Viva Las Vegas
Las Vegas is a city of facades and illusion. From hotels like the Luxor that brings us back to ancient Egypt, or to the Excalibur that places the visitor in medieval times, or to New York-New York which brings one to the "Big Apple" we are surrounded by veneer of something else. David Copperfield is performing at Ceasars Palace (Roman Gothic) where you can arguably see the best illusionist of our time. Then there are the glamorous and affected that add to the ambiance. Never have I seen so much "plasticon" in one place in my sweet short life.
One thing was for real . . . The Rolling Stones playing to an arena crowd of 13,000 at the MGM Grand Garden on November 22.
I've taken in four great arena shows so far on this tour, but none can compare to the unmistakable presence that a smaller venue can offer. The band has mastered the art of entertaining 60,000 people in a football stadium, but the sound and complete participation by the audience is no match for the larger than life distance that we must endure in the domes and stadiums.
On the way to the show my wife and I step on to the elevator and I immediately recognized Blondie Chaplin. "Hey Blondie how are you doing?" He was polite despite the fact that he seemed to have just woken-up.
Jamiroquai opened the show with roughly one-third of the arena seated for their performance. The music was sort of a cross between funk and rap. Reminiscent of Tower Of Power with a funk groove and strong horn section. The singer had this nonchalant attitude that added to the amusement. Tough gig to open for.
The core section of the stadium stage set-up fit very well in the arena. This included both the jumbotron screen and b-stage which was situated near the back of the arena. The now familiar focal image appears on the screen and with shots of "soft explosions" the set opens with:
1. Satisfaction: Jagger is definitely charged by the atmosphere and the closeness of an energized crowd. I've never seen or heard such an inspired audience, despite the large number of stuffy VIP's that seemed to fill the venue's prime locations. The crowd joins Jagger on the "I can't get no's".
Thank you very much
2. Let's Spend the Night Together: Last played live on the 1981 and 1982 tours. Nostalgic, but too rehearsed in some ways for my taste.
Thank you very much indeed
This seems like a nice little intimate spot
This one's called Flip-The-Switch
3. Flip The Switch: The human riff belts out the big notes for the opening of the song which is a significantly better reworking of Let Me Go.
4. Gimme Shelter: A smooth and smoky vibrato effect graces the tone of a vintage Gibson ES-335, which brings back memories of the radical phaser version of the song from the 1975 Tour of the Americas. Lisa Fischer wins over the crowd with the rousing Merry Clayton verses of the song.
Lisa, take a bow, Lisa
Well . . .
This is one we do called Sister Morphine
5. Sister Morphine: Jagger strums the minor chords on a Gibson Hummingbird and Richard fills with perfectly placed chords and leads including the sound of an ambulance. Wood joins in with a slide that was originally played by Ry Cooder on the studio version. The high rollers in the crowd get a big charge out of the "cousin cocaine" line.
How are you guys doin' down there?
You doin' all right?
Your supposed to work this dessert crowd
Okay, we got a new song for you
One . . . Two . . . One . . Two . . . Three . . . Four
6. Anybody Seen My Baby: Definitely a challenge in the live setting. Jagger sings a strong intro. vocal that is completely in key, and this includes proper timing by Richards on the guitar part that marks the faster tempo change in the song (reference the 10 Spot version).
One-two . . . one-two
We came to rock with Brooklyn
And the Bronx
And Staten Island
Can't . . forget New Jersey
And Long Island
We came to rock LAS VEGAS like this!
The back-up singers are in perfect harmony at this stage of tour and accentuate the song in complementary way.
This is the only place where I stand at my hotel room window
And watch the audience leave
In their own private jet . .s
We got for you, this is called Saint Of Me
7. Saint Of Me: Jagger is holding the Hummingbird, but his playing contribution is not audible. The guitar gets handed off to a roadie at the half-way point in the song, so he can dance around. Wood plays an excellent solo with notes, and not just string bends played "in the box".
Well there's some beautifully dressed people out there
We not used to having all those
Our crowd is usually just T-shirts & anoraks and a
This is very, very special you know
Some of these evening dresses and pink and brown spaghetti gowns
Okay we got one about psychotic states, are you ready?
