It's Only Rock'n Roll
Show start : 9:35 pm Show end : 11:20 pm
The warm-up act was a band called "The Trews" from Canada. Great band. Hard hitting and fast rockers from start to finish. If there was any dust on the walls before they took stage it was all blown away when they finished. Great warm-up. Two guitars, one bass and drums. That's all it takes to make great rock'n roll. They even played louder than the Stones!
But we were all here for the Stones tonight... On time shortly after 9:30pm Michael Cohl had the great pleasure of yet again introducing the greatest rock'n roll band in the world doing a rehearsals club show in front of a lucky crowd in Toronto.
The stage was all in red. Stones red. On the left wall they had put up three hugh banners with the "Bigger Bang Tongue". The Stones tongue exploding in a big bang. And around the place they had placed a few posters promoting "A Bigger Bang". Those posters soon got into souvenirs for fans picking them down from the walls. The building had a small bacony for VIP's and family of the band, while the less than 1,000 lucky fans downstairs had open admission and could move around anywhere. Except for the fact that they all crowded up in the front of course.
Opening song was "Rough Justice". They played it like it has been performed for ages, but it was in fact the very first time it was performed live in front of an audience. Great rocker with a big punch from their new album. New look on stage. Bernard alone in front at the left. Chuck Leavell could hardly be seen at the far left. Then the four Stones. And Darryl on the far right.
"Live With Me" rocked.
Then "19th Nervous Breakdown" in a strange, almost ballad-like reggea version. Slower than in the original version. Still great and unique. But the crowd was sort of quiet on this one...
"She's So Cold". No more quiet crowd. They all went mad. A fast and hard-hitting version with Mick all over the stage. Just wish it will be permanent for the tour. What a great version!
"Dead Flowers". Just have to love it every time you hear it. Great solo by Ronnie.
Then Mick was all up front with a guitar. He started up the blues song "Back Of My Hand" from their new album. Playing the slide. Singing the deep blues like it was a club in Chicago with four people in the crowd only. Then he moved back after a while and left the 2nd part over to Ronnie. First time Mick was doing slide on stage? Well it was great and again it is kind of strage how great a new song is sounding, performed live for the first time ever.
"Ait't To Proud To Beg" is another one which is rocking the crowd and again you just have t love these guys doing such great songs!
Introductions. Lisa and Blondie have been very low profile. Only Bernard up front mostly.
Then Keith is doing his new song "Infamy". From the new album. Sort of reggea style. Still quite unique, and a great we all can hope they will keep in the set.
"Oh No, Not You Again". Better than the version performed at the press conference. Great song from the new album!
Then the Bob Marley & Peter Tosh song "Get Up, Stand Up". At first a song which was straight forward, but then Mick is starting to work the crowd with a great sing-a-long. Everybody is singing and dancing, a great, great song for any size crowd!
Another cover version coming up: "Mr. Pitiful" by Otis Redding.
Then, if you ever was not sure this was a Rolling Stones show, because you got so many new songs, you got three of the greatest: "Tumbling Dice", "Brown Sugar" and "Jumping Jack Flash". They had been on stage for 1h 45 minutes, but it felt like half an hour. How time flies when you have such a great show going. And they don't need to rehearse anymore. Not really. Just bring this show on to Boston, and all the fans will be more than happy.
Final bow. It is all over. The three ex. Charlie is saying godbye for now. Not the first time Charlie is just leaving stage, but the nice thing is he is coming back. On his own. Looks a bit confused. Missing the others. But it is a great memory to bring on to Boston. And talking about Charlie... When Bobby Keys was introduced he hit his drums so hard I was sure Mick was jumping an inch or so. That guy is not old for sure. I am sure Charlie can hit them hard until he hits 100.
Epilogue: We were all sort of family out there in the street last night, Queuing for tickets. Sharing water, muffins, stories. Unfortunately not everyone coming could get tickets. But those who came early, those who did not wait, those who just left once they got the message, got bonded tonight. When we all came back tonight for the show, after a few hours sleep, all looking fresh, there were smiling faces everywhere. Shaking hands. Smiling. Lucky fans. The best and most precious Stones shirts were on of course. One from Glasgow. The Scotland special 2003 T-shirt. Another one from the 1994 Oakland Halloween show. Then all the other specially selected shirts for the night. And after the show they had to kick us all out. Even bigger smile on all faces. No rush. Big kisses and goodbye when we finally had to go.
