It's Only Rock'n Roll
Madison Square Garden had waited for the Stones since mid-December, or some would say ever since 1981, when they last time played MSG. Then the Stones had waited a week extra, with many cancellations, and they were really keen to be back into business.
The stage was built in one of the ends of what is usually the end of the ice hockey rink. It was all flat, no obstructing elements to take away the view from behind, except for a small wall height about 2 m (6 feet) behind Charlie. Seing the Stones on such a small stage, with fans and a crowd all over, 360 degrees around the stage, was just great.
Far up above the stage, close to the roof of the arena, they had something looking like a space ship, sort of UFO, holding all the spotlighs. It was nicely draped and with golden babylonian colors.
Fiona Apple was on at 8:10 pm as a warm-up. She seemed a bit confused, asking if there were anybody out there, and if peope did care. By then the arena was only filled like 1/3. She finished her set at 8:50.
At 9:32 pm the lights went off again. Charlie climbed his drum kit. Keitn could be seen wandering around the stage a bit, for some short few seconds. He probably needed to be ready. Then it was on to the famous riff of Satisfaction, and the show was on.
I was worried about Mick and his voice. Sure he was declared ready to rock'n'roll for the Montreal show, but even today he had trouble with his voice. Not that the show was affected by it, but I do know Mick, and he wasn't 100% still when it comes to his voice.
They went into great versions of Let's Spend The Night Together and Flip The Switch. Then they did Gimme Shelter, with Lisa walking arond the stage, as they have a walkway behild Charlie, in order to walk all arond the stage, to make close encounter with the fans behind the stage. What a great song. Next was Low Down, performed for the first time ever. A version true to the album version. Not perfect, but still quite good.
Saint Of Me was next. Another BtB track. The 3rd for tonight, and more to come. Then they did Bitch. Followind was BtB song number four of tonight, Out Of Control. At first it was developing like usually, great crowd pleaser. But then something magic happened during Mick's harmonica playing. The song was taking off, virtually, and I was feeling they took the whole song into a new dimention... The crowd was cheering and got into it as well, and Mick was topping it with his crazy kinda duckwalk all over the stage from left to way right.
Mick was totally wasted after Out Of Control. He sure had given us all of himself, and he needed a slow song. Memory Motel was the one, and I send all my greetings to all the great fans at the AOL web-chat room, for voting for it. The song was slowing down the tempo, but every time Keith was on with his backing vocals, the crowd reacted with massive cheering.
Then they did Miss You, ok version. Keith did How Can I Stop, first time ever live, and the 5th BtB song of tonight. PS. They never played Anybody Seen My Baby tonight. That would have made it 6 BtB songs... Wanna Hold You closed Keith's set.
Then it was on to the small center stage. Well, it was smaller than the main stage, but the main stage was small itself, compared to a stadium show... I was lucky to have a seat 2 chairs away from Darryl and Charlie, and I made sure to be on the small stage fence by the time they started. Front view, what more can I ask for?
They did It's Only Rock'n Roll first. The sound was really muddy, but it improved, and the song itself was great. Then they were about to do The Last Time, which was in the pre-printed setlist. But Ronnie could not get any guitar to work properly. Ronnie tried out another guitar, then another guitar. He looked really disappointed. Mick was wandering around like a mad dog. Did a quick conversation with Keith. Keith stood calmly on his side, and then Keith just started to play a blues. Hey, we are getting extra blues while Ronnie is fixing his guitar! Then Ronnie is taking off his jacket, and I expect him to beat up somebody, or freak out. But the blues riffs Keith is doing suddenly develops into Little red Rooster, a spontanous choice made by Keith this very moment!
Charlie had the biggest smile I've seen ever with him. He really loved the blues. Ronnie went down to our side, and he actually spotted me and my friend, from hanging around in numerous hotels over the years. He made eye contact with botsh of us, shouted out "oh yeah" to us as a salute for hanging around all the time (so he is appreicating it!)... And how wonderful it is to see they can just break into whatever they like, without any problems!
The guy next to me had been screaming for Like A Rolling Stone for a long time by now, and he finally got it. Sure it sounded good. Mick got a bra thrown up on stage for him, and put it in his pocket. It will go into the collection of 20 or so bra's they had decorated the small stage with, probably souvenires from previous shows like St. Lous, having lots of bra tossing.
Then it was back to the main stage, and into the five big ones that opens with Sympathy and ends with J. J. Flash. They all sounded just great, and the crowd was singing, dancing and enjoying every bit of it. Even the girl next to me, who had been sitting down with her VIP badge in her $300 seat (seing less than those "behind" the stage) was up on her chair and dancing. Sure it was rock'n roll!
Then they did two encores, You Can't Always Get What You Want (some bits went wrong in that song, but did it matter?), and ever greatest Brown Sugar. It was an excellent show for sure, and I must say, going to a stadium show after this one will sure very, very different!
There is so much I could tell about this show, but I am so exhausted, as it is 2:30 tonight, and I have never ever danced so much at a show. Sure it was worth it, and sure the 2nd show on Friday will be even better! I can't wait!
