Thursday, November 10, 2016


At first I thought, "What, another live Stones set? Why in the world do we need this?" That 50th anniversary show from Hyde Park wasn't exactly inspiring, and they are even older now. Well, I should know by now that the Stones don't give up, and just when you (or me) are ready to write them off, they come back with a surprise punch.

This set (one DVD, two CDs) comes from the free show in Cuba on March 25, 2016. The crowd was of course massive, but also impossible to count, so estimates ranged from 200,000 to over a million. For that rock-starved country, it must have been a mind-blowing event, what with all the lights and screen shows and giant stage. But for the rest of us, the revelation comes in how basic the Stones have made their show. It's become focused on the principals, Jagger in control, Wood and Richards flashing guitars like switchblades, and Watts pounding the engine. That diamond shape of the four is supplemented by a leaner backing group, all to the side and often in the dark, with really only bass player Darryl Jones and keyboard players Chuck Leavell and Matt Clifford always in play. Two horns and two singers add parts when needed, but this means hard work for the four seniors. Somehow, it still seems effortless, and indeed if you watch this back-to-back with, say, the 1981 shows, they are just as strong, and I'd take this show for its vigor.

The band are clearly loving this show, with smiles and laughs coming constantly. They keep looking into the crowd, reacting to the antics there, giving back the energy from the unjaded audience. The bulk of these people had never been to a rock show, and didn't even know The Rolling Stones music. Well, it's only rock and roll, but they liked it. Umm, they didn't play that one, but the rest was pretty much the usual hits. And they all sounded great.

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