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Location: NYC

I was born at a relatively young age. Growing up consumed the better part of my childhood. As a young man I chased a lot of girls. But they kept getting away. Then I got older and even slower, so I got married. I've lived in New York City almost since before I moved here. I summer in Manhattan, which is like New York City, but with more humidity.

Here's me, without baby, thinking big thoughts. (Actually, what I'm thinking is, "Hey, these aren't Pringles!") I think I look better with baby.

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It's Only Rock'n'Roll, But I Like It
Monday, October 30, 2006

My friend Dave and I managed to pull two tickets from Ticketmaster to the October 29th Rolling Stones concert at the Beacon Theater. The show was the final event in Bill Clinton’s $25K-a-pop birthday-weekend bash, and the first of two shows filmed by Martin Scorsese for a movie about the band (the second is Halloween night.) Tickets were scarce—we heard that only 200 seats went on sale to the general public—and security was so tight we had to show up the day before with photo ID to get wrist bands; no wrist band, no entrance, even with ticket.

You’re probably rooting for the show to have sucked; I know I would be. Sadly, it was great. Buddy Guy opened—we didn’t get inside in time for his set—and then with only a tad more ado, the Stones did this:

Start Me Up
She Was Hot
All Down the Line
Loving Cup (w/Jack White)
As Tears Go By
I'm Free
Undercover of the Night
Just My Imagination
Shine a Light
Champagne and Reefer (w/Buddy Guy)
Tumblin' Dice
band intros
You Got the Silver (keef)
Little T'n'A (keef)
Sympathy for the Devil
Live With Me (w/Christina Aguilera!)
Paint it Black
Jumpin' Jack Flash
(e) Satisfaction

Interestingly, not a thing from the new record.

If you’re like me, and you find the typical Rolling Stones concert to be a little too rote, too predictable, too reliant on the smash hits, then this gig was right up your alley. (If not, you’re probably scratching your head wondering what the hell “I’m Free” is.) Only the very last two songs seemed the least bit perfunctory, although of course the Xtina cameo livened things up immensely just before. (About Xtina, allow me to say yet again, “Grrr!”) There were great, lesser-known album tracks (“She Was Hot,” “Shattered,” Undercover”) and rare old chestnuts reinvented (“I’m Free,” “As Tears Go By,” “Shine a Light.”) And of course, the Rolling Stones shrunk down from football stadium to concert theater is a revelation unto itself; “Tumblin’ Dice,” for example, may seem trite in a hockey rink, but at the Beacon it shimmied and shook the house right down to the bone.

After Buddy Guy’s set, the Stones brought out a comedian to work the room; fellow named Bill Clinton. Clinton made a nice, brief speech, recognizing several attendees (including Michael J. Fox), and commending the Stones for their commitment to the world’s great causes. After such laudatory remarks, I was hoping they’d play “Respectable” (“We’re talking heroin with the president, ‘it’s a problem sir, but it can be bent’.”) Oh well. Missed opportunity. Although later, Jagger did note that it was great to see President Clinton in the house, “and I see she’s brought her husband.”

To accommodate the Stones’ stage set-up and Scorsese’s crews, maybe forty percent of the floor seats were gone. There were walkways protruding into the house down the middle, and along either wing. The band left the stage effects at home, relying instead on the old showbiz gimmick of spot-on, in-the-pocket rock’n’roll riffing.

“Start Me Up” is just the core band—Jagger, Richards, Woody, and Charlie, plus bassist Darryl Jones and keyboardist Chuck Leavell. Ronnie Wood plays an outstanding lead; he seems to dominate the early part of the show, a surprisingly commanding stage presence given the pull his two glimmer twin bandmates have on the spotlight. “Shattered” is also just the core six, all jagged and full of groove. “She Was Hot” was an inspired choice, one of the great Keef/Woody “weave” songs; Keith digs in here and sizzles.