8. 19th Nervous Breakdown: Not played live since 1967. Jagger is not accentuating the vocal as he did in earlier versions along the tour. Great effort is being expended to get a very close studio take on this live version. The song is guitar oriented as it should be, and this includes the interesting instrumental outro of the song.
My good night
Yeah, I just popped over to Saks to pick it up before I came down
(The shinny jacket of the evening)
This is called Out .. Of .. Control
9. Out of Control: Even the live version still sounds like Papa Was A Rolling Stone. It's the humming more than the bass line that tags the opening. The horns are adding a whole new dimension to this song, and Richards' driving power chords during the close absolutely rocks this eclectic piece (also check VH-1 Fashion Awards version). Jagger's harp sends in the shivers.
Okay we're gonna have a look at the ...
Isn't it time we do the Web Site now?
We go into the Web Site and have a look at what...songs are in there
And who's voted for what tonight
And ahhh...here we go
Ahh yes indeed, yeah you feel a bit sorry for these songs down at the bottom
Still they all get their turn sometime around
And what have we got to-night?
Ahh Respectable, Under-My-Thumb...
Well we haven't done this one on stage, for ages
Three years ago we did it...in Europe, I think
You remember it?
Ronnie, Ronnie claims to know this one
Do you know it Ronnie?
Yes he knows it!
Well we're all saved
One..Two...One Two Three
On Charlie's drum beat...
10. Like A Rolling Stone: Jagger sings this tricky song with perfect tone and intonation. The audience is singing loudly....all the verses! Applause for the first Like A Rolling Stone chorus. Nostalgic yet relevant in this dessert oasis. Jagger burns the speaker wire his harp solo, you can smell the varnish on the transformer windings.
Thank you very much
Well we're always grateful
We always been grateful
For Bob, for writing that song especially for us (Brian Jones maybe)
Ready for that singing a little bit
You sound very loud and lascivious
Are you ready to sing a little bit
11. Miss You: My first reaction to hearing this live in 1997 was.. oh no not this again, but the live version of the song has evolved into an extended live jam that includes some entertaining theatrics from Lisa Fischer. The guitar players and Fowler sit on Charlie's drum stand and have a smoke during the middle section of the song. It looks like a scene from the Waiting On A Friend promo video. The crowd is invited to join Jagger on the chanting. Bobby Keys wails on the Sax solo, he even gets to the asphyxiating high notes that we used to hear in 1973 European Tour versions of You Can't Always Get What You Want. This may well be the Midnight Rambler or YCAGWYW of the 90's, where the band cuts loose and improvises. This includes the theatrics which in the early 70's included Jagger giving the stage a few whacks with his studded belt during Midnight Rambler. It's no longer Mick Taylor's fluid lead guitar playing adding dimension to the music, but the perfect synchronicity of fills and riffs from the talented horn section.
Thank you . . .
Well, thank you
Aw, it sounds really good in here
You sang that beautifully
That sounded really good, you know
Sounded like there's three times more than there really is
(The crowd was LOUD)
I wanna tell you who's up here on the stage tonight
Who's singin' along
First I wanna get up here
Old friend of mine, Bernard Fowler
(Since Jagger's 1988 solo tour in Asia and Australia)
Take a bow Bernard
Right along side here from South Africa
Blondie yes ahh
And slinkily sensual and so really demure
And...on the horns
On trombone Michael Davis, Michael
With Kent Smith on the trumpet
Andy Snitzer on the saxophone
(The New West Horns)
Bobby Keys on the Tenor
On the keyboards, Chuck Leavell, Chuck
On the bass Daryl Jooones, Daryl
Are you ready, for...
Are you ready for, Ronnie Wood
On drums, Charliiiieee ahh Watts
(As always the longest applause)
And... guitar and vocals
Where ever you are
How you doin'
It must be Saturday night... right?
Thank you, it's good to be back...anyway
This is All About You
12. All About You: Keith shows the audience that he can still deliver the soul in a live performance, and he shows the listening public that he can still deliver the soul in the studio with Thief In The Night. A few words are mixed-up, but hey, what's the difference anyway. The horns add embellishments with perfect timing.
