Stones In The Dome (no label)
Recorded Live at the 02 Arena, London, UK, August 21, 23, 26, 2007
CD 1 Recorded August 21, 2007. (62:00): Opening, Start Me Up, You Got Me Rocking, Rough Justice, Rocks Off, Let It Bleed, Beast Of Burden, Can’t You Hear Me Knocking, I’ll Go Crazy, Tumbling Dice, Band Introductions, You Got The Silver, Wanna Hold You
CD 2 Recorded August 21, 2007 (46:00): Intro, It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll, Respectable, Satisfaction, Honky Tonk Women, Sympathy For The Devil, Paint It Black, Jumping Jack Flash, Brown Sugar
CD 3 Recorded August 23, 2007 (62:00): Opening, Start Me Up, Let’s Spend The Night Together, Rough Justice, All Down The Line, She’s So Cold, Shine A Light, Midnight Rambler, I’ll Go Crazy, Tumbling Dice, Band Introductions, You Got The Silver, Wanna Hold You
CD 4 Recorded August 23, 2007 (52:00): Intro, Miss You, It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll, Satisfaction, Honky Tonk Women, Sympathy For The Devil, Paint It Black, Jumping Jack Flash, Brown Sugar
CD 5 Recorded August 26, 2007 (66:00): Opening, Start Me Up, You Got Me Rocking, Rough Justice, Ain’t Too Proud To Beg, She Was Hot, You Can’t Always Get What You Want, Can’t You Hear Me Knocking, I’ll Go Crazy, Tumbling Dice, Band Introductions, You Got The Silver, Wanna Hold You
CD 6 Recorded August 26, 2007 (53:00): Intro, Miss You, It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll, Satisfaction, Honky Tonk Women, Sympathy For The Devil, Paint It Black, Jumping Jack Flash, Brown Sugar
Leave it to the Rolling Stones to forget (or to never have quite figured out) how to finish “Rocks Off” on stage – a mere two years after they began playing it during their 2005-07 “A Bigger Bang” world tour. Granted, the frisky romp and ‘72 live set staple off of “Exile On Main St.” was performed fairly sparingly on the marathon “ABB” tour. And smooth segues were never the Stones’ stock in trade – at least not until they became a relentless late-career touring machine.
Nevertheless, when an otherwise exhilarating “Rocks Off” gets tossed into disarray four songs into the first of a three-night, tour-capping stand at London’s 02 Arena– zig-zagging electric guitars grind to a halt, then start again; the brass blurts its final crescendo while the piano keeps going; and drummer Charlie Watts tries to tidy up the mess with a few fills aimed at bringing some order to the chaos – it’s both befuddling and amusing. And it’s typically the Stones, albeit more reminiscent of the slosh-and-snort Stones of 1975 than 2007. Which, in its way, is oddly comforting: proof positive that even at this late stage of the game, not everything is scripted to within an inch of its choreographed life.
“Oh dear,” singer Mick Jagger winces aloud when the song abruptly stops at the 4:30 mark, as if a collective plug has just been rudely yanked to prevent further collateral damage. “How DOES the ending go on that, anyway?” (The song fades out as it rides into a sunset of brass, guitars, and voices on the studio album, which may have contributed to the confusion, but that doesn’t quite explain how everybody lost their way so woefully down that dusty road; is this what happens when you trip through the days at lightning speed? Or is it the fatigue that sets in at the tail end of a two-year, 147-show slog?).
Loose, shaggily unscripted moments like these – although, mercifully, not nearly as disastrous – are plentiful on “Stones In The Dome” (no label), an entertaining, exhaustive, and yet rarely exhausting, six-disc set documenting each of the band’s final three nights (August 21, 23, and 26 respectively) of its “ABB” European tour. These historically interesting shows first received the silver disc treatment on three separate double-disc titles issued by the Japanese SODD label, as well as a 2-CD release on Wonderland Records, all of which presented the shows via excellent audience recordings.
“Stones In The Dome” follows suit, and may very well be sourced from the same tapes as those earlier releases. All three shows sound like very strong, crisp, and nicely balanced audience recordings with the vocal and guitar front line fully present, and a warm depth, if occasionally boom-y backfield. This handsome, professionally presented package helpfully brings all three shows together in one place, and is a welcome addition to the Stones’ unofficial latter-day live canon.
It represents the last time the Stones were touring an actual album, for instance, rather than another greatest hits rehash (even if the concerts long ago became, essentially, greatest hits packages themselves; “Rough Justice” is the sole number from “ABB” played here). And all three shows here feature strong – and even occasionally surprising – set lists that give the performances a fresh spark of personality and spontaneity (OK, maybe the under-rehearsed “Rocks Off” sported a little too much of the latter).
Among the 60 songs here (most of which are repeated for each show, of course), there’s a clutch of lesser-heard numbers that spike the sets, usually in the form of three songs switching in and out nightly. For the first show we get back-to-back-to-back renditions of the aforementioned “Rocks Off,” “Let It Bleed,” and “Beast of Burden.” The second concert brings the jittery one-two punch of “All Down The Line” and “She’s So Cold” and then bobs and weaves with a gospel-tinged “Shine A Light.” The final evening brings the oft-Stones covered Temptations chestnut “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” followed by the red-headed stepchild of “She’s So Cold”; namely, “She Was Hot,” the second single from 1983’s “Undercover” that had made its live debut only a year earlier on the U.S. leg of the “ABB” tour.
There are also bitterly baroque treatments of “Paint It Black” that make the set every night, and – and when’s the last time you could say this? – a pair of gamely delivered performances of “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” from the first and third nights. As atmospheric as the arrangement and groove is, sorry, it just ain’t the same without guitarist Mick Taylor’s signature soaring, Santana-esque lead. We also get three renditions of “You Got The Silver,” one from each night (as well as the lesser lightweight Keith Richards vehicle, “Wanna Hold You”). The latter’s a decent enough throwaway, but the former is a “Stones In The Dome” standout, earnestly caressed as it is by Keef’s, um, unique nicotine-and-bourbon-charred voice, all the while aided and abetted by Ronnie Wood’s wistful slide guitar.
Other highlights include a hot, humid Midnight Rambler” on the second (and only) night they perform it; and the elegiac evergreen, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” which makes its 02 debut on the final evening. It’s a shame the Stones drop the ribald “Some Girls” rave-up, “Respectable,” after the first night. You can never hear too many tracks from that 1978 classic LP, in our view, plus both song and album play to the Stones’ stripped-down strengths. Here it gets a spunky treatment with minimal interference from the usual phalanx of backing singers and musicians.
Each evening, the band also pays homage to one of their early influences (and one who certainly spurred Mick’s dance moves at the 1964 T.A.M.I show), James Brown, who had died the previous year on Christmas Day. They offer passable takes on the Godfather of Soul’s “I’ll Go Crazy” before returning to their own version of swaying soul on “Tumbling Dice.”
The third and final show here is, on balance, possibly the most satisfying. Even without the effusive banter of Mick’s band introductions and thank you’s to the road crew and a longstanding, loyal audience (including one woman who had been to 100 shows and, he chuckles, “probably knows the lyrics better than I do”) there’s a spirit of celebratory cheer to the proceedings, and you can almost feel the farewell. For the time being – or until the next tour – at least.