It's Only Rock'n Roll
Show start : 9:30pm Show end : 11:43pm
When the Stones took the stage, they seemed relaxed, engaged, and dead set on making the most of this spirited Tennessee night. The song that really grabbed me was You Got Me Rocking, totally unexpected and filled with attitude, with Keith reeling off the distinctive riff with laser like intensity. Jagger belted out the brilliant lyrics and led the crowd in the Hey Hey sing along part. This is a completely underrated gem of a song, overlooked perhaps because it is "only" twenty one years old. And I will limit my setlist complaints (which hardly could be applied tonight) and emphasize the idea that what is missing is new material from the band. As Keith intimated in an interview a few weeks back, the world's greatest rock and roll band should get back in the studio, and soon. These gentlemen are too brilliant, too creative to do the same nineteen songs per night. How many You Got Me Rockings is the world yet to see because the focus has been on anniversaries or "classic" albums exhumed with additional trackszzzzzzzzzz?!
Please guys, hit record and something like Back of My Hand or You Got Me Rocking, or even greater will happen, and the world will permanently be a better place because of it. This group is too talented, playing too well, and in possession of a vibe that will pay off in spades once you book that studio time.
With all the Sticky Fingers emphasis in the press and with the reissue zzzzzzzzz, I wondered what songs we would see from the album. Bitch was OK, Wild Horses was beautiful on this sweaty night, and Paisley came back out to do Dead Flowers with the Stones. Brad did Dead Flowers with the band back in 2013 in Philadelphia, but this version was so much better.
He seemed more relaxed and confident, building on his awesome opening set, and was running around the stage between trading licks with Keith to sharing the vocals with Mick. The band seemed to embrace him more than most guest artists, and the result was on another elevated performance level. It was truly amazing, down to Paisley ruffling Mick's hair at the end of the song like two schoolboys mischievously testing each other.
The major treat for me tonight had nothing to do with Sticky Fingers. And let's detour for a moment and think about featuring an album recorded 44 years ago. If a band was doing that when Sticky Fingers first hit stores, it would have been an album from 1927 or NINE YEARS BEFORE ROBERT JOHNSON SAT DOWN TO RECORD!!! I love the album, I will love any shows the Stones put on, but forward forward forward with artistic relevance. Please Stones, create and do not just perform. So, the major treat of the show tonight was Far Away Eyes, a great country song done so well in the cradle of country music, with Mick hamming it up in a cowboy hat, Ronnie high and lonesome on pedal steel, and Keith's harmonies wailing. It was a blueprint for how a country song should be done, and its power made it seem that it was not lost on a single soul in attendance tonight. Nashville, hot in June, and Far Away Eyes performed by the original writers. How can time on this planet be any more pleasurable?
The choir for You Can't Always Get What You Want experienced the unfortunate technical problem of their microphones going on late, so we did not enjoy the full effect of a complete intro to the song. This was more than made up for with Mick extending the song with scat like vocals, bringing the choir singers into a manic rendition of the refrain that had Keith laughing uproariously at the improvisation. And as I had a convenient exit after the show, I bumped into the choir singers who were clearly identifiable in black (caterers may dress the same, but don't have the same aura). It was a unique pleasure and nice way to finish the show by complimenting the singers, who were wildly appreciative, gracious, and obviously still buzzing from performing with the Rolling Stones.
In conclusion, while I had been concerned by the seemingly stock set in Columbus, tonight had enough tweaks, surprises, and unpredictability that produced that rush I have always received from seeing a Rolling Stones show. Tonight being in this Zip Code in America was comforting and enjoyable, familiar without being too familiar. In the big category of historic Nashville shows, this one will not be forgotten.
Photos by Bjornulf Vik
It had been a hot day in Nashville, 95 degrees (34C) and it was still baking as we rode a cab across the Cumberland river to the LP Field. People walking and driving from all directions: you could see the roads off the freeway backing-up for several hours before. Nashville became Stones city only a few days after the CMA (Country Music Association) decided to hold their annual bash as a warm-up for the Stones. Even the local weather forecast on TV called it the "Stones weather forecast" with pictures of the band alongside the map and weather symbols.
