The Rolling Stones Live At LA Memorial Coliseum ’81 (no label)
Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, CA – October 9th, 1981
Disc 1 (74:09): Take The A Train, Under My Thumb, When The Whip Comes Down, Let’s Spend The Night Together, Shattered, Neighbours, Black Limousine, Just My Imagination, Twenty Flight Rock, Let Me Go, Time Is On My Side, Beast Of Burden, Waiting On A Friend, Let It Bleed, You Can’t Always Get What You Want, band introduction, Little T & A
Disc 2 (55:49): Tumbling Dice, She’s So Cold, All Down The Line, Hang Fire, Star Star, Miss You, Start Me Up, Honky Tonk Women, Brown Sugar, Jumping Jack Flash, Street Fighting Man. Bonus tracks, Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, CA – October 11th, 1981: Satisfaction
Early in the Still Life tour the Rolling Stones played two massive concerts in Los Angeles at the Memorial Coliseum. They are among the biggest concerts ever for a single artist with the LA Times estimating 90,000 attending each night. These concerts were hyped because it had been four years since they played in southern California (two shows in Anaheim in 1978) and seven since they played in Los Angeles.
The compact disc era hasn’t paid too much attention to these big events. Two releases, Never Too Old To Rock And Roll (Dog N Cat DAC-011) and L.A. Connection (Exile EXCD-043A/B), both utilize the excellent soundboard recording.
The Rolling Stones Live At LA Memorial Coliseum ’81 is the first compact disc title to use the older, very good stereo audience recording. The tape is the source for the rare Japanese 2LP vinyl of the same name and for the 1LP Live At LA Memorial Coliseum ’81 Digest. The manufactures use the soundboard recording to fill a gap in the tape during the latter half of “She’s So Cold.”
All of the 1981 soundboards are very good, but the audience tapes capture the weight of the events and the interactions between band and audience. Although there are several bigmouths by the recorder who plague this tape making moronic statements and singing out-of-tune, it’s balanced out by the benefits of hearing the reaction entire audience. Almost like a wave, there is a liveliness that sometimes rises from the back of the crowd which can send chills down one’s spine.
Bill Graham introduces the band before “Under My Thumb.” The guitars cut out twice during the second number “When The Whip Comes Down” (“Los Angeles, it’s beautiful to be here even if we have no electricity. I have electricity in my brain” Jagger ad-libs during the track) “Can you keep the electricity on, Showco?’ he asked afterwards. The volume in the microphone becomes lower and Mick asks if he can be heard before “Shattered”.
He also gives the first of several exhortations for the front of the crowd to move back. “Los Angeles, city of the shoes” he says, an obvious reference to the July 24th, 1978 Anaheim show when the band were inundated with footwear of various kinds. “Please don’t throw bottles at me because they hurt when they hit me” he says before “Black Limousine.”
“Time Is On My Side” is introduced as some “sweetness” and seems to calm the crowd down a bit and is followed by several more relatively more mellow songs “Beast Of Burden”, “Waiting On A Friend”, “Let It Bleed” and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”.
The versions of the latter track by this point in the tour were terrific with Ernie Watts’ saxophone solo replacing Ron Wood’s guitar solo from previous tours. He had just joined the band the previous show in San Diego and plays a great jazzy riff which is unfortunately buried too far in the mix to be enjoyed. The show picks up again with “Little T & A” and someone actually throws a gift to Mick on stage. “What’s this? Grass, pills, acid, my goodness everything in one package” before “Tumbling Dice”.
Afterwards Mick is ready for “Hang Fire” but the band launch into “She’s So Cold” instead, a moment of either pure spontaneity or miscommunication. Again Mick wants “Hang Fire” but gets “All Down The Line” instead. “Starfucker” contains amended lyrics with Jagger singing: “Jimmy Page, not quite her age / I never knew the reason why” (which might be a reference to Page’s girlfriend Lori Maddox).
“Miss You” is for some reason very sloppy on this tour and this show is no exception. “Start Me Up” was the big hit at this time and is played flawlessly. The band is able to finish the set with the classics without further incidents.
Like the original vinyl, the October 11th encore “Satisfaction” is included as a bonus track. It was played that night in lieu of “Street Fighting Man” and offers a bit more comprehensive record of The Stones’ visit to Los Angeles.
The Rolling Stones Live At LA Memorial Coliseum ’81 is packaged in a double slimline jewel case with the front cover of the 2LP release used for the front artwork and the Digest used in the inside. Looking past the obvious limitation when comparing it to the soundboard releases, this is still a very nice recording with a fascinating glimpse into one of the biggest concerts in rock history.