Disk 1: Honky Tonk Women / Tumbling Dice / You Got Me Rocking / Live With Me / Black Limousine / Dead Flowers / Sweet Virginia / Far Away Eyes / Love In Vain / Meet Me At The Bottom / Shine A Light / Like A Rolling Stone (60:06)
Disk 2: Monkey Man / I Go Wild / Miss You / Connection / Slipping Away / Midnight Rambler / Rip This Joint / Start Me Up / Brown Sugar / Jumpin’ Jack Flash (60:08)
It has been a while since a Stones release like this had caused so much commotion. Baring the Scorpio releases (‘Secrets Travel Fast’ and ‘American Exile’) from earlier this year which, rather than offering the promise that the legendary label had provided us with before, stopped a little short of becoming this years must have Stones bootleg release.
The news of this release though had been bandied around for a while. There was something in the works from the Rattlesnake label from Brixton 1995 and it wasn’t going to be the same re-hashed audience tape from years ago. No, this was far closer to the soundboard this time and when it landed, it was going to be awesome.
Obviously this type of information is the kind designed to strike a fever in to the mind of any Stones fan and the wait that we had to endure – especially when there were problems with the printing of the box for the vinyl that would offset the release after the set was suggested to be imminent – was a lengthy one.
So, firstly, does it cut the mustard? Yes. This release – both the CD and vinyl versions – both scream quality. The kind we’ve come to expect from Rattlesnake.
Apparently taken from video tape, treated to the finest of mastering in the studio and boasting soundboard style quality, the ambience is exceptional stereo. There have been grumbles from fans that Keith and Ronnie’s channels are both mixed up (Keith On The left, Ronnie on the right) but it’s nothing that really irks to these ears. I understand it might be a little disorientating listening “from the wings” when an audience POV would work better but when it sounds this good it’d be a small grumble.
As for the performance itself, then it’s generally understood that a small venue gig suits the bands mood a little better and it shows. The fans are in a great mood, the guitars have a synergy that is lost in a wider space, Mick is less boisterous, a little less pastiche. a lot goes in to this show and it rubs off on everyone – even Lisa and Bernard who are immune to the tensions of being in the business grip are full of power.
The set starts with “Honky Tonk Women”, not the tour standards of “Not Fade Away” or “It’s All Over Now”, quietly dropped from the small club set lists after the Paradiso in Amsterdam and, as we’re not listening to too dry a recording either, you can hear the song being sung work for word by the audience as the lyrics wash like a wave throughout the crowd. The song has more crunch than a bag of snacks while Chuck’s keyboard is pleasantly bright.
“Tumbling Dice” appears almost without word and rolls out the feeling that “Honky Tonk ..” began. A non- stop party abetted by the Stones ‘classic’ period.
Mick steps forward with an introduction to the show, explaining they had great night at Wembley Stadium, tonight is ‘.. a bit of a laugh’ and announces “You Got Me Rocking”, the first single from the album “Voodoo Lounge” and latter day live classic, receiving unanimous applause.
Time for a bit of joshing with the band now, Mick introduces “Black Limousine” mentioning that Ronnie has been beating the band in to playing it, Ronnie shakes his head which Jagger interprets as reluctance but Ronnie knows the set list better and insists that there’s one more to play before.
“Live With Me” is that track, the rumbling bass into introducing the devilish sport of the lyrics. Keith and Ronnie’s sparing of guitar lines and Bobby’s well defined and rehearsed sax solo winds out between Mick’s retelling of the song.
On to that teaser and after Mick asks Ronnie if he remembers his parts, “Black Limousine” guns up. Ronnie is certainly the one that’s having the most fun on this track but the rest of the band don’t slouch and it would come as a surprise to most newbies to learn that the track hadn’t caught air for quite a while.
A squealing solo and Mick’s harp send the song off to a great ending. It’s a great piece.
The band then enter in to their ‘acoustic’ / country section as Mick calls it. “Dead Flowers” takes first place, Keith plays acoustic while Ronnie pulls out the soloing for the balance of the track. It’s Charlie’s drums and Darryl’s bass that really pull the song along, driving it to a brilliant pace.
Mick jokes that he “felt like a hillbilly for a moment there” before a down home version of “Sweet Virginia”. Sweeter, more plaintive and just a little bit more bar-room if possible than the original, this version is all the better for it’s source and the closeness of the venue in allowing the band to show a little more heart.