As with many of these football stadiums, gaining access to the "field" is a bit of a torturous process. Even 90 minutes after doors opened there were big queues to get in until a "new" gate opened - which as a supervisor told me was due to them not having enough staff…. I think I showed my ticket 6 times to get to my seat on Keith's side some 15 rows back and to the right of the stage. Great view from there, in part thanks to the vertically challenged people in front of me. Good news: they were selling booze on the field. Bad news: you had to go to the rear and back up the first tier steps into the stands to find the bathroom (where people where kindly covering the usual bathroom odour with a lot of "Jamaica smokes").
Enough about the logistics - lets move onto the show. Brad Paisley was one of the better Stones support acts I've seen. Loud, but worth seeing. Joe Walsh came on as a special guest as did one of the many very attractive singers country music seems to create. But most interesting from a Stones aficionado perspective was former Stones backline crew member Dave Rouze (now works for Paisley) proposing to his girlfriend on-stage - corny to some maybe, but rather touching.
I was hoping for a country-flavoured Stones show - and that is what we got. Our "dream" setlist including High & Dry, No Spare Parts, Coming Dow Again etc. didn't materialize - but we got Dead Flower, Far Away Eyes and Wild Horses. Fantastic! Well you have to be realistic sometimes.
From the start the band was on fire - and ready to go. I could see Keith, Charlie and Ronnie behind the drums for a couple of minutes before they started with JJF. Looked like to be joking, easing the tension - but mainly making sure it kicked off with energy - and it did. IORR was a little sloppy, not that most of the 60,000 present would have noticed or cared. It seemed as if everyone was on their feet from the start.
Then into You Got Me Rocking - I'd read they rehearsed this at the sound check. Great riffing and sliding on this. Dice started a bit strangely - I think Keith was so eager to get going that he caught Charlie by surprise - it soon clicked into the normal pace. By now you could see the audience's emotion reaching out to the band on stage, creating energy and a great performance. Maybe it was just being in Music City - whatever - the band was on stage and not just "its one of those nights" but "its a really great night".
Doom & Gloom followed - but there was no doom and gloom in the stadium, and then the first from Sticky Fingers (not announced as such strangely) - Bitch. A real high-energy version, maybe some motivation from the similarly punchy version played at the Bobby Keys tribute the previous evening which all the Stones attended. Great sax work from Tim Ries and Karl Denson. Super guitar from Keith. Charlie "bashing" it out.
Then into the country section. A very funny, self deprecating, Mick comment about not playing-up to the country theme with "big hats and pedal steel guitars" - and then both came out for Far Away Eyes. I'd never heard this live before so it was especially enjoyable. But as a country song, although the Bakersfield, CA version of country not Nashville, TN, it went down a storm. Many young people around me knew all the words. That delightful "church of the sacred bleeding heart of Jesus" line being recited like a religious chant. Wonderful - sparse guitar/pedal; steel licks; tinkling piano; Mick strumming; Charlie brushing the drums.
Then Wild Horses - no acoustic guitars on this version. Ronnie in particular playing some beautiful lines. A great feel (could almost have been the Flying Burrito version at times), singalong at times. On this one, as on Eyes and several other songs, very strong, well mixed-up, Keith vocals. He sang more than I think I've ever seen - you could hear his harmonies clearly and the big screens showed him every time he stood at the mike.
Brad P did a good job as guest on Dead Flowers - and despite the four guitars, plenty of space in the mix. So three country songs on the set - a great tribute to Nashville. I hope Hank Snow & Co. looked down favourably. Certainly a lot of singalong moments again. In fact apart from some distortion from the PA when there was a lot of treble being played, the sound was great where I sat. There should be a good recording available I hope.
If they'd had to finish then I would have been satiated. But of course we weren't even halfway through. In fact dropping one "longer" number allowed the setlist to expand to 20 songs whilst the show still lasted 130 minutes. How these "older" chaps brought up in the cold of England managed to perform for so long in the heat of Nashville I do not know. Many of the audience took a seated rest occasionally. Brought it home to me that the band can really only be expected to play for 2 hours or so maximum, and then it's the song choice (ie length of each) that determines whether we get 18, 19 or 20 numbers. I last heard more at the O2 in 2012 - but then they had lots of older, fast, short ex-singles. More Fast Numbers.
