London 8th September 1973 (Early Show) (Devil’s Breath DB 002)
Empire Pool, Wembley, London, England – September 8th, 1973 (early show)
Brown Sugar, Gimme Shelter, Happy, Starfucker, Angie, You Can’t Always Get What You Want, Dancing With Mr. D, Heartbreaker, Midnight Rambler, Honky Tonk Women, All Down The Line, Rip This Joint, Jumping Jack Flash, Street Fighting Man
For the Rolling Stones’ early show at Wembley on September 8th, 1973 there exists two audience recordings. The first tape source is merely fair taped a considerable distance from the stage and with distortion (the acoustics at the Empire Pool didn’t help the recording). It has been released on London ’73 (Trash In The Seventies) (Shaved Disc Trash 03) and on Rolling Stones Touring History Vol. 4 (Bad Wizard C010310). Several years ago a copy of a much better audience recording surfaced. The taper is much closer to the stage and he produces a much more clear and enjoyable recording. The only problem is that “Gimme Shelter” is missing. Its first release is on Empire Pool on Bad Wizard (BW-8973). Soon after Vinyl Gang released Timeless ’73 (VGP 372) as one of their last titles in 2004. This version sounds good and Vinyl Gang edited “Gimme Shelter” from the poorer source to complete the better sounding one, something Bad Wizard didn’t do.
Last year Empress Valley issued Wembley High Rollers through their Halcyon project. Halcyon focuses upon excellent quality soundboards, but this has the distinction of being the only audience recording utilized on that label. The sound quality is a slight improvement over Vinyl Gang and “Gimme Shelter” is complete, but there is a strange tape fluctuation before “Midnight Rambler” that isn’t present on the other titles. London 8th September 1973 (Early Show) (Devil’s Breath DB 002) is the latest release of this show, surfacing last week. Devil’s Breath uses the master cassette directly from the taper. It is complete with “Gimme Shelter” and is much more clear and lively. The only negative is that it runs about three percent too fast.
The Rolling Stones began the European tour after the release of Goat’s Head Soup on September 1st in Vienna and played 42 shows in 22 cites. Their appearance at Wembley Empire Pool is their first in England and they play for shows over three days. The September 9th show was professionally taped and parts were edited with the Brussels tape for the KBFH. It isn’t known of the other shows were professionally recorded or not. The matinee on September 8th is quiet early, starting a three o’ clock. The tape begins right when the announcer says, “The Rolling Stones!!” and the band launching right into “Brown Sugar” with slide guitar and horn section blazing. “How are you this afternoon? I just got up, I got to wake meself up a bit. Slap me old face” as the ominous beginning of “Gimme Shelter” begins. The horns replace the female vocalist from the studio recording and is never very convincing.
It sounds much too happy and up beat on what is supposed to be an apocalyptic cry for help. Thankfully they end early on and the song turns into the masterpiece it is. “Thank you it is wonderful to be back…in me own hometown and that” Jagger says before introducing Keith to sing “Happy” which he sings with gusto. The song is so energetic that Jagger says afterwards, “I think we blew a couple of amps up here.” “Tumbling Dice” is introduced as “time for the humbly tumbly.” What follows are several new songs beginning with “Starfucker” and the mellow ballad “Angie.” The following “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” is meant to make the audience “feel sadder.”
The song builds up nicely and the band quiet down to emphasize Taylor’s trills in a gorgeous solo. The band play two more new songs beginning with “Dancing With Mr. D.” This is a spooky, voodoo laden song inspired by their recording in Jamaica the previous year and The Stones tried hard to make it a hit, even producing a seldom seen video. It has a killer, laid back and spooky riff and onstage the song is played much faster than the studio version. Jagger gives insidious intonation to the words as he sings about Mr. D (which he states stands for “Death,” not “Devil”). It is an effective stage piece which unfortunately never caught on and has not been heard since. Even better is the following song “Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo,” which includes the killer funky interlude not heard in the studio with Jagger exhorting everyone to “get off your arse.” The horn section blends very well the ambience of this song.
The rest of the show is devoted to the older classics beginning with a dramatic, twelve-minute long version of “Midnight Rambler.” “Rip This Joint” is two minutes long and segues directly with “Jumping Jack Flash.” In my review of the Halcyon release I write, “in general this is an improvement although not a dramatic one and the definitive version of this show has yet to be released.” It is clear that, unless a tape source from the front row or a soundboard surfaces, Devil’s Breath is the definitive version of this concert. This is the new label’s second release after their debut, Pink Floyd The Ultimate Breakfast, and is an excellent document of when the Stones were a dangerous, guitar-based band.