Fukuoka 1995 2nd Night (no label)
Fukuoka Dome, Fukuoka, Japan, March 23, 1995
CD 1: (58:25): Introduction, Not Fade Away, Tumbling Dice, You Got Me Rocking, It’s All Over Now, Shattered, Sparks Will Fly, Satisfaction, Love In Vain, Sweet Virginia, Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo, Love Is Strong, I Go Wild
CD 2: (68:12): Miss You, Band Introductions, Honky Tonk Women, Happy, The Worst, Sympathy For The Devil, Monkey Man, Street Fighting Man, Start Me Up, It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll, Brown Sugar, Jumping Jack Flash, Outroduction
The mantra of the post-1989 Rolling Stones might well be “making up for lost time.” After more than six years off the road, and only sporadically recording together as a unit during the 1980s, the Stones rolled out their ‘89 “comeback” album, “Steel Wheels,” and have been riding the global rails ever since.
The band’s 1994-95 “Voodoo Lounge” world tour also took them, for only the second time, to Japan (which they had intended to visit way back in 1973 before the kibosh was put on that plan over the usual Stones hassles: drugs, visas, etc.). Hot off of a very strong jaunt across the United States the year before, the band treated Japanese audiences to a staggering nine shows in nearly as many days.
This new, highly enjoyable no-label double-disc release, simply titled “Fukuoka 1995 2nd Night,” captures the last evening of the band’s nine-show stint in Japan (and its second at the Fukuoka Dome, hence the title). It also adds to the growing canon of “Voodoo Lounge”-era live releases that, to me, collectively make a convincing case for this being one of the best Stones tours of the past twenty years. As you can see from the track list above, there was – and is – much to like about the band’s presentation and selection of material on tour, not to mention the universally strong, tight (relatively speaking; this IS the Stones, after all) performances.
Plus, for my money, I consider “Voodoo Lounge” to be the second best Stones record (after ’83’s “Undercover”) of the group’s post-“Tattoo You” autumnal years. Good, grease-and grime songs with just a touch of sleaze, such as the underrated “I Go Wild” and the onetime single,”Love Is Strong” (which I always heard as a close cousin of “Dancing With Mr. D” from “Goats Head Soup”) translated strongly on stage, especially for the interplay of guitarists Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood. It’s truly a pity that the exponentially lesser tune, “You Got Me Rocking,” has become the lone “Lounge” survivor that the band continues to flog on each successive tour. (It has, regrettably, become rather like the late-period Stones’ version of the stiffly soulless set staple, “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll [But I Like It],” – a tour warhorse-with-rigor mortis).
This, like the music within it, is a solid, straightforwardly presented set: factory pressed picture disc silvers with a two sided color insert and inlay artwork featuring tour-accurate photographs. The title follows another previously released “no label” title from Italy, “Voodoo Wild,” and last year’s similarly excellent no-label four-CD Japanese issue, “Voodoo Lounge in Fukuoka,” and appears to also be sourced from the very good-bordering-on-excellent stereo audience DAT master. Everything here is clear, crisp, and well balanced, if slightly thin in depth and a bit narrow across the sound spectrum. But as these types of recordings go, it is a worthy historical document and a very good audience recording of a strong concert. By this juncture in their ’94-’95 jaunt, the Stones are a well-oiled machine, delivering the goods on a nightly basis. In fact, a pair of minor few gaffes in this show have to do with eagerness, rather than the band’s usual bane of sluggishness. Instead, there is a momentary jump-the-gun guitar arrival on the wah-wah soaked “Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker),” and frontman Mick Jagger’s too-early vocal entrance on “It’s All Over Now,” which he remedies by pulling out quickly (insert Carla Bruni joke here).
The Buddy Holly evergreen, “Not Fade Away,” kicks off the festivities and from there, the band continue to loosen up with a casual, horn-drenched soul treatment of “Tumbling Dice.” The Bobby Womack nugget, “It’s All Over Now,” is a buoyant bump back in time to the band’s early club days. “Shattered” is fine, although frankly, the number has never really worked for me as a live piece, even back on the “Some Girls” tour of ‘78 – something about the tightly zig-zagging, jabbering, jittery punk-funk of the studio version just can’t be replicated on stage (and no, I don’t mean I want the song to sound the same as it does on record). The band always sounds somehow ill at ease, like the tempo and riffs don’t quite fit, and it’s a labor to feel and get comfortable.
Even though the Stones, curiously, hadn’t had their signature song, “Satisfaction,” in their set list for many years, they have no such trouble feeling or getting the right fit for the song that first defined them and made their bones as a band to be reckoned with. From stem to stern, “Satisfaction” feels still powerful and hungry, with Keith’s and Ron’s buzzsaw guitars and Mick proclaiming his frustration at not being able to “Get No!” ….well, you know the rest. Absurd, I know, when you consider the source. But call it a suspension of disbelief when listening to the performance of a song that ensured Sir Mick Jagger would never again go unsatisfied on pretty much any level (granted, so there WAS that Allen Klein debacle).
Speaking of songs that always felt right – even when they weren’t the Stones’ own – the Robert Johnson-penned “Love In Vain” receives a tartly sweet-and-sour treatment here, with Jagger’s nasally drawl and Wood’s down-home-clapboard-porch slide lending the song a conversational elegance. The swaying gospel blues of “Sweet Virginia” follows, tastefully accented and augmented by longtime sidemen Chuck Leavell’s piano and Bobby Keyes’ saxophone.
Predictably and inevitably, the second disc carries much of the typical Stones’ extended grand finale finish, and at this stage of the game it’s admittedly a bit hard to get excited or find fresh revelations in the whole “Street Fighting Man/Start Me Up/It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll/Brown Sugar/Jumping Jack Flash” vortex. This clutch of songs are executed dutifully and with as much precision as the Stones can muster. But for those who prefer lesser known fare, the band (and powerhouse longtime backing vocalist Lisa Fischer) do oblige us late in the set with a gamely rousing “Monkey Man,” a regrettably often overlooked sinewy little workout from “Let It Bleed.” Those lyrics (“I hope we’re not too messianic, or a trifle too satanic – just love to play the blues!”) – not to mention the title of the thing itself – could just as easily have been Mick Jagger’s personae-defining signature song as “Jumping Jack Flash” or “Midnight Rambler” in an alternate universe.
Oh, one small revelation: When Wood (presumably it is Ronnie, since Mick cues him verbally) finds the first few opening notes to a slow but steady “Street Fighting Man,” the lick sounds an awful lot like the Velvet Underground’s “Heroin.” A reminder of things past, in more ways than one.