Honky Tonk Women - another good rendition. Very nice piano solo from Chuck, although he must have been a bit stiff because we saw no foot on the keyboard at the end of his solo: instead he planted his "bum" on it. Maybe he was resonating with Mick's comment about it being "hotter than a monkey's bum" at one point… well that's better than an old one of his I remember " hotter than a Turkish taxi-drivers jockstrap". I wonder how he gets inspiration for some of his comments…
After the usual band intros (Charlie dragged a forwards few extra feet to received his adoration) and into Keith's set. He was on top form, and after all the backing vocal warming-up his solo number vocals were as good as I've heard - sounded like recordings of the Winos' gigs. Nice versions of BTMMR and Happy - and he did look happy. Again many of the younger audience near me really knew those autobiographical lyrics like "booze and pills and powders".
So then into the greatest hits section. Rambler. Some problem with Keith's guitar delayed the start (so Mick and Ronnie jammed a bit whilst Pierre de B worked feverishly, and Keith waved to signal a problem). Then a really powerful version. Maybe a little too much distortion on Keith's guitar, and Ronnie's solos a little to frenetic. No matter - it rocked. The ultimate blues opera number. Another delightful Tim R solo on Miss You - a song very popular with the crowd. You can forget just how big a hit this was in 1978 - disco-flavour met the home of country and western.
Gimme Shelter - the usual Keith opening riff, and powerful vocals from Lisa F. She and Bernard F can easily be overlooked as most of their work is "ensemble, not solo". That would be a mistake. Apart from the occasional help on percussion, they add a great dimension to the sound, as well as their dancing and moves. A few times we hear Chuck and Darryl as well really rounding out the vocal sound.
For me Sympathy, Start Me Up and Brown Sugar were a bit of a blur. The audience is ecstatic hearing these rock classics; you just join in with the swing and suddenly it's the pre-encore farewell. Again Karl Denson managed to emulate the Bobby Keys feel on Sugar; the variations on the SMU riff worked really well (intended or not, it works); and the guitar power on Sympathy is magnificent. How Mick can wear the furry suit in this heat I do not know.
I felt really sorry for the choir, as their mikes were "on" for the first couple of lines of YCAGWYW. An very unusual technical Snafu at the Stones concert - actually there was also some noise from, I think, a faulty instrument lead a couple of times as well. Odd: we are used to perfection. But it didn't spoil a super performance on the fourth "slower" song in the set, although Matt C's French horn was a bit wobbly in. And then onto Satisfaction - the usual power performance and crowd adultation.
We were rightly concerned that with no direct field exits and two relatively narrow footpaths back to downtown, the crowd would takes ages to get out from the field, so we walked up to the top of the tier one steps for the ending of Satisfaction. You get a different perspective of the show for a little further up and back. The sound was just as good, maybe slightly better. The lighting and stage clothes gave a very sharp direct image and suddenly you can see the whole performance. We departed as the final bows finished. The band seemed a little slow to exit - we were almost half way across the road bridge across the river before the cavalcade passed us. No blue flashing lights, but maybe 10 vehicles - very impressive, like the President was visiting - rather than Rock Royalty.
Writing all down this the morning after, whilst killing time before my flight to Pittsburgh for the last of my mini-Stones tour gigs in 2015, is rather cathartic. You know that let-down feeling after you've had that huge high of a Stones gig. Its not just the performance, it's the event itself, the audience; the feeling that this is a very big deal indeed for the city, even one so associated with music as Nashville.
Many people think " can it get any better" or "will I ever see them again". Two very good questions indeed. I think you can feel assured of the latter, assuming you are lucky enough to be able to travel and have the cash to spend. The "boys", as we affectionately call them (and I'm 16 years younger than Charlie) seem to be having a ball, managing the work touring entails. Don't Stop should be added to the setlist!
Photos by Bjornulf Vik
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It's Only Rock'n Roll 1980 - 2015
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