Party Down (no label)
Rockford MetroCentre, Rockford, IL – October 1st, 1981
Disc 1 (53:38): 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
Disc 2 (54:42): Let It Bleed, You Can’t Always Get What You Want, Tumbling Dice, Little T & A, She’s So Cold, Hang Fire, Miss You, Start Me Up, Honky Tonk Woman, Brown Sugar, Jumping Jack Flash
The Rolling Stones’ Still Life tour in 1981 was conceived to be the biggest and most lucrative rock tour of all time. Through the use of corporate sponsors (Jovan Musk), booking the show into the biggest stadiums playing in full daylight, and even utilizing the new pay-per-view for the tour finale, the tour was the largest grossing tour, not only for 1981, but for many years afterwards.
An anomaly is the October 1st show in Rockford, Illinois. It is the only small show in an indoor venue. The show was added to the schedule when the radio station WZOK gathered 36,000 signature on a petition for the Stones to play at the newly opened Rockford MetroCentre. After management agreed, the actual petitions were cut up and used to hold a lottery to give fans the rights to buy tickets at $15 each.
The genial performance was captured on a stereo audience recording of the entire show. The 3LP Party Down – Live USA 1981 (Music Fans Records MFRSR) came out later that year with the entire show. More than thirty years later this is the first silver pressed disc edition of the show. The label uses a pristine vinyl copy for the transfer with barely a hint of vinyl surface noise.
The tape begins with Bill Graham’s shouting introduction over the taped “Take The A Train” before the band come on stage to play “Under My Thumb” and “When The Whip Comes Down.”
After Jagger’s greeting to Rockford, they proceed with “Let’s Spend The Night Together” and a very sloppy and chaotic version of “Shattered.” The high octane punk-like attack of the set fits well in the small venue, but at times the performance resembles more closely the chaotic feel of the Some Girls tour in 1978 rather than the slick professionalism of the 1981 Still Life. Richards misses the cue for the first guitar solo in “Shattered” and they wander around the measures until they find it.
“Neighbours” is the first song from the new album Tattoo You and is received very well. After “Black Limousine” Jagger jokes that “one day we dreamed we played in Rockford, but it was just my imagination” before playing a bit of R&B.
One of the highlights of the show is a moody, brooding version of “Beast Of Burden.” Played in the Stones’ mid-tempo groove, it is an excellent opportunity for Richards and Wood to have some fun on the guitar, spitting out riffs between the verses.
The following song “Waiting On A Friend” is a different story, however. One of the best songs from Tattoo You, it is live highlight. The sultry saxophone melody is a key part in the song, but Bobby Keyes wasn’t with the band for the first week of the tour. Lee Allen filled in for him on this night and the following two shows in Boulder, Colorado. It sounds as if he’s not too familiar with the song and is absent for much of it. Richards improvises a guitar part giving a different feel to the piece.
After “Let It Bleed” Jagger announces another new song “Tops,” but quickly corrects himself and introduces “one you can sing along to.” The slower “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” also prominently features the saxophone and Allen fares much better, playing an effective solo in the middle.
The finale of the show whips the audience into a frenzy. Jagger complains that he can’t see anyone past the front rows, and asks them if they have any requests before they play “Hang Fire.” Both “Miss You,” with the audience singing along, and “Start Me Up” receive huge ovations from the appreciative audience.
The tape ends with the “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” the final song of the regular set. There is no hint of either an encore or the taped Jimi Hendrix performance of the “Star Spangled Banner” which closed every show on the Still Live tour, so it’s not clear if the encore wasn’t played or wasn’t taped.
Party Down replicates the artwork of the original LP set released in the early eighties including the track listing for the LPs in addition to the track listing of the CDs on the back. The no label Rolling Stones releases are excellent for actually releasing tapes that have never been issued before by the big labels such as TSP, VGP or DAC. With the great sound quality and uniquness, it’s one worth having.