“Tokyo 2014, First Night” (No Label)
Live At Tokyo Dome, Tokyo, Japan – Feb 26, 2014
DISC ONE 1. Before The Show 2. Introduction 3. Get Off Of My Cloud 4. It’s Only Rock’n Roll (But I Like It) 5. Tumbling Dice 6. Wild Horses 7. Emotional Rescue 8. Doom And Gloom 9. Bitch 10. Honky Tonk Women 11. The Band Introduction 12. Slipping Away (with Mick Taylor) 13. Before They Make Me Run 14. Midnight Rambler (with Mick Taylor)
DISC TWO 1. Miss You 2. Paint It, Black 3. Gimme Shelter 4. Start Me Up 5. Brown Sugar 6. Jumpin’ Jack Flash 7. Sympathy For The Devil 8. You Can’t Always Get What You Want (with The Senzoku Freshman Singers) 9. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (with Mick Taylor)
The Rolling Stones shows in Japan from the ’14 on Fire’ tour took place at the Tokyo Dome or ‘Big Egg’ as it is affectionately named, the large venue in the Bunkyo Ward section of Tokyo. The second show of the tour that followed the bands sell out ‘Fifty And Counting’ series of shows, which was essentially the same thing in all but name, a trait that the Stones have used before, running with a standardized setlist bar the ever popular audience vote and with Mick Taylor back on board, a trick that gave ever-green fans a chance to reminisce and for newer fans to rediscover the chops that the guitarist gave the band in the late 60’s to mid- 1970’s.
The Japanese shows were as eagerly welcomed by the bootleggers as much as the audience with the proliferation of excellent recording devices being designed, made and used in the Far East, it wasn’t going to be too much of a problem getting a fantastic recording of any or all of the three shows. And so it proved that the No Label label, EmpressValley, Geisha Records, Mr. D. Recordings, Idle Mind / Rubidium Masters, et al all had a pop at producing the best recordings that they could from the run of the three shows and no doubt there will be more as more tapes surface.
The No label guys were one of the first silver pressings to launch and their first night is an ultra clear audience recording capturing the band, energy and unfortunate mis-starts and all. Oh yes, the mis-start. Increasingly frequent as the years roll on, a fans thrill. There is much made about the fluffs and fumbles to the start of a song (‘It’s Only Rock ’n’ Roll has a wobbly start here) but we mustn’t forget that while the promotional machine is a well oiled beast then one assumes the Stones often have a little bit of an oiling of the alcoholic kind before stepping on stage, this would further cloud the judgement of the Stones lead guitar player of whom it’s rumoured is suffering with a touch of arthritis in his autumn years. It’s a little bit of unrehearsed fun muddled in the rest of the serious work and I’m beginning to suspect that Keef’s doing it for a little bit of a giggle sometimes. In truth, the band’s performance is a little muddled at times tonight, you’ll read about the worst effects but they really sharpened it up on the second night, the first however, was a little nervous energy.
There’s no need to adjust the volume on your stereo as the recording is lively enough to stand up on it’s own. Mick’s voice is the highest thing in the mix followed by Charlie’s drumming, Darryl’s bass and Keith’s guitar work floating gently underneath. Woodie, a little lower still.
The tape begins with a couple of blues tracks around 3 minutes before the bands announcement. It gives a fully rounded feel to the recording rather than just dropping straight in to the rumbling preciss to the bands entrance.
The show itself begins with a lively enough “Get Off Of My Cloud”, not the greatest beginning to a show, it has often felt like a middle set song to me if not maybe 4th or 5th song along, seeming to miss that urgency that the start of the set requires, however, “It’s Only Rock ’n’ Roll” commands a little extra, it’s a true opener to me and, in my opinion, should have been the track to open the gig.
“Wild Horses” rubs shoulders with the newly re-born, “Emotional Rescue” rather well, a funky, poppy excursion that the band resurrected well in 2013 and now it seems to be here to stay. At least they’d rehearsed it properly, unlike “Bitch”, the audience vote tonight which falls at trying to bit it’s own ankles, Keith falters and falls at the first attempt of a solo, Bobby Keys parps and splutters at his playing as though his consumption over the years has blown out his memory of the song.
Joining Keith for the first of his duo of songs is Mick Taylor, “Slipping Away” seems weedy and a little routine though and does the pair no justice, it’s with “Before They Make Me Run” that Keith gets away with it but only with a little help from Bernard.
Both Micks return for tonight’s highlight, a cataclysmic, “Midnight Rambler”. It all kicks off from here for this lengthy and loose devils lunch. A steady, confident beat ushers the song along like a prison guard with a taser, Mick Taylor’s freaked out guitar lines running ribbons throughout the track, steadily posing against Keith and Ronnie’s own, slightly less successive flourishings. The airtight breakdown in the middle working like a tourniquet, cutting right in to the source of the action only to burn it’s way back in to the menace. Slowly but surely, it creeps in, forcing a breathless Tokyo crowd to crane in for a while then fall back to their chairs as the song explodes again.
“Miss You” is audience participation time, drawing an already buzzed crowd in to whipping up a little more excitement, it’s funked up disco chatter snaking its infectious path round the egg.
The next best thing tonight is “Gimmie Shelter”. There seems to be a little corner of the internet that suggests that Lisa Fischer over weighs her part sometimes but on this track her net worth is held up for everyone to hear, while she may not be a complete comparable for Merry Clayton, her vocal raises a rousing applause from all around.
Starting to wind up with the war horses, “Brown Sugar” begats “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”, the former trying to usurp its brother for mantle of party song of the night, Bobby Key’s sax blows the low road to success, never really flying but instead throwing in more jazz shapes to match Ronnie’s lead. The latter a little less lean than previous appearances, rather running on 25% less energy than it should.
“Sympathy For The Devil” is a more linear version. A delicate piano line however gives way to a crunchy, brassier clump of guitar playing. Keith’s solo is shameful marring what is an otherwise great version of the song.
On “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”, the guest choir have a slightly more clipped tone than their Western counterparts but this works equally as well with the cut glass piano chimes. Ronnie’s frantic soloing is blissful, the breakdown at the end, very gospel-lite.
Finally, “Satisfaction” beats the encore down, the band have conceded that they’re never going to be far from it, why let it lie? Turning Darryl’s bass up high only embellishes that riff, Keith’s soloing comes up for much jubilation.
A decent performance for sure with a very good recording and presentation (the covers are up to the standard that we’ve become accustomed to from the label and they don’t drop the ball) but not the best of the Stones Japanese journey. Casually collecting, you should put your money in to the second or third night, however, for the diehards, you’re going to have to collect all three.