Well, thank you
I was in a good mood that day, you know
Yeah it's a new one here, ahh
It's called You Do..
You Don't Have To Mean It
Off the Babylon
13. You Don't Have To Mean It: That's none other than Ronnie Wood playing the syncopated reggae rhythm on the piano! This fits much better in the flow of this live set than it does on a rock 'n roll record. The horns give this contemporary reggae number a Tex-Mex feel, of all things. The performance is well done.
Yes I check it out
God bless you all, huh
B-Stage walking music. There is no bridge coming out of the stage for this show. Just a quick trot down the cat-walk.
Well, it's nice to see this end of the building
I'll tell you that
Let's have a look
I ride it rough and ready
14. Little Queenie: Last played on the 1973 Tour of Australia. This is the best b-stage sound I've heard. There is a sound quality loss on the b-stage in the stadiums, even if you are on the "floor" 15 feet from the stage. Not the case here. The audience sings along on the chorus.
15. The Last Time: The guitars and drums are in sync., and the place is rocking to the sound of this great tune revived once again for our listening enjoyment.
Thank you very much, you go
I just want you to understand
That to tell you it's really been the world for us
Coming down on Las Vegas
You loose all the money that you earn... and often
16. You Got Me Rocking: The audience claps to the unmistakable beat. The song doesn't seem as much like the contrived rocker that came across in 1994. The hey hey's become one giant chorus in the small arena as the crowd participates in the show. Ronnie plays the slide.
17. Sympathy for the Devil: There is bongo music, but I can't seem to make out who's playing the bongos. The live version has evolved into a loose samba jam. The back-up singers provide an abundance of who...who's, which makes the song clearly more recognizable to the casual Stones fan. Richards plays all the leads, and during the first one Jagger says "come on", which puts the rambling solo to an immediate finish.
18. Tumbling Dice: The back up singers chime-in at the opening where they are also heard on the studio version. Studio accurate live versions of this track first materialized on Jagger's 1988 solo tour, which seemed unusual and interesting at the time. The studio influence and back-up singers have stuck in live Stones performances since. When your on a solo tour covering Rolling Stones songs, well they better sound like Rolling Stones songs. This doesn't have to be the case when you are the Rolling Stones though. Fundamentally, there is license to alter and improvise the music, but this generally hasn't been the case since Jagger's experience with the solo tours.
19. Honky Tonk Women: There is a very rich Telecaster guitar tone going on here. Richards prominently displays the fact that the opening chops are indeed played with the open strings. The crowd joins in on the chorus. Richards plays a good solo that's on the mark. The horns provide the final touch in giving us that album track sound. Leavell starts a piano solo with Richards' now familiar finish, including pounding the ivories with his boot. I think he must have knicked this from "The Killer".
20. Start Me Up: I've gotten to the point where I anticipate fireworks explosions after Keith finishes the first two bars of the song. Too many listens of the last tour I guess. Wood plays the solo, Jagger says "come on" and he curtails.
Yes yes yes yes aaaa
Are feeling good now?
21. Jumpin' Jack Flash: Back-up singers join in on the choruses. The close of the song has become horn laden. Horns have taken off some of the edge that more guitar oriented versions of past have delivered.
22. You Can't Always Get What You Want: From the darkness of the arena comes the gentle strumming of the opening chords, and an added subtle French Horn. The crowd is singing on the first chorus and answers to "cherry red". Clearly played piano fills provide the final touches on what is heard on the "Let It Bleed" record. The difficult bridge transition first performed live on Jagger's '88 tour has been a staple in Stones live versions since, and this is no exception.
Mmmm mmmm mmmm mmmm
23. Brown Sugar: A great closer. Keys plays the saxophone fills and gives the song some swing. The crowd responds to the yeah..yeah..yeah..whooo's. Subdued but significant fireworks for the close. The musicians line-up for a bow, with a second call from the four Rolling Stones.
An energized performance from a band still making cutting edge rock 'n roll records, and still performing with reckless abandon. They rise to the occasion at the MGM Garden leaving one with the incurable desire to only see more. The Rolling Stones remain vital and relevant, and are an incredible tribute to longevity and endurance.
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