Wednesday, November 19, 2014


Lord knows there is no shortage of live Rolling Stones material around, both visual and audio.  Each one, we are told, marks the pinnacle of something; Jagger as a front man or Keith as a human riff factory are the usual accolades.   It's pretty sad when the opening notes of You Can't Always Get What You Want, one of the very best songs by anyone, can make you roll your eyes and think, "not again."  Every tour, every show is sold as an incredible, exciting event when in truth, the job of appearing as The World's Greatest Rock Band means the shows are pretty predictable and conservative.

It wasn't always the case, and since most of the available video is from 1989 and on, any old stuff is welcome, to see the band close to prime.  A new series first available on the Stones website has become so popular it has now moved into stores and such.  Called From The Vault, it features vintage shows released officially for the first time.  These aren't just getting dumped into the market in a bare-bones way.  Tons of work has gone into the restoration of the tapes, both video and audio, with strong packaging and multi-format availability.  You can get Blu-ray, DVD, CD, download files, all with top professional expectations met.  The audio is especially well-treated, in new 5.1 mixes, including one from the hugely-respected ears of Bob Clearmountain (Hampton Coliseum 1981).

Two concerts are now available, the older coming from the L.A. Forum in 1975.  This was the first tour for Ron Wood, subbing for the recently-quit Mick Taylor, and not yet an official band member.  But he fits in perfectly, at ease with both Richards and Jagger, Mick able to use him as a foil, something Richards wouldn't go for.  He plays a ton of lead guitar, a compliment to the work of Dr. Riff.  Still youthful, Jagger's leaps and bounds are choreographed like figure skater's routine, and no less impressive for it.  It's actually fun to see them putting on some showbiz moves, such as Jagger flanked closely by Wood and Richards for the chorus vocals to Wild Horses, all of them posing with their heads back and hair flowing.  Maybe it's just because we haven't seen this kind of footage much before, but it does seem more impressive than Keith's "who gives a crap" attitude from the 90's on.  And as much as we all loved Ian Stewart and the bond of loyalty he shared with the band, the addition of Billy Preston to the show was a substantial improvement.  He not only added lots of fun elements such as the clavinet and siren sounds, he was a great showman, and his two-song set in the middle of the concert, along with a dance-off with Jagger is one of the highlights.

1975 saw the Stones concentrating on the latter side of their career, with only Get Off Of My Cloud representing the early hits, and that only in a medley with If You Can't Rock Me.  Even Satisfaction was ignored.  Of course, when you had a run of albums from 1968's Beggar's Banquet on to the most recent, It's Only Rock 'n' Roll, two hours was not a problem.  It did allow for some side excursions, such as Star Star and Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker), or the Exile On Main Street numbers All Down The Line, Rip This Joint and Keith's slippery-slope version of Happy.  But the guts and glory of the program was found in Honky Tonk Women, Tumbling Dice, You Can't Always Get What You Want, It's Only Rock 'n' Roll, Wild Horses, Brown Sugar, Midnight Rambler, Street Fighting Man, Jumpin' Jack Flash and Sympathy For The Devil.  It's no surprise that the Steel Wheels tour of '89 and every one since, has really concentrated on that material.

The other Vault set is from the Hampton, Virginia Coliseum in 1981.  This comes from one of the earliest Pay-TV events, with viewers in a handful of U.S. cities able to buy the show, and listen in stereo on a local radio station.  Believe me, it was a big deal back then.  The '81 tour was somewhat notorious, not for lewd and lascivious Stones behavior like the good old days, but for the exact opposite.  The Stones were now acting like, and in cahoots with the corporate world.  They accepted a sponsorship from the Jovan cosmetics group for a million bucks, a pittance these days, but still a no-no in rock circles then.  I can remember this clearly, and it did feel like the band had crossed a line, and was letting fans down.  In many ways, it still does, and perhaps that's why it's seemed they have been pretending all these years since.  Anyway, I liked the Hampton show better than I thought I would.  Some Girls was still high on everyone's list, and When The Whip Comes Down, Shattered, Beast of Burden and Miss You fit in nicely.  There was still some boldness, with a couple of surprising covers in the middle, Eddie Cochran's Twenty Flight Rock and Smokey Robinson's Going To A Go-Go.  The current album Tattoo You was a big hit, and Start Me Up was all over the airways, and that and another five made the show, including Waiting On A Friend.  What's most surprising is how much recent material did make up the first 90 minutes of the concert, and even She's So Cold and Hang Fire could show up in the latter stages.  Not the best and brightest, but still new, and you didn't get the impression half the crowd was heading to the concessions during them.

More of these shows are available as downloads only, including one as far back as 1973.  I'm all for this stuff, even as I criticize them.  You don't have to get them, but for big fans, the more the merrier when it comes to archive releases.

No comments:

Post a Comment