The set list:
An upbeat and definately more guitar heavy version (closer in style to '81) of LSNT was the 2nd number. Followed by FLIP THE SWITCH and another torid version of GIMME SHELTER. I was surprised that this show stopper was moved up into the 4th slot. I knew that this was a sign of good things to come. To my delight, the band performed the Babylon rocker, LOWDOWN, for the first time. This song is a great slow tempo rocker that showcases Keefs mighty open G power chord crunching. The arrangement was loose, as you could tell they were still trying to get a feel for it. Neverthess, it proved to be a great follow up to Gimme Shelter with Keefs ground shaking riffs.
Next was SAINT OF ME, another selection from the new album. I love hearing the new songs played live. Saint of Me works really well. It took the crowd some warming into, but mid-way through Mick had the crowd up and singing along to the chorus. I can't wait to get the upcoming CD single! Having the audience on their feet now, they wasted no time tearing into a rapid fire version of BITCH. Tonight marked my 5th show of the tour and the first night that I've heard this classic rocker. It might of been the indoor arena or perhaps inspired playing by Keith and Woody, but this version of Bitch rocked a lot harder than on recent tours when the song seemed to lack the twin guitar punch of the album version.
OUT OF CONTROL followed and was once again a concert highlight. Talking to the IORR fans that gathered at Walters Bar before the show I noticed how this has become one of the tunes that Stone fans really look forward to and appreciate. The band lets loose and really jams out during this, seemingly fueling Micks "out of control" antics. The web choice tonight by a landslide was MEMORY MOTEL. Mick had his keyboards placed right up front. The crowd cheered wildly every time Keith got to his verse.
After a lengthy version of MISS YOU with plenty of solid jamming, Mick introduced the band and left the stage for Keith's segment. Keith started out with a first time performance of the critically acclaimed HOW CAN I STOP. This is my favorite song from the new record. Keith's voice was in great form for this and his delivery was classic Keith. The song climaxed with a wild flurry of sax, guitar and Charlies crashing symbols. Definately waking up the posers that think that Keiths segment is nap time.
Keith finished his set with another great run through WANNA HOLD YOU. Maybe on one of the remaining MSG shows, he'll dust off LITTLE T & A. A song he hasn't performed with the Stones since the last time they did a show in the Garden.
Due to the cozy confines, the center stage was located at the back of the arena which was so close to the actual stage that they couldn't use the expanding bridge! The funny thing about seeing them on the center stage was that it really wasn't much smaller than the main stage! IORR used to be a song that I could always live without. But hearing a stripped down version of it on the center stage really gave it a great, raw quality. It sounded like they were back in the bars tearing through Chuck Berry numbers!
After IORR their was a long delay as Woody and his guitar tech couldn't get things together. Woody's playing and behavior has become a bit of a joke on this tour as he's definitely proven to be the weak link but I'm too elated right now to go off on a rant on Woody's playing or I should say, lack of playing. Finally the band broke into the slow burning blues of LITTLE RED ROOSTER. Now the Garden was converted into what felt like an intimate blues club.
As the opening chords of LIKE A ROLLING STONE rang out, fans realized that the much rumored speculation that Dylan showing up to perform on this number was futile. Still, the song brought everyone to their feet to join Mick and Keef on the chorus. LARS got perhaps the best reaction from the crowd. Two more shows to go so hey, theres still time left for Mr. Zimmerman to make an appearance.
SYMPATHY, then kicked off the War Horse section. This segment was once again S.S.D.S: Same Shit Different Show. The inclusion of CANT ALWAYS GET WHAT U WANT as part of a 2 song encore was nice. I don't know why they don't have a 2 song encore always or what there criteria is for determining which shows will have it.
This show was a classic. A reall treat to see the greatest band in a smaller venue. I hope some ambitious bootlegger puts together a best of CD or a Box Set of Stones MSG performances from '69 to '98!!!!!!! This show was so great and the small venue worked out well for everyone: the fans who got to see a more intimate show and the band that got richer off of extortionist ticket prices. Hopefully, on their next tour (yes, don't think that this is the last time) they will scrap the outdoor football stadiums and stick to the indoor arenas and hopefully they'll find a way to keep the prices down.
I went with my friend David, and we had seats behind the stage. Sitting behind the stage was not bad at all. The stage was set up so that there was nothing blocking the view. Also, a wide runway ran behind the stage, and Mick and Keith came back there a couple of times. My only complaint was that I could not see the greatest drummer in the history of rock and roll very well. All of the members of the band, especially Mick, really know how to work the crowd. I was impressed.
The sound was pretty good for most of the show, with the exception of "Only Rock and Roll," the first song they did on the small center stage. Actually, the small center stage looked pretty big in the middle of the Garden. The highlights of the show, for me, were "Memory Motel" with Mick on piano, and "Little Red Rooster." (How about "Shattered" and "Black Limo" on Friday, guys?)
