It's Only Rock'n Roll
Photo by Jim Pietryga.
Those of us who missed the second Staples Center show which had Taylor on four songs were close to being satisfied tonight with Can't You Hear Me Knocking added to MT's spots on Midnight Rambler and Satisfaction. Can't You Hear Me Knocking had worked well on previous tours with Ronnie handling all the leads, but tonight Taylor was a splendid luxury that made the song feel more jazz-like and sophisticated than before. After obsessing on the instrumental from the Sticky Fingers album for decades, to see Taylor playing, Keith and Ron providing rhythmic backing, and Bobby Keys launching into his Coltrane-like saxophone solo made it almost difficult to process what was taking place: has there ever been a collection of musicians THIS good playing together? I cannot even come up with comparisons to start a discussion. Can't You Hear Me Knocking was also especially satisfying because it made clear the chemistry between Ron Wood and Mick Taylor, who are happy to interact and compliment each other's art. It is nice to see these two work together after the years of crap we had to endure about how Ron was not as talented, or how sides had to be taken, Taylor versus Wood. It is 2013 and Wood and Taylor are fabulous together. For all Rolling Stones fans, it is time to let go of that pointless debate.
Shine A Light was played as a result of fan voting on the Stones website, and it was a nice touchstone to the Exile on Main Street album ahead of Crow's guesting on All Down the Line. It is a shame this song shares a title and has become associated with Martin Scorsese's subpar chronicle of the Stones from the Beacon Theatre in 2006. Tonight's show (and pretty much any other) is a far better experience than what was documented in that film. Band intros had a Happy Birthday angle to them, as Ron Wood will turn 66 this Saturday and Charlie will turn 72 this Sunday. Chuck Leavell nicely took control and launched into the traditional birthday song, after which Jagger sardonically said, "Charlie loves the attention!".
It is unique how the Rolling Stones are sharing the United Center with the Chicago Blackhawks ice hockey team this week, after the Blackhawks defeated the Detroit Red Wings this past Wednesday in a deciding game seven. There will be two hockey games at the venue in the next round of playoffs between now and when the Stones make their final United Center appearance Monday. Mick referenced the Stones stage crew getting worn out by having to repeatedly take down and put up the stage, comically concluding, "On Monday we'll be performing Rolling Stones on Ice".
While much of the show remains the same (and the one or two thousand lunatics who see more than one show rightfully complain about this), the quality and consistency of the standard opening and closing song sequences is still highly entertaining. That may change as the tour continues, and therefore those complaints can be saved for another day. Tonight the Stones delivered another gem, leaning on Sheryl Crow and Mick Taylor to make it special and unique.
Photos by Jim Pietryga.
I was on the side (Keith's) and had a great view of the stage but could also see what was happening behind Charlie's drum kit. When I saw Mick Taylor back there (and I knew it wasn't time for Rambler) I was hoping for CYHMK--Yes! Videos and bootlegs don't do justice to the power of experiencing The Stones live. Worth every dollar!
This evening's Rambler was probably one of the finest I've ever heard. I really hope after they rest up after the London shows that they will come back to play more shows. One show this tour is not enough but unfortunately I have to fly back to Kentucky shortly. I could go on and on mentioning details but Mick & Keith had their arms around each other when they took a bow. Happy Birthday Ronnie and Charlie! Thank you to the greatest rock and roll band in the world! Love ya Live!
Photos by Jim Pietryga.
But before I dig into the show, let me lay out the scenario. After all, the Stones have always been more than a concert for me, they're an adventure.
I flew in to Pittsburgh from NYC Thursday evening, and after a quick visit with a couple of other old friends, I hooked up with Dave for the 8 hour all-night drive to Chicago from Pittsburgh. Chicago was the first of our many Stones adventures together (Dave started seeing them in Cleveland in '78, me in Pittsburgh in '94) during the opening of the '97 Bridges to Babylon Tour at Soldier Field. It only felt right that we'd end our Stones odyssey back where it started. By 1 a.m. we were on the road and caffeinated to the gills. We gabbed like a couple old ladies the whole way as night turned to day. It was great hanging out with such a good friend that I rarely get to see (I moved to NYC 14 years ago), not to mention, the biggest Stones nut in the world. We arrived in Chicago somewhere around 8:30 a.m., valet parked the car (the only mishap was a stolen floor mat form Dave's car, we suspect the valet parking) and was told by our hotel that we "might" be able to check in by 11. We were fried. We left our bags with the bellhop and hit the streets of Chicago in search of breakfast. At the Dunkin' Donuts, a local told us how to walk to the United Center from our hotel. We decided to give it a test run to kill time. Turns out it was a three mile hike...one way! No problem, we're juiced on Stones high-octane energy. After we find the United Center, grabbing a few pics of the Stones on the marquee, we walked back to the hotel and checked in. We then grabbed a couple hours of much needed shuteye. Then it was time to head to the show. The weather called for storms so we bought me an umbrella and started the long walk to the arena. Along the way we started seeing more and more Stones fans. One was a guy all by himself from Omaha, Nebraska named Dan. Dave quickly struck up a conversation and we traded Stones stories. Turns out Dan is also a longtime Stones traveler who has seen them from Boulder to Chicago and everywhere in between. Dave and I have the East Coast covered, Dan has the heartland covered. We lost Dan somewhere in the t-shirt melee at the venue. (If you're out there Dan, rock on!)
