There was a time when stadium shows were really big deals. Few bands did them, and fewer still were able to deliver the sort of spectacle that made a stadium seem small and intimate.
Nowadays, of course, stadium spectaculars are run of the mill for rock and roll. After multi-million-dollar productions by Pink Floyd and U2, it takes a lot to make a stadium show seem impressive.
It takes the Rolling Stones.
It wasn't just that there were plenty of special effects last night at Jack Kent Cooke Stadium. The show opened with a video comet streaking through space and exploding in a shower of sparks on stage, and the gimmicks that followed were no less impressive. We got everything from giant inflatable goddesses to a bridge that unfurled from the stage like a firetruck ladder.
But even the best of those were upstaged by the band itself. From the opening riff of "Satisfaction" to the final chorus of "Jumpin' Jack Flash," the band was so hot that it was almost possible to forget the evening's freezing temperatures.
It helped that front man Mick Jagger was in especially fine fettle. Strutting the stage with the confidence of a natural born star, he ripped through the likes of "Start Me Up" and "Sympathy for the Devil" with the vigor of singers half his age. He made "Let's Spend the Night Together" seem fresh and fun, brought a sassy, sexy edge to "Miss You," and even made "Gimme Shelter" shimmer with menace (though he did have help on that one from backup singer Lisa Fischer).
But there's more to the Stones than Mick Jagger, and that was eminently obvious with last night's performance. Whether the material called for a basic boogie, as with "It's Only Rock and Roll," or a sophisticated, modern groove, as with the new "Out of Control," the Stones delivered the groove with professionalism and aplomb.
There was an almost telepathic link between guitarists Keith Richards and Ron Wood, with the two completing each other's phrases like an old married couple. Solo-wise, Richards did most of the talking, leading the way through "Satisfaction" and offering biting counterpoint to the brass section on his own "All About You." But Wood more than held his own on the slide guitar, shining with particular brightness in "Let It Bleed."
That was only half the magic, though; the rest had to do with the way Charlie Watts' drums (ably abetted by bassist Darryl Jones) defined the music's pulse. Even when the basic beat was electronically augmented, as with "Sympathy for the Devil," Watts made the music seem warm and human. But he was at his best when he alone provided the pulse, bringing a jazzy swing to "Let's Spend the Night Together" and firmly underscoring the shifting moods of "Sister Morphine." Few bands in rock and roll could match either the confidence or cohesion of the groove he powered.
That's not to say the show was flawless. The instrumental mix was maddeningly uneven at points, with the guitars frequently overpowering Jagger's vocals. There were even a few occasions when the backing vocals dominated the foreground. And frankly, it would have been nice to give a bit more boost to the brass in "Bitch."
But if the applause seemed muted at times, that was only because much of the crowd was wearing gloves. From old
favorites like "Tumblin' Dice" and "Honky Tonk Women" to such less familiar fare as "Sister Morphine" and "Star Star," the Stones delivered everything a fan could want -- and more.
It was definitely a gas, gas, gas.
Pub Date: 10/24/97