I didn't mind not having them play "Anybody Seen My Baby," but I was surprised they did "Lowdown," which I think is a weak song. They ought to do "Gunface" instead. A few other thoughts and observations:
One final note: I think the ticket scalpers got screwed on this one. Most of the tickets were expensive to begin with, which didn't leave the scalpers with much room to jack up the prices. Then, last weekend, the Garden put more tickets on sale. (That's how I got a great seat in Section 61 for Saturday night.) And late Wednesday afternoon announcements were made on WNEW and Q104.3 that 300 more tickets were on sale at the box office. So anyone who needed tickets was in luck. If this was an intentional plan to beat the scalpers, and I think it was, it seems to have worked.
Do the Stones even know the sound is off on certain nights? Well at least it should improve this weekend as it usually does as they learn to master the venue
The show proceeds smashingly, aside from Mick confusing the lyrics on Bitch, but as they launch into Out of Control I realize if I don't give into my bladder I will have no more fun that evening (too much libations at aforesaid Walter's). Running back from the can I realize that the aisles are full of fans and the ushers are too into the show to even care. I quick grab my husband from the upper reaches of the 300 section and we head for the 100 section seats just off the floor. There we remain with a superb view (especially for the center stage and the surprising, sizzling Little Red Rooster) just hanging in the aisles with nary a word from the ushers! Amazing!! I LOVE NEW YORK!
Others have provided the set list--highlights for me were Out of Control, which is quickly becoming my favorite song on this tour, Memory Motel, Saint of Me, and Rooster. I miss Anybody Seen My Baby and hope they put it back in Saturday night when I hope to be visiting Madison Square Garden once more for my final U.S. show (if anyone has tickets, see my posting on the ticket trader page, email@example.com)
Well, when I heard they were doing three shows at MSG I knew I had to be there for the World's Greatest Rock and Roll Band on the World's Greatest Stage. For me, the Stones in a small arena was so much better than any stadium show. The boys didn't disappoint. (It can't get much better for me, except seeing 'em in Wembley or seeing a club date. But I figure both are slim to none, so MSG was my chance. What a way to see my 10th show since Steel Wheels!)
I couldn't believe that I was really seeing them in a 20,000 seat arena. We had tickets in section 313, directly on the upper side of the stage with a tremendous view. (I was even a lucky one who got them for face when they went on sale. The 98.50 was well worth it. Believe me, $100 bucks for the Stones in an arena was a steal.)
They had a small stage that was a modified version of the outdoor one. It was set up at the back of the arena like a traditional concert but it was completely open, so the people in the back of the stage didn't get the shaft. They had the center stage pretty much at the other end. The place was jammed packed and loud.
They did 5 songs off of Bridges (Keith did How Can I Stop for the first time, AWESOME!) Memory Motel was the web choice. (The crowd gave a huge cheer every time Keith sang his part of Memory Motel.)
On the center stage they were about to break into a tune (Last Time perhaps?) after IORR but Ronnie's guitar had a problem. After about three minutes of confusion, inaction, and a couple of new guitars that still didn't work Mick said to Chuck Leavall, "OK Chuck what are we gonna do?" Chuck starts the keyboard part to Little Red Rooster and the crowd went wild.
Rooster was the highlight of the show for me because it was a total improv. (The live albums like Ya-Ya's and Love You Live seem so spontaneous. So I knew we were hearing a special tune at that moment.) You knew they were thrown off because Mick looked nervous, Ronnie didn't get a working guitar until mid-song and Mick was fumbling for the harmonica. (Which some roadie ran over at the last moment.)
The only problem was that Anybody Seen My Baby was noticeably absent. Too bad, that's really a great song. See you in Montreal in the Spring. (I hope they really do reschedule)
And I'd say that it was - eventually. Not for lack of trying, or that there was anything wrong with the first part of the show but, perhaps not surprisingly, I sort of felt like it took them awhile to really get cooking. I was thrilled that they dropped ASMB in favor of Low Down, which I had though all along would be a tremendous move, and it was. Same goes for Keith's excellent rendition of How Can I Stop which is a far better choice than All About You.
Having three new songs to the set list was a real treat for us repeat fans and showed that New York was special. Now if they'd drop Let's Spend the Night Together in favor of something more exotic, the start of the set would really be hot. During Bitch and Miss You I thought they were beginning to find "the zone", but IMHO things didn't really start to bubble over until around Sympathy for the Devil and Tumbling Dice.
Dice is a song that I normally think has been over played, but it was, for me anyway, the turning point of the show, when the band really began to relax and have fun (although the center portion, especially a great surprise with Little Red Rooster, was certainly memorable). The tough part of all this was at that point you knew they were in the home stretch. As always, JJFlash is one of those moments you wish would never end, as that riff just cranks, and the whole thing becomes almost surreal. So all in all a great way to finally catch them at the famed Garden, and I'm sure the next two nights will probably get even better. Thanks boys.
Read all about the Bridges To Babylon tour in the It's Only Rock'n Roll magazine issue IORR 31 out Jan, 1998.
It's Only Rock'n Roll 1997 -
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