Double Door Club Gig (Goldplate GP-1301CD1DVD1)
Live at The Double Door, Chicago, IL., Sept. 18, 1997.
CD (74:00): Introduction, Little Queenie, 19th Nervous Breakdown, You Got Me Rocking, Crazy Mama, The Last Time, Anybody Seen My Baby, Out Of Control, Let It Bleed, Shame Shame Shame, Honky Tonk Women, Start Me Up, Jumping Jack Flash, Brown Sugar.
DVD (Approx. 88 Min.) Set list same as above. Extra Video: Table Of Contents, Pre-Show Montage, Honky Tonk Women, Out Of Control, Brown Sugar, Band Member Sound Bites-Interview, Fan Sound Bites-Interview.
When it comes to music, Chicago is a city as legendary as the rock & roll sons it spawned. Through the Chess label/studio recordings of blues masters like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Bo Diddley, and Chuck Berry (plus non-Chess blues singer/harmonica player Jimmy Reed), the British-born Rolling Stones devoured the music that would become a template for the raw, rhythm-driven sound they would expand upon and make their own.
In June 1964, the nascent Stones made a pilgrimage to Chicago to record at Chess where, the legend goes, they met Muddy painting the studio walls, ran into house songwriter-bassist Willie Dixon, and even recorded an instrumental homage, “2120 South Michigan Avenue,” named after the street address of the legendary studio. The number was only one of more than a dozen tracks the boys put to tape in a mere two days. Clearly, those 48 hours inside the hallowed halls of their heroes were a dream come true for the blues-infatuated boys, and they were feeling giddy.
You don’t necessarily need to know that back story to appreciate the superbly presented, smartly packaged “Double Door Club Gig,” a new deluxe CD/DVD documenting the Stones’ celebrated September 18, 1997 club show at Chicago’s Double Door, which marked the band’s unofficial first U.S. date of its marathon “Bridges To Babylon” tour. (The Stones had played a first warm-up club show in Toronto two weeks earlier; they would also officially open their tour at Chicago’s Soldier Field five days later).
But that historical reference point certainly helps add to the sense of space, perspective, and place that the Double Door gig holds in the band’s latter-day canon for listeners — and for the Stones themselves. They picked the place for a reason, after all, and spike their, yes, giddy 13-song set with a few nods to the Windy City and its influential inhabitants.
The boys open, appropriately enough, with a rollicking reading of Chuck Berry’s jukebox raver “Little Queenie” to lather up the crowd and give listeners a flashback to a set list staple of the 1969 U.S. tour. And before the Stones wade into “The Last Time” (with guitarist Keith Richards gamely lurching in on background vocals), frontman Mick Jagger fondly recalls that the band cut a version of the track during that early, transcendent trip to Chicago. (Other reputable sources place the song as being written several months later; that said, remembering exactly when riffs, licks, and lyrics first appeared some 40-plus years prior can be foggy business).
The genuinely rare and tasty treat of this Double Door set comes when the Stones take the opportunity to premiere a swinging version of Jimmy Reed’s “Shame, Shame, Shame” on stage for perhaps the first, and only, time (as far as we can tell, the only other documented occasions of the Stones playing the song live to tape were during oft-bootlegged rehearsal/recording sessions in Rotterdam and Paris in 1975 and 1978, respectively). For this rarity alone, the “Double Door Club Gig” is arguably an essential artifact.
Over the years, several other labels, most notably A Vinyl Gang Product (VGP), have offered their take on a show that surely ranks among the Stones’ meatiest and guttiest late-period performances. (VGP even put out two silver disc versions of this show; one culled from an excellent audience source, the other a soundboard from a pro-shot, unofficially released DVD that has also circulated among collectors, and is presented here).
But as far as we can tell, this entry by the Goldplate label marks the first time this show has received a joint CD/DVD treatment that brings everything together in one convenient place, plus offers a bounty of bell-and-whistle bonuses bundled in an appealing package. The DVD, which just might be the true star of the show, offers for completists no less than four various source recordings and configurations as available menu options synched to the video which, while not hi-definition by any means, is nonetheless nicely shot and edited from multiple camera vantage points. More than even the audio, the DVD provides a refreshing reminder of what it’s like to hear and see the Stones, stripped-down and eye level, plying their trade in a small, sweaty club.
While impressive for its everything-plus-the-kitchen-sink thoroughness, it’s beyond us why anyone in their right mind – okay, so many of us aren’t when it comes to the Stones – would ever opt for the “outside street recording” menu option (i.e., drunk-outside-The-Double Door-sing-along version) over the other, far better-sounding choices. Unless, that is, they too are feeling an inordinate need to bellow off-key and out of tune, or were actually among the revelers and want to relive the conversational crowd chatter that’s heard much more audibly than the muffled goings-on inside the club walls.
The three other audio options, which we compared and contrasted with one another, range from solid to excellent, and all are very enjoyable. There’s the noisy, clubby vibe-of-the-night audience recording that’s previously found its way onto disc. There’s the soundboard original recording which, to our ears, features a slightly elevated, isolated Mick vocal mix but is, by comparison, less instrumentally crisp. And finally, there’s the new, definitive option that’s also used for Goldplate’s CD source: a newly remastered soundboard matrix that incorporates the fuller, atmospheric audience recording into the baseline soundboard mix. On balance, this matrix makes for the best match of sight and sound overall. And it’s a pleasure to take in on both levels.
Jagger especially, is seen and heard here totally in his element, an expert showman at masterful ease but refreshingly restored to human scale. During a brief interview segment included as one of several short DVD extras, he cheerfully chats about the difference between working a cavernous stadium and an intimate club. “People grab hold of your ankles and pass you requests,” he says of the latter venue with a creased grin that splits his face in two. “It’s nice just playing, really. No one’s gonna notice when you screw up.”
Well, it’s hard not to notice when Keith muffs the opening chords of a song he can usually play in his sleep (and quite possibly has) – an encore bungle of “Brown Sugar” that takes a minute to right itself from slovenly to sleazy – but it’s one of the few missteps on a disc and DVD striding with sure-footed moments. Mick’s winking, wide-vowel vocal and acoustic guitar turns on the sparingly played tour nugget, “Let It Bleed,” and a loose, country ramble take on “Crazy Mama” – both of which rightly put Ronnie Wood’s slide guitar prowess on pungent display – are taciturn highlights.
An awkward “Anybody Seen My Baby,” the first of a pair of then-new “Bridges To Babylon” numbers that arrive six songs into the 74-minute set, finds Jagger searching for a comfortable pitch. But he and his search party fare better on the seedy streetscape noir of “Out of Control,” given a boost here by Kent Smith’s tasty trumpet solo and some ‘70’s flavored wah-wah pedal-soaked guitars from Wood.
Another throwback to a bygone era — and we’re betting every single person who was there still brags about it — was the $7 cover charge to get in to the Double Door that night. While the pleasure of reliving the memory of this show (or experiencing it for the first time) via Goldplate’s superb package will likely cost you a little more moolah this time around, it’s still bound to be one of the better Stones bargains of the year.
If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)