It's Only Rock'n Roll
The set list:
We drove through the small suburb of Orchard Park and quickly parked. As we were surprisingly early, we were able to take a leisurely stroll through the parking lot and sample some of the "tail gate" appetizers for sale. The souvenir stands were all in full operation so a quick purchase of a Stones hockey jersey was also called for.
The gates finally opened at 6 PM - I guess Rich Stadium didn't want to pay their staff any more wages than necessary. However, when we finally walked down the stairs, I was immediately struck by the awesome size of the stage. It is certainly massive - huge columns, billowing curtains, steel, chrome and a wooden floor with catwalks, out flung ramps and a very big hint of things to come.
We were seated 23 rows up off the floor with the stage at our 10 o'clock view, and the smaller stage at our 1 o'clock view. I had forgotten how small an American football field really is, so even sitting where we were, the view was spectacular.
Blues Traveler came on promptly at 7 o'clock, and made a valiant, 40 minute attempt to attract a response. It was modest at best; even though their brand of southern fried R&B is very energetic and not undeserving of praise, we all knew why we were there. Blues Traveler will have to await another opportunity to catch new fans.
After the 40-minute warm-up, the stage was cleared and we patiently waited for another hour. At 8:40, the lights were dimmed to an enormous roar from the crowd. The curtains started to part on the video monitor, the lion, monkeys and other assorted animals started their howls and squawks, and a galaxy appeared on the video. Everyone could also see Keith sauntering out to centre stage, but warned by previous reviewers, I kept my gaze on the monitor. All of a sudden, a comet appeared in the centre, and with enormous speed, it leapt directly out at us with a blaze of red and orange fire. Many around me jumped as Keith hammered out the most famous riff in rock and roll, and we were into "Satisfaction." The stage lights came on, Mick strolled down the stairs on the right, Ronnie started jumping around like a school yard prankster and I was thrown back in time to all the other Stones shows that I have seen. They are like long-lost friends, coming to your home with no excuses offered for their absence, but you can't find a way to scold them - you simply delight in their presence.
The set list was quite similar to Madison two nights earlier, with some notable exceptions. Perhaps reacting to the pleas from the fans on the internet, the band inserted "Gimmie Shelter" into the "Rock and a Hard Place" spot. It may have been the highlight of the evening. Never have I heard the twin guitar attack so clearly, with such emotion and verve. And Lisa Fisher! As Mick said later during the introductions, "wasn't she delicious?" Yes! I'm probably one of thousands who fell in love with her voice, her eroticism in her mannerisms and her petulant, standoffish attitude towards the male band members throughout the evening.
Mick introduced "Sister Morphine" by saying "I hope this is depressing enough for you!" Well, it certainly wasn't for me. The vocal phrasing sent shivers down my back as it recalled the first time I heard the song. Ronnie's slide guitar was crystal clear and perfect in its impact. A masterpiece performance.
The band are still only doing two new songs - "ASMB" and "Out of Control" The latter was clearly the crowd favourite. It will not be possible to ever listen to "Bridges to Babylon" ever again without remembering the stupendous energy that Mick puts into this song. When he starts the chorus, the lights go wild as if they are announcing the start of an atomic attack, his legs and arms are seemingly not his own, and he is truly out of control. You have to see it to believe it!
The cybercast fan favourite for the night was "Memory Motel." When he saw that, Mick said "we haven't done that one in a while." He strolled slowly over to the piano, and said to no one in particular "how does it go?" Chuck could be seen in the monitor quietly singing the intro, and Mick appeared to recall it. As he tentatively hit the first few notes, the rest of the band joined in and we were off into my first chance to ever hear one of my personal favourite ballads. Everyone appeared to put a lot of effort into it, and in particular, Keith's chorus contribution was very well received by the crowd.
After an enthusiastic "Miss You" and the introductions, Keith was there at the centre for his two songs. He said that "All About You" would be dedicated to Elton John tonight, no doubt in reference to Elton's quote in the day's newspapers about the "monkey with arthritis." Whether the two of them will continue this sparring for long, it was quite evident that Keith was serious about his opinions.
"I Want to Hold You" was done very effectively, and the album version on "Undercover" simply does not do the song any justice. It was meant to be played live, with a huge crowd voicing its approval.
