from his turn on vocals on the song (something of course Beck did not do in London).
In general, the London crowd seemed younger, more international, and just more excited than the Brooklyn audience tonight. After the less than smooth Gimme Shelter, the Stones played Wild Horses, and this sent the entire crowd (except the floor) to sit down in their seats. It reminded me of the first time ticket prices were high in the late 1990s, and people were making jokes about Exile on Wall Street. The VIP seats tonight had old ladies in fur coats, younger wives/girlfriends politely along for the ride feigning interest, and various other 1%-ers who looked almost surprised that audience members would clap, dance, and shout to participate in the music.
The best part of the evening was reminiscent of many times when I have seen the Stones before, where the band works to create an energy (and tonight it was done without the help of the special guests) that wins over a lazy crowd and makes for momentum that builds through the end of the show. The turning point seemed to be Miss You, where Mick got the crowd into it without drawing out the song too long, and Darryl Jones' bass solo gave the song more funk and personality than it has had in years. The two new songs followed, and were fresh, energetic, and well received by the crowd. And before you could grumble, "No Bill Wyman", It's Only Rock and Roll and Honky Tonk Women caught fire and there was no slowing down from there.
It was also great to get Satisfaction to end the night, unlike opening night in London. And I Wanna Be Your Man was a treat to see played live again, but also bittersweet as it brought to mind co-writer John Lennon who was gunned down 32 years ago tonight in the city.
While I truly enjoyed tonight's show, I suspect the Newark shows will be better. The lesson for me tonight was that a 50th anniversary or special guests are not what make an evening with the Stones so special. What makes it special is the band itself: Jagger's genius as a front man, Charlie's immaculate rhythms, and Keith and Ron's interlocking guitar riffs. The simple joy of seeing the core band create their magic is what got us this far; and it is still the main reason to see them.
The band hit the stage around 8:45 pm with a rousing Get Off Of My Cloud, that provided the first singalong of the evening. Charlie had a smile on his face throughout the entire show. And why shouldn't he? Aside from having the best seat in the house, he was a steady and powerful timekeeper. I was impressed by how tight the band sounded. Sometimes they sound close to spinning out of control and going into a musical crash dive, only to miraculously pull out of it at the last second and reclaim the melody and rhythm before the end of the song. This is especially true of a song like Midnight Rambler with it's extended riff before and after the slow blues portion. But not last night. There was a precision to Keith and Ron's guitar weaving that, far from feeling stale or jaded, provided distinctive layers of sound to complement Mick's strong vocals. Although I'm still trying to get my head around a sober Ronnie Wood, based on the evidence last night it was a good move on his part. He really held his own.
The evening was a bit of a grab bag of 50 years of music making. There was something for everyone from the casual fan to the devoted accolyte. The first time I saw the band in 1966 they opened with The Last Time. I've only heard them do it once since in Philadelphia in 1997, but there it was last night sounding every bit as good as it ever has. Even war horses like It's Only Rock N Roll and Start Me Up felt fresh. Miss You did not turn into an extended riff, as it has in some past live versions. It reminded me of the first time I heard it. The addition of the Wall Street Trinity Choir to sing the intro to You Can't Always Get What You Want brought a tear to my eye. And it was nice to see Mick playing accoustic guitar on the first part of the song. The official Stones website said Mick Taylor and Bill Wyman would join the band, but it was not to be. Not that I'm complaining, mind you. At one point during Going Down with Gary Clark, Jr., Darryl took a bass break that showed his chops in dramatic fashion.
All in all, my 24th Stones show was a great suucess, and from the response around me, I was not alone. Now it's own to Newark for my 25th show. I'm averaging one show every two years for the last fifty. Not bad.
What definitely surprised me however was how good they were musically. Yes, Keith & Ronnie mess up some parts from time to time but this is how we have always known them, no? I got a ticket for $154 in section 206 row 20, first time I was this far away after being front row in 1998 and halfway along the bridge against the barrier in 2003, but I just couldn't justify spending more (in addition to flights, hotel etc) and even though I was this far away I am glad I was in the house for this show.
My first show in 1995 didn't have Bill, so I have never seen the original Stones and kind of grew up with Darryl being their bassist. I would have loved to see Bill up there with them but other than the nostalgy factor what would he have added? From seeing videos with him I don't think we really missed something at the Brooklyn show. Same thing with Mick T., I was hoping to get CYHMK instead of MR and while they started to play MR I was fully expecting MT to walk out at any moment - he didn't but their MR performance was still one of the highlights of the evening, Mick's dancing was crazy (how does he do it, my feet, legs & back hurt just from standing for two hours?), Ronnie's solo was smoking, everything came together perfectly on this song.
Which brings me to discuss the setlist a bit. The drummer intro gave me chills, very nicely done, lots of energy in the house. GOMC was a really good opener. Then on to IWBYM which was just OK, don't like Mick's singing on that one. Absolutely loved The Last Time even with some guitar problems. They should have the guts to open or close with that song on the 15th and leave everybody wondering... Paint it Black, one of my favorites, nothing to criticise. Then on to GS, which is my absolute favorite on the same level as CYHMK - MJB ruined this for me, I was expecting something interesting and instead is was just a mess. Even my wife who came with me and is not a Stones fan (more of a Stones hater, but my brother who was supposed to come couldn't) said that MJB didn't know what and when to sing.