The horn section joins for “All Down the Line,” and before the song’s end the whole Rolling Stones Orchestra is onstage. For “Loving Cup,” the band brings out Jack White of the White Stripes; he and Jagger begin seated center stage on acoustic guitars and vocals, attacking the song as a blues duet before the band kicks in. White strolls around the stage sharing the rock’n’roll grind with each of the principals in turn (I mean, who wouldn’t?) It looked to me like he’s a Woody fan.

The semi-unplugged interlude continues, with just Jagger and the two guitarists on stage for “As Tears Go By.” Mid-song the three are joined by Watts, Leavell and Jones, and Keith plucks out the lovely melody lines over a bed of Chuck Leavell chording. “I’m Free” is given a kind of folky take; Keith takes the lead guitar part, tossing off spare, easy ringing licks on the outro, reminiscent of, say, his work on “Locked Away.”

Jagger has a guitar now, and chugs out the riff to “Undercover.” Unfettered by the ‘80s production style of the studio recording, it is a great song, all sweaty funk, insistent riff and nasty grind, and no distracting chord changes. Then “Just My Imagination,” ringing and chunky; Jagger joins in on a frenetic 3-guitar weave in a breakneck close. This one-two punch is, to my ears, an unquestioned highlight.

“Shine a Light” is lovely, featuring a soaring Woody solo all around Leavell’s loping lilt. Buddy Guy joins the core sextet for “Champagne and Reefer,” a straight blues with the obligatory guitar wank-off session on the break; someone (I think Keith) goes too soon on the first chord change (there are extra bars), resulting in some good-natured laughter amongst the players, then on to the down and dirty. Then the riff to “Tumblin’ Dice” comes tumbling out of Keith like breath, and the song is just flat-out great; as I said above, it shakes the place right down to the bone. Band, theater, and audience converge in a magical moment of rock’n’roll.

After Jagger introduces the band, Keith favors us with “You Got the Silver;” just him and Woody, and Keith isn’t even playing guitar. Woody plays tasty acoustic slide, accompanying Keith as he camps it up in his long red frock. Then “Little T’n’A,” the great Keef track off Tattoo You; he grinds out the goods.

“Sympathy for the Devil” starts off a little bland, “whoo hoo’s” notwithstanding; arranged still for the stadium, it feels a little flat… although things get interesting when Keith gets down to business and lights it up. Next, the band welcomes Christina Aguilera to the stage to trade verses with Jagger on “Live With Me.” She is white hot, a column of pure sexfire, a platinum exclamation point. And oh yeah, she sings the absolute hell out of the song, she’s a true R’n’B diva who delivers the goods.

“Paint It Black” is a diverting choice, although for my money a lot of the Brian Jones-era songs don’t translate to the stage with this line-up, any more than you’d want to put a sitar in Chuck Berry’s hands. “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” is a just so story, and the crowd loves it.

For the encore, the band offers up “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” Jagger singing like a man possessed, connecting with the glitterati downstairs, and the slobs in the cheap seats (that would be me.) It’s a riff you’ve heard so often you can play it on your cell phone, but when Keith and the Stones tear away at it, eventually it cuts through the familiarity and lands somewhere primal. Somewhere satisfying, even.

Sure, we shelled out $28.50 a piece-- plus Ticketmaster fees-- for the tickets, but I’d have to say it was worth it. A great show. If I can’t go Tuesday night, I’ll anxiously await the movie.


Posted by: --josh-- @ 9:39 PM  

At 10/30/2006 11:48 PM, Anonymous Cary Hall said...   

Right on, Josh -- telling like it is, as always. $30/ticket? I call that the steal of the year! But of course this wasn't the best show you've ever seen at the Beacon, right? Might need to remind the folks just who that band would be. ;-) Hope to cross paths again soon, and hope you and yours are well.

At 10/31/2006 12:48 PM, Anonymous Burning Column of Social Work said...   

You know, when you write this way you're like a column of sexfire--scorchy, magnetic, and only seven years and 8 months away from its own AARP card.

That being said, Mick and Keith have had their cards in the British equivalent for more years than that. And Sir Paul McCartney probably goes to movies on Sunday afternoons and holds up the line, crabbing if he doesn't get his Senior Citizen discount.

Burn on, JC.

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