The Rolling Stones – Shea Stadium 1989 (no label)

Shea Stadium 1989 (no label)

Shea Stadium, New York, NY – October 10th, 1989

Disc 1 (70:05):  Continental Drift, Start Me Up, Bitch, Sad Sad Sad, Undercover Of The Night, Harlem Shuffle, Tumbling Dice, Miss You, Ruby Tuesday, Angie, Rock And A Hard Place, Mixed Emotions, Honky Tonk Women, Midnight Rambler,

Disc 2 (78:02):  You Can’t Always Get What You Want, Little Red Rooster, Before They Make Me Run, Happy, Paint It Black, 2000 Light Years From Home, Sympathy For The Devil, Gimme Shelter, It’s Only Rock n Roll, Brown Sugar, Satisfaction, Jumping Jack Flash

The Rolling Stones’ New York dates on the Steel Wheels tour were their first in the city in eight years.  Initially, they booked four nights at Shea Stadium in Queens, October 25th, 26th, 28th and 29th.  Tickets went on sale on August 19th and nearly a quarter of a million tickets were sold in one day, breaking a record set by Bruce Springsteen in 1985.

When the New York Mets were eliminated from the National League East pennant race on September 18th, the Stones were able to book a fifth night on October 10th which precedes the other shows by two weeks.  Mick Jagger even apologizes for this, telling the audience before “Tumbling Dice”:  “We’re sorry the Mets didn’t make it to the World Series.  Too bad.  But we’re gonna have the World Series of love.”

Shea Stadium 1989 is the silver pressed debut of this show and this tape.  It is a very good recording with only slight hints of distortion in loud parts.  There is minimal audience interference, and several times (at the beginning, after the show, during “Bitch,” twice during “Miss You,” etc) you can hear the jets from LaGuardia Airport flying over the stadium.

Eric Clapton joins the band onstage for “Little Red Rooster,” the first of three such guest appearances on the tour.

A detailed review of the show appeared under the title “Icons Who Rock: The Stones Play Shea” by Peter Watrous published in the October 12th, 1989 edition of the New York Times.  He writes: 

“With planes regularly roaring overhead and sightlines more appropriate for landscape artists than for concertgoers, Shea Stadium isn’t the perfect setting for a rock show. But the Rolling Stones, who opened a six-night engagement on Tuesday, quickly made 66,000 fans feel comfortable.

“Four or five songs into its two-and-a-half-hour set, the group dug into the rhythm and proved it could still summon the authority necessary to maintain its status as one of the world’s greatest rock-and-roll bands.  That designation isn’t a given. As older bands continue to write the history of rock, it’s obvious that a failure of nerve vitiates the effectiveness of some older performers. Moving away from the extremes of their personalities, they’re left with something unrecognizable.

“Not so with the Rolling Stones. Even though the amplification system did its best to turn the band’s sound into anonymous blare, the group poured out strikingly detailed dance rhythm after dance rhythm. And Mick Jagger, pursing his famous lips, articulated every torn and tattered phrase and maintained his personality without sinking into caricature.

“Appearing before a huge set that at times looked like a rundown industrial building with walkways and at other times looked like the side of a battleship, the Stones tore through a set of 25 songs. The band was augmented by a horn section, two keyboardists, three backup vocalists and a stunning guest appearance by Eric Clapton on a deep blues version of ‘Little Red Rooster.’ There were few surprises as the Stones stuck mostly to a series of hits, including ‘Ruby Tuesday,’ ‘Harlem Shuffle,’ ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash,’ ‘Satisfaction,’ ‘Angie,’ ‘Tumbling Dice’ and, off the new ‘Steel Wheels’ album, ‘Mixed Emotions.’

“But the members played their standards beautifully, reminding their listeners what a great dance band they are. On tune after tune, after raw and granitelike guitar introductions by the guitarists Keith Richards and Ron Wood, the band moved directly into a hard, greased dance rhythm, underscoring how precise, yet effortless-sounding, the rhythm section can be.

“On ‘Miss You,’ Charlie Watts, the group’s drummer, played intricate patterns that intensified the rhythms of the band. His drum kit sounded enormous as his bass drum sent a persistent, whacking thump into the audience. And Mr. Watts, along with the bassist Bill Wyman, changed tempos and drove the band into a cathartic, extended version of ‘Midnight Rambler,’ with Mr. Jagger crying passionate blues phrases.

“The program also emphasized the number of brilliantly idiosyncratic songs the band plays. Mr. Jagger ran around the vast stage like a spoiled child magically transported into middle age, but he carefully phrased each of those songs with the care of a cabaret singer.

“Songs like ‘Paint It Black,’ ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ and ‘Gimme Shelter’ presented the acidic world view that squared with the Stones’ position as a band that has helped define the morality of a generation or two.”

Shea Stadium 1989 is a good release of a very rare Steel Wheels era concert.  The sound quality is good enough to enjoy the show and is recommended. 

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