After Mick's return, the ladder was put into place for the band members to go down to the ramp to the small stage, and with the announcement "are you ready, Charlie?" the band was scooting down the ramp to the evident pleasure of the thousands seated on the floor. Slapping hands, talking with some of the crowd and generally appearing to be thoroughly enjoying themselves, the boys were down to the stage in about a minute. They quickly set up, and "Little Queenie" began. Immediately, the crowd around me went mad. The women were dancing, the men were clapping their hands, and everyone delighted in the Chuck Berry song about an older man and a young women far too young in years, but not in personality and desirability. Dodging various pieces of clothing thrown at them, including a bra and a pair of men's briefs (political correctness!), the
Stones offered up one of the singular reasons why this band stands head and shoulders above anyone else on the planet. "Crazy Mama" was wonderful to also hear for the first time. But, it was "The Last Time" that really hit home. Don't let it be!
At the conclusion of the three-song mini-set, the band members all went back to the main stage to the strains of the bongo intro to "Sympathy for the Devil." Mick stayed behind, and unnoticed by almost all, put on a robe. As the red smoke pots erupted behind, beside and on top of the stage, the gut wrenching introduction of one of their most famous songs hit us, and he began to sing while still on the runway. It was stupendous. Particularly noteworthy were Keith's solos. They were efficient, slicing and pure in their attack on our ear drums.
"Tumbling Dice" never fails to get a crowd energized. This night was no exception. With Bobby and the Uptown Horns playing their nearly endless run out to the end of the song, Keith and Ronnie interwove an incredible layer of guitar playing. If there is one thing this new sound system has accomplished, it is in bringing to the forefront the twin guitar attack that these two magicians have been able to do all these years, but which technology could never previously display for all to hear in large venues. Well, it has now been done (finally!)
Previous reviewers of other nights on this tour have said that "Start Me Up" lacked something. Well, I certainly didn't feel that way in Buffalo. I have never heard Ronnie play a solo the way he did tonight. It was very different phrasing for him, and reminded me of a much harder band, like Mettalica. The melody line was missing, and instead, there was a raw, blistering power chord attack. It was a very surprising and welcomed change!
"Honkey Tonk Women" was played without any video accompaniment. Is it taken out now? Or, did technical glitches crop up? Whatever the reason, the song was wonderful, and even though we have all seen Chuck and Keith sharing the keyboard on this number before, it is still a delight to see them laugh and ham it up. Another classic that can never be taken out of a Stones show.
With flame and smoke sprouting up all along the front of the stage, "Jumping Jack Flash" was launched with an almost viscous intent. Pounding out the incessant riff, Keith appeared to be taken away to another place in his mind as he went from one side of the stage to the other, down onto the lip, and back to the centre. His tattered, barely there half t-shirt clinging to him, he was gaunt and impressive in his desire to show that he still has whatever it is that makes him Keith Richards, living icon. At the conclusion, with fireworks erupting, propane explosions from the top of the towers, everyone around us was drenched in sweat and hoarse from their hollering. But, we still wanted more.
After a three or four minute wait, the lights around the video display went crazy once again, more fireworks erupted, and Keith was back. "Brown Sugar" was to be their sendoff. And, what a concluding number to the evening it was. It lasted at least seven or eight minutes. Buffalonians and everyone else in the audience were screaming the "oohs" at the right place for what appeared to be 20 times, instigated primarily by Mick as he went from stage left to right and back again. More fireworks followed, the band members went to the centre of the stage to take their bows. Finally, it was just Mick, Keith, Charlie and Ronnie. We said our good-byes, although I was already thinking that I would see them next week at New Jersey. Mick and Charlie departed last. As we knew they were not returning, everyone emptied their lungs for the last time, as if to say, I truly appreciated it. Suddenly, a final massive fireworks show erupted above the stage. As it dissolved into enormous smoke clouds, the house lights started to come on, and the unfamiliar strains of a different group of musicians came out of the monitors. We knew it was over, but many of us were still riveted to our spots, unable to move away. It was a truly magical evening, two hours and twenty minutes long, something only replicated by another Stones show. No one does it like them, and I seriously doubt if anyone ever will in the future. The giant stadium show is an art form brought to its highest level by the Rolling Stones, and everyone should rejoice in the opportunity to experience it for themselves. I know that I will at least five more times before February! See you all there!
Read all about the 1997 tour in the It's Only Rock'n Roll magazine issue IORR 30 out Oct. 15, 1997.
It's Only Rock'n Roll 1997 -
© The Rolling Stones Fan Club Of Europe