The Rolling Stones – Largo 1981 2nd Night (No Label)

Rolling Stones - Largo 81 2ndLargo 1981 2nd Night (No Label)

Capital Center Arena, Largo, Maryland – December 8, 1981

CD1 (69:15) 1. Take the A Train, 2. Under My Thumb, 3. When The Whip Comes Down, 4. Lets Spend The Night Together, 5. Shattered, 6. Neighbors, 7. Black Limousine, 8. Just My Imagination, 9. Twenty Flight Rock, 10. Going to a Go Go, 11. Let Me Go, 12. Time is on My Side, 13. Beast of Burden, 14. Waiting on a Firend, 15. Let it Bleed

CD2 (61:14) 1. You Can’t Always Get What You Want, 2. Band Introductions, 3. Little T&A, 4. Tumbling Dice, 5. She’s So Cold, 6. Hang Fire, 7. Miss You, 8. Honky Tonk Women, 9. Brown Sugar, 10. Start Me Up, 11. Jumping Jack Flash, 12. Satisfaction

The 1981 Rolling Stones U.S. tour consisted of 51 stadium and arena shows with one club warm-up and grossed over 50 million dollars in ticket sales while being witnessed by over 3 million fans.  There was such a demand for tickets that the Stones employed a mail in lottery to try to thwart scalpers which resulted in them receiving 4 million requests for the two Philadelphia JFK Stadium shows alone.

The tour was in promotion of the newly released “Tattoo You” album which some Stones fans consider the last great recording effort by the band but was ironically hastily put together from outtakes and song fragments from previous albums.

Promoted by the irascible Bill Graham the tour utilized 3 identical elaborate and colorful stages, created by Japanese designer Kazuhide Yamazaki, which leapfrogged the band in advance of the next concert date.

The tour also saw several innovation, which have become industry standards these days, with the multimillion dollar selling of advertising rights to Jōvan and the first ever pay per view TV and theater concert event of the December 18th Hampton Coliseum show  billed as “The World’s Greatest Rock’n’Roll Party,”

While the tour ran like clockwork it was not without its backstage intrigue. In addition to opening act guitarist George Thorogood being on call to take over for Ronnie Wood in case he slipped back into his cocaine free basing habit, Mick and Keith’s relationship deteriorated to the point where they completely stopped talking to one another.

In his entertaining biography “Life” Keith Richards feels this falling out stemmed from his desire to help Mick with the business decisions again after finally kicking his chronic heroin habit as a result of his infamous 1979 Canadian bust.  Mick, who was used to calling all the shots, resented what he saw as Keith’s interference and the two began to argue to the point where they stopped communicating with each other directly. This contributed to the hard feeling that eventually saw the band effectively split after the tour finished until the 1989 tour reunion.

The tour got off to an inauspicious start when the Stones, using the moniker “The Cockroaches”, played a small club show at the tiny 300 person capacity Sir Morgan’s Cove in Worcester, Massachusetts. The Stones worked with the local Worcester rock station WAAF to distribute the tickets but the concerts location was blown when a rival Boston rock radio station broke the news and over ten thousand fans showed up at the tiny club. Ironically this is one of the few shows from the tour that has no known available recording.

As far as I can determine this concert has only been released one time before in excellent SB mono quality, from a different source, on the Dog N Cats (DAC037) title “Capital Connection Vol.2”.  The recording for the DAC title most likely originated from the large batch of SB recording which surfaced just over 10 years ago.  The source of the SB’s was rumored to be U.S. collector who was said to have every 1981 U.S. tour show in SB quality. This resulted in a flood of SB releases which varied in quality and completeness and in many cases were mono recordings.

The source of this No Name label release most likely came from a recent stream on Wolfgang’s Vault and as a result it is an excellent plus razor sharp stereo SB that has a wide soundstage and fantastic  separation of instruments. As with some of the other WGV Stones recordings I have heard we get Ronnie isolated in the left channel and Keith in the right. Along with Mick’s vocals the guitars are slightly dominant in the mix so this is another show for the guitar lovers in the crowd. While other instruments are slightly back they are not over powered which results in an excellently balanced recording that has beautiful warmth and is easy on the ears. There is a nice level of audience in the mix which keeps the recording from being too dry as some SB’s can tend to be.

The recording is almost flawless but I did notice that there is about a 10 second section, starting at about 4:37 in track 11 “Let Me Go” on CD1, where the recording suddenly reverts to mono but it is so subtle I had to listen to the section several times to even confirm this.

Based on comments I have read on the various Stones forums the 81 tour was very polarizing with hard core stones fans. Some fans, like myself, enjoyed the set list, which included over half the songs from the recently released “Tattoo You” album, while others disliked the new songs, the setlist in general, felt the shows were too rushed, disliked Mick’s wardrobe, and complained about the Stones tone.

As with every Stones tour once the band shakes off the rust the shows are usually very consistent in quality and this tour is no exception as the band turns in a very strong performance for this concert. After repeated listens I even feel confident in saying  it is on par with the excellent Hampton pay per view concert that many fans feel was the best concert of the tour. IMHO the newly sober Keith Richards playing was the highlight of this tour but even the beleaguered Mr. Wood never missed a beat.

If there ever was a recording that fit of the famous Led Zeppelin saying “Tight But Loose” this show fits that bill as the bands performance is excellent while being very loose and relaxed at the same time.

The band does a credible job of mixing the half a dozen new “Tattoo You” songs with some real oldies like “Under My Thumb” and “Time is on My Side” and of course the usual standard warhorses every fan expects to hear at a Stones concert.

While all the songs are well played I personally enjoyed all the new “Tattoo You” songs with “Waiting on a Friend” as a standout for me featuring a beautiful sax solo by Ernie Watts. Other highlights for me included “Under My Thumb”, a fantastic “Just My Imagination” and an always favorite of mine “Let It Bleed”.   Maybe I am just jaded from hearing the warhorses too many times but I have to admit to also having a soft spot for the 2 cover songs played consistently on this tour “20 Flight Rock” and “Going to a Go Go”. I especially love Charlie’s backbeat intro to “Going to a Go Go”.

As well played as the concert was it was not without its technical difficulties as during “Beast of Burden” we hear a short burst of static from Keith’s amp at about the 4:00 minute mark and his guitar is out of commission for close to a minute and a half leaving Ronnie to fill the void which he does admirably. Even after Keith comes back into the mix his guitar is distorted and continues to breakup intermittently until the end of the song before begin fixed for “Waiting on a Friend”.

As with any Stones show the performance is not without its missteps. During the beginning of “She’s So Cold” Keith seems to get lost in the opening riff which causes Charlie to stop his intro but the band quickly recovers and after a few minutes of collecting themselves does a spirited version of the song. Also Keith starts off in the wrong key for the opening riff of “Start Me Up” but quickly drops a step and recovers and the band never misses a beat.

This No Name release comes in a slim line double jewel case with the usual high quality glossy inserts and a sticker listing the edition number. While there are a large number of quality shows from this tour I feel the excellent sound quality and performance would make this release a welcome addition to even the causal fans collection and as such is a release to seek out.

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