More of the same comes in the way of “Far Away Eyes”, a sweeping glisten of lush, a solo made of gold and a decree that can’t be beat. Mick does well to remember all of the spoken word parts but seems to speed through them as he reels them off from memory. It’s the only time this and the following track would get an outing on this lap of the club concerts as Paris and Amsterdam missed out
After an even more sultry “Love In Vain”, “Meet Me In The Bottom” is introduced with it’s opening chord (An insider joke there, Mick?) – another driver where Ronnie gets to strap on his slide again and they all get to play the blues, Stones style. A club song only it works well and one assumes it might have lost some of it’s magic in the arenas.
“Shine A Light” has a funkier, lilt of reggae to it. Darryl’s bass edging up it’s performance against the drums. Come the end a blinding solo ripples against the grain and pushes in the finale.
Disk one ends to the Stones version of the Dylan track “Like A Rolling Stone”, another chance for the fans to shout back the lyrics and join in the melee on stage. Anthemia is the name of the game here and what better than the Stones covering Dylan for bombast. Another chance for Mick to pull out his harp and wail just to bring excitement levels to boiling point.
Disk two ramps up with a thrilling “Monkey Man”, Jagger rips through like a man possessed, eventually joined by Lisa in the second half who adds yet another dimension of power to the track adding a superb elongated line to the track. The ancient power of weaving is very prominent to the track, gently expressive but solidly built.
“I Go Wild” is the only other concession to the ‘Voodoo .. ‘ album tonight. Strung tightly, wickedly electric, it has a certain place in what’s otherwise a hits and oddities set but it’s obviously dropped in for the sake of being complete as it hardly turns up any more.
For the vocal among the crowd once again, war horse “Miss You” turns up with an added degree of charm. Almost skeletal in appearance as opposed to some of the other songs performed tonight this just added to the songs ongoing popularity, something that while it wouldn’t stop the fans from trying but actively requests that the fans call response to Mick’s vocal tics, something that he uses after the song has ended, an old trick, maybe but one that connects as the memory fades.
Keith’s two tracks tonight are “Connection” and “Slipping Away”. The first unearthed from the 1960’s, one wonders quite why Keith dragged this from out of mothballs she he had so many other classics to chose from but it shines a little better against “Slipping Away” which, despite best intentions, sounds dated against some of the other tracks on show tonight. The night’s best quote however comes from Keith as between the two tracks he mutters “It’s nice to have friends, y’know”. Goodness knows who this pointed barb is aimed towards but as his Mickness is not around, one wonders if things were still settling in the Stones camp or it was just a cheeky bit of media baiting.
Jagger returns to the stage for a lengthy “Midnight Rambler”, beginning with a skip in it’s step, it quickly loosens out to an all around jam, speeding up in to a cataclysmic rumble of bass, drums, guitar, piano and harp. There’s as much menace here as in the slither of the slow version of the song that comes after it, building up another head of steam, the song is a furious legacy to leave.
“Rip This Joint” follows and hardly leaves times for breath, the band romp through an exhilarating cascade of mayhem, that’s as invigorating as a cold shower.
To end the show, three more well known classics, “Start Me Up” has enough country and rock between it to fill Texas, taken at a furious pace too it’s as if the Stones are fighting to keep the speed but keep things drawn out for as long as possible.
“Brown Sugar” and “Jumpin’ jack Flash” draw a veil on the night beautifully. Both are great, blustering showstoppers with more energy to them than the Stones stepped on to the stage with. Powerful, euphoric and wild. A great end to the night.
The CD set looks fantastic. Adorned with photos from the gig in a slightly washed out fashion like video outtakes along with a full colour booklet with excellent and authoritative liner notes, the disks are printed with photos from outside of the venue showing the security that was on charge that day. The only downside is the typeface used for the title. It rolls over the bands name a little too much and renders them as either the ‘Rodling Stones’ or the ‘Roblinga Stones’ but it’s a very small hiccup on the design part.
The vinyl box that was released at the same time features the best of the CD sets charms, a great box to hold the 3 slices of vinyl, a booklet including different liner notes and a superb presentation.
Word has been made that there’s no difference in comparable sound quality between the CD or the vinyl because of the original choice. From the fans who collect vinyl, you’re not missing out. It’s a fantastic set all round. Lets hope the other club shows turn up in this kind of quality soon too.