After a quick walk around the venue to check out the stage, Dave and I headed to our seats. The tickets said the show would start at 8. I questioned this, but Dave insisted that with no opening act the Stones would be on at 8 sharp. As it turned out, they didn't come on until 9, but I wasn't leaving my seat and risking missing even a second of the show. The crowd appeared to be an older and more well off money-wise than I had expected, but with those prices, that seems to be right. But despite the advanced age, there was electricity in the air. This crowd was pumped. My whole row ended up being half empty, though that seemed to be the exception and not the rule. The are was 99.7% full by showtime. The stage is more stripped back than has been customary (with the exception of No Security), but it was very impressive. The huge behind the stage screen made the Stones literally "larger than life."
I won't go song by song, there's plenty of that on this site, but I will give my overall impression. THE STONES ROCKED THE JOINT! From the second they kicked into Get Off My Cloud, the place was rocking. People were singing along instantly. I questioned the song as the opener before I saw it live, but let me tell you, it's the perfect opener. Mid-tempo, but bursting with the pent up energy that the best Stones openers--from Honky Tonk Women in '69 to Not Fade Away in '94--always have. The energy just kept building through the first four songs, Lisa Fischer performed Gimme Shelter like I have never experienced it before. BAM! It was a beautiful blast in ears. And her interaction with Mick was perfect. And while we're on the topic of Mick, he had high energy even by his own standards. Keith and Ronnie were staying back, but that was a good way to build things. I loved hearing Emotional Rescue live, and when Sheryl Crow came on I was psyched. I'm not a big fan of the guest star thing, but Sheryl is the perfect Mick foil. And do I even need to mention how hot she looked? Not really, but here goes anyway...SHE WAS SMOKIN'! By the time the new songs came on, my feet were killing me from all the walking and standing on cement, so I watched the smaller screens as I sat down. But I was quickly back on my feet to hear an amazing version of a Mick Taylor-featured Can't You Hear Me Knocking. I loved Ronnie's version a few years back, but this blew that version out of the water. Keith's set has been a bit of a drag in past tours, but tonight it held together well and was the perfect lead in to the usual fodder of war horses. I've heard Brown Sugar, Miss You, Honky Tonk Women etc too many times for them to be fresh, but the Stones played them with an infectious energy that had the crowd pumped. And interestingly, Ronnie and Keith came to life, too. No more huddling by the drums, they took trips out on the tongue ramp and jumped around the main stage. The use of a real live choir during You Can't Always Get What You Want was way overdue, and worked very well. By the final notes of Satisfaction, I was spent.
As the lights went up I made my way over to Dave's seat and we both had that look like we knew we had seen something special. We both said, almost simultaneously, "I think that's the best show I've ever seen." It hadn't all sank in yet, but during our long walk back to the hotel and the even longer drive back to Pittsburgh, we had plenty of time to let in ferment. Dave and I have seen a lot of great Stones shows (Cleveland in '99 stands out, as does Syracuse in '97--I got a pick from Keith), but this show has to tower above the rest. Powerful, energetic and with full crowd participation throughout, it was a great way to end our long Stones run...or is it. Maybe Dave and I have one more Stones adventure left in us.
To be continued.
We could tell early on that it was going to be a special night. After both of the first two songs, Mick was enthusiastically talking to the crowd. It wasn't the usual "How you doing?" and then moving on.
The pace moved up a notch for Gimme Shelter. As much as Lisa Fischer has been nailing it on this tour, this time she helped to make this the best version I have seen of GS in quite some time, spiced up by some ad-libbing with Mick on the later parts.
Next, it was the supposed vote winner for the night. I would have been pleased at any of the choices for this show, but was even more pleased to get the song I had voted for, Shine A Light. This was my personal first time seeing this great song, and it meant seeing still another song from Exile On Main Street, so they couldn't go wrong. The excellent guitar spots during the song made it even more special.
I wasn't sure if we would get Emotional Rescue again, but we did and it went well again. This is one of those songs that will vary from night to night. Mick was mixing in the falsetto with his "regular" voice this time, and the extra funk from Darryl Jones on guitar makes this one a winner.
Then it was time to see what "different" song would come up on the set list. To my amazement, they started into All Down The Line. I was ecstatic. (Well, even more ecstatic - it's the Stones!) There I was in the building for still another song from Exile, and for probably my favorite from the best album in musical captivity.
