Rolling Stones – Sweet Home Chicago (Empress Valley EVSD381/382)

Sweet Home Chicago (Empress Valley EVSD381/382)

Rosemont Horizon, Chicago, IL – November 24th, 1981

Disc 1 (68:50):  Under My Thumb, When The Whip Comes Down, Let’s Spend The Night Together, Shattered, Neighbors, Black Limousine, Just My Imagination, Twenty Flight Rock, Going To A Go-Go, Let Me Go, Time Is On My Side, Beast of Burden, Waiting On A Friend, Let It Bleed

Disc 2 (64:07):  You Can’t Always Get What You Want, Band introductions, Little T & A, Tumbling Dice, She’s So Cold, Hang Fire, Miss You (with Sugar Blue), Honky Tonk Women, Brown Sugar, Start Me Up, Jumping Jack Flash, Satisfaction, Star Spangled Banner

On the Still Life tour in 1981 The Rolling Stones spent “two weeks” in Chicago according to a statement Mick Jagger makes.  Since the Chess Records catalogue is their muse, their first live appearance in the city was a set at the Checkerboard Lounge with legend Muddy Waters on November 22nd, jamming on his hits.  Three shows followed at the 18,500 capacity Rosemont Horizon (today called the Allstate Arena) on November 23rd, 24th, and 25th. 

Sweet Home Chicago on Empress Valley utilizes the same incomplete soundboard recording from The Rolling Stones’ November 24th, the second of the three.  The recording first appeared on Sweet Home Chicago 1981 (Dog N Cat DAC-004).  It is clear but rather dry with the audience cheering pushed way back in the mix.  And like other Still Life soundboards the guitars sound quiet thing.

Empress Valley follows DAC by using the fair to good audience tape for Bill Graham’s introduction at the show’s start to 1:25 in “Under My Thumb” and for the twenty minute gap in the middle starting at 2:15 in “Time Is On My Side” and includes “Beast Of Burden,” “Waiting On A Friend,” “Let It Bleed” and the first minute and forty-one seconds of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”

The concert itself is very spirited and perhaps one of the best from this tour.  Spending several days in Chicago seems to have fired up the band.  The opening numbers are delivered at a frightening pace and it never lets up.  One can hear on the audience recording at the beginning the excitement generated first when the band start “Under My Thumb” and secondly when Mick Jagger runs onto the stage. 

“Big city, big city.  Sweet old Chicago” Jagger says before “Let’s Spend The Night Together.”  There is a lot of enthusiasm in “Shattered.”  So much so that Jagger looses his place and forgets a break.  He thanks Chicago for their hospitality before “Black Limousine.”  

Like most shows “Just My Imagination” is one of the most intense numbers in the set.  It provides an opportunity for Wood and Richards to jam with another and with Ernie Watts on saxophone.  The “oldies” section ends with “Time Is On My Side” which they used to do “as babies.”

But the most interesting aspect of this show occurs in “Miss You.”  In place of the saxophone solo, bluesman Sugar Blue plays the harmonica.  He is the musician who recorded the harmonica solo on the studio recording and this is a very rare occurrence.  It sounds as if he crashes the stage since Watts starts the sax solo but is abruptly stopped.

Sweet Home Chicago is packaged in a double slimline.  Empress Valley utilize photos and graphics from the Still Life tour common to all their releases from this era.  EV also use classy glossy paper for the inserts.  The DAC is very good but is a three disc set with an incomplete copy of the Muddy Waters set from the Checkerboard Lounge.  EV provides the only two disc set in an affordable edition and is worth having.   

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