Western Affair Vol. 1 (Dog N Cat DAC-124)
On September 14th The Rolling Stones announced their plan to tour the US for the first time in three years. They finished recording “Let It Bleed” in Los Angeles and held a pre-tour press conference on October 27th in the Beverly Wilshire hotel. At the time Keith Richards claimed the band “need” to play live, saying “You know a lot of people want to see us. But we really need to do a tour ’cause we haven’t played – a tour’s the ONLY thing that really knocks you into shape, you know.”
Opening night was eight hundred miles from Los Angeles in Fort Collins, Colorado. On November eighth they played two shows at the Forum in Los Angeles, both of which were record by Dub Taylor. According to Clinton Heylin in Bootleg, Dub was determined to document this important Rolling Stones “comeback” tour with the ultimate live document.
He recorded these two, plus the two in Oakland the following night, San Diego and finally Phoenix on November 11th. Western Affair Vol. 1 on Dog N Cat is the first time both shows have been issued in a single title, and both tapes in this collection represent substantial improvements over what has come out before.
The Forum, Los Angeles, CA – November 8th, 1969 (early show)
Disc 1 (62:55): Jumping Jack Flash, Carol, Sympathy For The Devil, Stray Cat Blues, Prodigal Son, Love In Vain, I’m Free, Midnight Rambler, Live With Me, Little Queenie, Satisfaction, Honky Tonk Women, Street Fighting Man
The recording for the early show is fair to good. There is distance from the stage resulting in it sounding a bit thin, and there is slight distortion present. The only significant cut is one after “Live With Me” which cuts off the opening notes of “Little Queenie.”
It has been available before on L.A. Queenie (Risk Disc 007) and also the first disc of Welcome To The Breakfast Show (Vinyl Gang VGP-337). DAC sounds much better than the older titles and runs at the correct pitch.
The early show is a bit shorter than the evening because they cut “Under My Thumb” from the setlist, probably to make sure they finish on schedule. “Gimme Shelter,” which was played the previous night in Colorado, seems to have been dropped from both shows in Los Angeles set too.
The show begins with “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and “Carol.” Before the get into “Sympathy For The Devil” Jagger asks the audience “has it really been three years? It doesn’t seem like it.” The first two songs were tight, but things become more loose with long jam session. It’s still a song in development as a live piece, but even at this early stage it is still compelling.
“Prodigal Son” is the only song in the acoustic interlude. Jagger announces “Love In Vain” as another blues song, but seems to have forgotten that Robert Johnson wrote the original tune. As good as a performance it is, the audience seems a bit restless with the slower material. Also, the PA seems to be deficient. Before they launch into “I’m Free” Jagger asks “You can’t hear us??” “NOOOOOO” is the loud and enthusiastic reply.
“MIdnight Rambler” from the still unreleased Let It Bleed is played and borders on disaster. Mick’s harp is out of tune and the band try to continue without him. It seems to throw them all off balance and the song never really gains any force or momentum. It peters out by the end.
“Live With Me,” another new song, makes its live debut. It sounds slower than it would develop into, but still is a powerful song. The ending of the show with the elongated “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” followed by “Honky Tonk Woman,” their biggest hit in 1969, and “Street Fighting Man” bring a strong conclusion to a contained, nervous and uneven performance.
The Forum, Los Angeles, CA – November 8th, 1969 (late show)
Disc 2 (69:25): Jumping Jack Flash, Carol, Sympathy For The Devil, Stray Cat Blues, Prodigal Son, You Gotta Move, Love In Vain, I’m Free, Under My Thumb, Midnight Rambler, Live With Me, Little Queenie, Satisfaction, Honky Tonk Women, Street Fighting Man
The evening show is longer and is an improvement over the afternoon show. The sound quality of this recording is also an improvement, sounding much closer to the stage resulting in a louder and more dynamic tape.
Dog N Cat released this show on L.A. 69 – Nov. 8, – 2nd Show (Dog N Cat DAC-120) in 2011 using another tape source. The Sam Cutler introduction on DAC-120, where his is trying to sooth the restless audience, is absent from this recording. ‘
Instead, it starts as the band come on stage for “Jumping Jack Flash,” which starts off the show and like most versions from this tour sounds very timid, uncertain, and tentative.
“We’re sorry to keep you waiting but we’ve been waiting too” Jagger says afterwards, apologizing for the delay. “We would’ve have brought our toothbrushes had we known.”
“Carol” is much better and, and the show is much better throughout. Keith in particular rocks in “Sympathy For The Devil” and “Stray Cat Blues.” Afterwards, Mick tell them “this sounds weird, but we’re gonna sit down” before they play a haunting version of “Prodigal Son.”
The first two shows stopped there, but Mick tell them they’re going to play another one and proceed with “You Gotta Move.” This is the first live performance of the song that would remain in the set for the rest of the tour and on the European tour in 1970, be recorded for Sticky Fingers, and would be played in an electric form in 1975 with Billy Preston taking a large role.
Mick Taylor plays a delicate and intricate solo in “I’m Free.” It’s a shame this song would be pretty much dropped after this, only to appear on rare occasions.
“Are you really grooving or are you too tired?” Jagger has to ask the crowd afterwards. After “Under My Thumb” Jagger tell them “we’re gonna do a few things … you haven’t heard them but we hope you dig them. This is one from our new album which we call ‘Midnight Rambler’.”
Still a month away from release on Let It Bleed, it still sounds quite chilling when Taylor and Richards battle during the long improvisation in the middle.
“Satisfaction,” with a long Taylor solo in the middle, and “Street Fighting Man” close what is a very satisfying performance from so early in the tour.
Western Affair Vol. 1 is packaged in a double slimline jewel case with thick inserts decorated with various live shots from the 1969 tour. This is a rare DAC release which has received almost unanimous praise from Rolling Stones collectors and can be considered to be an essential upgrade over previous releases. Since this is label the first volume, it raises expectations about what the label will do for an encore…