However, a couple of lines in, something went wrong. I heard a loud shrieking noise that completely distracted my joy. It was even worse than feedback. It turned out to be Sheryl Crow on stage. Ouch. I like some of Sheryl Crow's songs and have enjoyed what I heard from her as a live performer. But for whatever reason, she was screaming lines sounding more like Mick stole her purse than anything resembling a professional singer. It's not easy to ruin a great Stones song, no matter who it is, but she came pretty darn close. Maybe she never had to work with a song that good or something. But I suppose I should be mad at whoever decided to have her appear on that song. I had hoped she'd be on Honky Tonk Woman or something they always do instead of wasting a valuable opportunity. Out of the 66 Stones shows I have seen in person over the years, I no longer have to go All Down The Line to find such a mess. Thank goodness I have seen the Stones perform this one live a few times in past as it should be.
How appropriate that Doom & Gloom was the next song after Crow flew off the stage.
After One More Shot, the Stones must have known they needed to make up for ADTL. And they did. The opening riff to Can't You Hear Me Knocking can cure just about anything! And out came Mick Taylor for the first of the three songs he played on. Not as a backup either. The two Micks were dueling with the guitar and harmonica as if it were a competition. The Bobby Keys sax solo was, as always, perfect. Killer version!
During the band introductions, after Chuck Lavelle was introduced Mick said something to him on the way back to the keyboards. And, sure enough, Mick introduced the birthday boys, Ronnie and then Charlie, and had Chuck play Happy Birthday so that the crowd could all sing to them!
Keith was again spot on with You Got The Silver, helped by Ronnie's amazing guitar playing. Hopefully Silver stays on Keith's set list based on the way he and Ronnie keep nailing it solid thus far.
Then, after Happy had us happy - on to what once again was the highlight of the evening. Midnight Rambler. Again, the two Micks leading the way. There appeared to be some high spirited ad-libbing on this one. Mick whipped the harmonica back out at one point and gave us an extra solo before Mick Taylor stepped up to the front and took this great song to an even higher level, if that's possible.
This set last about 2 hours 25 minutes all together with a charged up audience and a great set list. Now it's trying to wait until Monday night for the only "third" show at the same venue on the tour. Hard to believe this night will be topped. But if anyone can do it...
We tried our chance at the United arena and a very unfriendly lady at the counter told us they were sold out, confirming all ticket websites information. Walked around to see the place and tried at another counter, and there, miracle the guy asks us how many we wanted?? We got in!! Stayed around a while and got a chance to chat with the couple who would lead the choir that evening. They said the group (and their parents) was excited to sing YCAGWYW with the Stones.
Our seats were way up and on the side of the stage, but it beats the decently located seats we got last time in the Paris Stade de France. Surprisingly great sound. Keith's riffs sounded particularly awesome.
We loved the concert, Mick entertained the crowd and got the audience with the band. Nice joke with the Stones on ice a reference to the crew mounting dismounting the stage between the Stones and the Blackhawks hockey game. We all sang happy birthday to Charlie while Ronnie, who almost share the same birthday date, was going around the stage singing. Loved Shine a light and Sheryl Crow did a very good job ( I'm not a fan either). Happy and you got the silver with Ronnie and Keith at the stage front were very nice.
Cherry on the cake was Can't you hear me Knocking with Mick Taylor. What a version! This is what any Stones fan can hope to attend one day in their fan career. Midnight Rambler was also exceptional. Well nothing to throw away really. Every fan has her/his ideal set list for a concert, just would have loved sweet Virginia, love in vain (with MT), rocks off, like a rolling stone. Unfortunately, the list goes on for a while... We were very, very lucky to attend this wonderful evening.
The crowd was moving to the beat before emotional rescue really jumped started the musical magic (more than just rock n roll) for this Friday fun fest. Soon after, even from an upper level view Sheryl Crow looked and sounded hot ! She took a little more stage than during her previous Honky Tonk combinations. Mick wooooing her and she eyeing him as they went through All Down The Line !
The band intros were playful and the Jagger Hawks jersey was very timely and well received. Stones on skates... I do feel for the stage crew as the lip ramps were probably not the simplest to take down and put up multiple times. There was no middle arena stage this time, but I don't think it was missed, especially by those in the filled tongue, which looked like a blast. As the concert went on everyone took at least a half lap around the ramp with Mick logging the most laps.
Can't You Hear Me Knocking was my first live intro to Mick Taylor. Man, you can see how he fits. Musicians (including the others on stage) must envy his effortless jams. It was a sign of great things to come for the show.
The next six songs Rambler, Miss You, Start Me Up, Tumbling Dice, Brown Sugar and Sympathy was the best sequence of songs I've heard played at any concert. Whatever the price was on your ticket payback was provided. Midnight Rambler kicked butt, and for me was the song of the night. During it the band performed as a uniquely perfected team, including MT. We were all being strung along as the pauses in the song riled us up for the finishes.
A strong Cant Always Get What You Want with choir and then an excited JJF were two great encore choices. It seemed like an elongated Satisfaction, that I wish was still going... A hugely deserved applause to a great concert. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr !!!!!
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It's Only Rock'n Roll 1980 - 2013
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