Wild Horses was perfect. Going Down with Gary Clark Jr was probably another highlight of the show, grinding guitars everywhere, this was just great! On to ADTL & Miss You - the Stones just doing their job. My wife during Miss You "this is the only Stones song that I love" and I told her that this is probably THE song most fans could do without. Still, great Darryl solo!
I was happy to get the two new songs after that. Felt a lack of energy during OMS and Mick's face at the end of the song said it all, it was like "ok, glad we're through this one, whatever" and then after D&G his expression was like "now this is a real song" and even though I like both new songs I must say the energy on D&G was much better.
IORR & HTW no Bill coming out, OK. The band just executes these to almost perfection. Then Keith, he seems "Happy" (as does Charlie who was smiling the whole evening - actually being on the side of the stage for the first time I got to see much more of Charlie then during my last Stones shows), does his thing on his two songs. Wife's comment "he sings better than Mick" haha! On to MR, as I said before one of the highlights, and then the warhorses up to the end of the show. SMU, TD, BS (I thought there were some guitar problems at the start of this one), SFTD, YCAGWYW, JJF and Satisfaction to end it all. All were great even if we've all heard them before. Special mention to Keith on SFTD and I though I could have done without YCAGWYW but man, the choir just gave me the chills and I am happy to not have missed this one. Mick's glitter jacket was back for Satisfaction and I think this was the best live version I have heard yet, buzzing guitars, no horns.
Overall just a really great show by my favorite band and I am so happy to have been there. As a lot here I was worried about how Keith would play but he really knows where his place is now, playing with restraint but more precision than in the past. His playing was really sharp and much better even than 2003 when I last saw him. Mick's voice seems to be better than ever as well. It really is Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones as all other bandmembers seem to follow their leader and know their place in the band. Keith stayed close to Charlie for most of the show, concentrating on his playing and very little posing whereas Ronnie was looking for Mick's approval when doing his solos. They all seem to get along really well after all these years. I won't pretend that I remember every aspect of the shows I have attended in the past, all of them had their special moments, but the Brooklyn show was definitely a top performance and I would feel comfortable knowing that this was the last time I saw them live, they met and exceeded my expectations.
The Barclay's Center was an excellent venue. The staff was really nice, everything was clean and the sightlines from the "cheap" seats were better than expected. I loved the simple setup of the stage, that probably really helped having a good view even from the sidelines. The sound up in 206 started out just a little bit muffled I thought, but improved throughout the show. I loved that it was not too loud as my ears seem to be a little bit on the sensitive side. The crowd was OK but couldn't match the crowds I have seen before in Barcelona for example, much more subdued, even the pit seemed pretty calm. Don't know if my section had more casual fans because of the cheaper seats but one thing that was really annoying was people walking out every couple minutes to get beer. OK, I have to somehow wrap this up now as I have to get some work done. I don't regret it, this was a really, really great show!
In general, the Stones played played a solid, high energy rock and roll show with a few glitches.
Highlights and Lowlights:
Get Off My Cloud (following the great drum prelude), The Last Time and Paint It Black (great lighting) were explosive. Gimme Shelter and All Down The Line were marred by vocal confusion on the part of Mary J and Lisa and Bernard respectively. Watching Mick try to fix the screw ups was entertaining.
Going Down with Gary Clark Jr. thundered. He really got Keith and Ronnie going. Keith sang Before They Make Me Run with a lot of spirit. Happy was delayed by an equipment snag, which gave Keith an opportunity to wish everyone happy holidays. He should have asked whether we had read any good books lately.
Midnight Rambler was probably the musical highlight of the evening followed closely by Sympathy For The Devil and You Can't Always Get What You Want. The cape which Mick wore at the beginning of Sympathy, which from our vantage looked like a gorilla suit, was hilarious. Brown Sugar and Jumping Jack Flash had a funky Meters-like beat. The Stones are playing those songs a bit slower these days but that's fine with me.
Mick's energy level throughout was incredible. No rock drummer can swing like Charlie Watts. Keith and Ronnie delivered the riffs on time and with conviction.
I agree with some of the other reviewers that the song list could be more interesting. We don't have to hear every hit. Memo From Turner, Dandelion, Out of Time, Have You Seen Your Mother Baby, Connection, Stray Cat Blues, No Expectations, Dead Flowers should all be considered.
But that's just nitpicking. My daughter and her high school friends all pronounced the show "awesome". Case closed.
From watching Keith's fingers work their magic to the various cartoons of which the Gorilla had to be the best. A riveting visual and a reminder to me of how much I've been listening to Grrr! leading up to the show. I'd forgotten how much I liked "Highwire" from my long lost cassette copy of "Flashpoint". And most of all having "Doom" and One More" grow on me. And then thinking back to the drummers who opened the show parading with their gorilla masks on. As they first appeared I thought back to the steel drum bands that had moved through the crowd before the show on the 1975 tour. And just as I expected the 2012 drummers to circle back and leave they moved right before the front row and started gyrating as in some kind of primitive pagan ritual. Then just as they departed Mick ran out -"I live in an apartment on the 99th floor". What a great start!
My favorite songs were " I Wanna be your Man", The Last Time" and "Goin' Down". All because of the incredible guitar sound coming out of the sound system. Sure the sound always been good since '69 but just as the video now seems better I think maybe so is the sound system. And the incredible fuzztone from Keith on his Les Paul Jr. And now it's on to my living room and the Pay Per View.
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