Brussels 76 Revisited (Exile EXM-006A/B/C)
One of the most famous concerts given by the Rolling Stones occurred at the Forest National in Brussels on their 1973 tour, due to the KBFH tape and its resultant myriad of titles. When they returned to Europe again three years later they scheduled two nights at the Forest National within the first week of the tour. These two concerts are almost as obscure as the ’73 is celebrated for good reason. The ’73 show is a professionally recorded and mixed tape of a brilliant performance, but these are merely fair to good sounding tapes of good but not classic concerts.
Not only were the Stones playing Europe for the first time with new member Ron Wood and were playing material from Black And Blue which was a departure from their previous LP It’s Only Rock And Roll, but they were also contending with Keith Richards’ deepening drug dependency that would culminate in his drug bust the following spring in Toronto. It noticeably affected his performance, illustrated most vividly when he fell asleep on stage while the band were playing “Fool To Cry” in Germany.
Nevertheless these are two enjoyable shows from the European tour. Brussels 76 Revisited is the first time these two have been pressed onto silver discs in their entirety. When Exile began they explored eras that most of the major labels ignored, giving some tapes their silver debuts in attractive and definitive silver titles.
As the label progressed before ceasing operation they began tinker way too much with the tapes and oftentimes simply ruining them with the annoying metallic crunchy whine (their Vienna 1973 release is the most serious example). Brussels 76 Revisited was issued early enough in their production run to escape such atrocities. Exile applies a very light touch to improve the tapes as much as possible, but mostly left the tapes to speak on their own terms. Only the limitations of the source material effect the listening experience.
Foret Nationale, Brussels, Belgium – May 6th, 1976
Disc 1 (71:12): Honky Tonk Women, If You Can’t Rock Me-Get Off My Cloud, Hand Of Fate, Hey Negrita, Ain’t Too Proud To Beg, Fool To Cry, Hot Stuff, Star Star, You Gotta Move, You Can’t Always Get What You Want, Band Introductions, Happy, Tumbling Dice, Nothing From Nothing, Outa Space
Disc 2 (62:36): Midnight Rambler, It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll, Brown Sugar, Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Street Fighting Man
The first Brussels show is the more well-known of the two. Excerpts and supplements of this show available on the bootleg LP Gather No Moss (HJH 1001) and fifteen track were pressed on Bruxelles Affair 1976 (Heaven Music HM 01).
Exile is the first release of the entire concert on silver. The sound quality is fair to good. It’s a significant distance from the stage and is rather thin sounding. It is however clear enough to hear and appreciate. It exists as a good document of the show but is definitely NOT a hi-fi experience. There are several small cuts between numbers like after “Hot Stuff” and the beginning of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” but nothing too destructive.
The show itself is a typical for the first week. Although the Stones normally changed the set list after the opening nights, this tour saw very little of that with the only significant change in the set between this and the opening night in Frankfurt is the omission of “All Down The Line” and the addition of “Happy.”
Like many of the shows from this tour it is very enjoyable with an emphasis upon the newer numbers in the first half of the set. The energy builds quite nicely when they make the transition into “Get Off Of My Cloud” in the second number. “Hand Of Fate” hits a melodic yet moody groove all in keeping with the melancholy of the mid-seventies.
There seem to be balance issue in the mix during “Hey Negrita” since the piano is extremely loud. The cool dance number “Hot Stuff” is the last of the new songs played and Mick carries the disco groove into “Starfucker,” singing parts in a high pitched falsetto.
The first Brussels show has one of the better versions of “Midnight Rambler” available on tape. The echo and distortion of the tape emphasizes the dark and sinister aggression of the piece highlighted in the guitars in the middle of the piece. The show ends with “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” with “Street Fighting Man” as the encore.
Foret Nationale, Brussels, Belgium – May 7th, 1976
Disc 2: Honky Tonk Women, If You Can’t Rock Me-Get Off My Cloud, Hand Of Fate, Hey Negrita, Ain’t Too Proud To Beg, Fool To Cry, band introductions, Hot Stuff, Star Star
Disc 3 (48:15): You Gotta Move, You Can’t Always Get What You Want, Happy, Tumbling Dice, Nothing From Nothing, Midnight Rambler, It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll, Brown Sugar, Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Street Fighting Man
May 7th occupies the half of disc two and disc three completely. It is a fair mono audience recording making its debut on this release. Compared to the previous evening it is thinner sounding and lacks bass frequencies. There is also more conspicuous audience presence throughout the show. There are minor cuts between some songs and a big one less than a minute into “Nothing From Nothing” which eliminates most of that song and “Outa Space” (the taper apparently didn’t like Billy Preston).
The second show in Brussels is also a very tight performance with much enthusiasm for the new songs in the first half of the show. So much so that “Hand Of Fate” sounds as if it’s always on the verge of being derailed (but never does). Wood is the driving force in this tune and his playing makes one wonder if he keeps losing his place.
The Brussels audience are excited by “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” and for an unusually interesting rendition of “Fool To Cry.” Jagger again sounds extremely excited in “Star Star.” In the latter half parts, “Midnight Rambler” becomes very dark and slutty in the slower middle sections providing an ironic counterpoint to the message of the piece. Jagger fights feedback during “It’s Only Rock And Roll.”
The show ends with an apocalyptic “Street Fighting Man.” It is with some interest they choose to end the show with their “most political song” since Black And Bluemarks the end of their attempt at socio-political commentary. Even It’s Only Rock And Roll featured “Fingerprint File” which played a prominent part in the 1975 Tour Of The Americas. This could be seen as the final vestige of an era and the band’s future emphasis on performance instead of commentary (with notable exceptions of course). Nevertheless it’s an excellent ending to and effective concert.
Brussels 76 Revisited is packaged in a standard fatboy jewel case with double sided inserts with various tour photographs. For the Stones collector this is an essential title to have in the collection. These two shows are extremely rare to find and, although not the greatest sound quality, provide a very clear glimpse into the first week of an important European tour.