You have something to look forward to. Bridges To Babylon was great. But this is unique. Hard hitting. Great guitars. Less brass. Less backup. More Stones. And with one more week of rehearsals still in Toronto, it will be even better, if possible. Enjoy the tour - soon it will come to a place near you!
First, The Trews, opening act, came out right at 8:30. I had spoken with a woman in the queue who knows the band members and told me about their music, that they have had a couple of hits, and opened a couple of shows for Robert Plant in Canada. I liked a couple of their songs (not that I remember anything about it now!!), and they were definitely nervous, but pumped, for their gig of a lifetime. To the point that the lead singer clearly looked at his watch with 2 songs left (they were told they had 30 minutes - end of discussion), and they finished in 28 minutes time.
Shortly after 9:30, out came Michael Cohl with the introduction. That was great already - the Stones were coming out pretty much on time. Talk about impatience, but it was not prolonged.
Opening with Rough Justice was a nice surprise, actually. A solid version, coming off without a hitch. If you didn't know, you'd think they had played this 100 times already. Interesting that Bernard, who sang plenty backing up Mick on this tune, was up at the front of the stage, albeit at the end of the stage on the Ronnie side. But that was the most prominent I've seen Bernard during any of the Stones songs.
Mick went over to both sides of the stage for his "hello". Keith and Ronnie smiling a lot, with all 3 totally excited to be out on stage. It showed!!
Live With Me, as many of you know, is a great choice for a small venue and kept the band rocking. Darryl was a bit further down in the mix, at least from where we were, thus not playing as prominent as he has on this tune over the past couple of tours.
Next - 19th Nervous Breakdown. Mick saying something like "We've got an old song, but a new arrangement". Right he was. As odd as this will sound, when they hit the first few notes, my instinct said "Going To A Go-Go"??. A funky sort of start to this arrangement. I was shocked when I heard the first line and realized it was 19NB. As part of the new twist to this song, the line "You better stop - look around" is missing. They go from the verse into the "Here comes your...." part. Hard to get used to, but I came to like this arrangement, and it actually got the strongest crowd reaction at the end of any of the 3 songs.
She's So Cold followed. Again, this sounded very polished, and I was more caught up in being there for the first performance of this song in 23 years.
Next was Dead Flowers. Seemed to be the first time a lot of the fans saw that one. I didn't know it was rehearsed, so it was a surprise. A bit more of a rock arrangement than the recent tour version.
And then....Mick says something like "We're gonna do a new one...this one is a blues number". Back of My Hand was a major major highlight. It seemed like everybody was on guitar, including Mick. Blondie came up playing guitar on a couple of the songs as well. They jammed a bit more on the instrumental part, adding what I think was a couple extra minutes. One of those "it could have been a minute - it could have been an hour" Stones moments where you get caught up and no matter how long the song goes, it's not enough. Even I'm at a loss for words...but as I said before, this one has B-stage written all over it from here on.
Following was Ain't Too Proud - my first time ever seeing it live. Totally awesome. The most soulful version I've ever heard. This was not a rock version of a soul song...but a soul song all the way. Even though this one had its technical problems - when the microphone fell from Bobby's saxophone and he spent at least an entire verse trying to pick it up himself before a tech finally ran out, and then spent at least a minute trying to fix it up. But even that didn't ruin this slice of heaven either.
Then the intros, and Keith doing "Infamy". Keith was comparably brief on his address to the crowd. Even from 5th row standing, he was mumbling, and was quick with the comments. When he introduced the "new song", I was excited for this first - I nor any of us had heard it.
As I said earlier, his live version is an enhanced "Wicked As It Seems" type song. This one is a winner. It went on for probably 7 minutes with an extended jam in the middle. I'm curious to see if the longer jam will be on the studio version or if he pumped it up for the show. The first 1/3 or so of the song seemed relaxed. Keith was a bit mellow on the vocals and it's not a mellow song, and he did the holding the guitar routine for the first couple of verses. Then, on came the guitar and the jam part began. And in Keith fashion, after that when he went back to the vocal, his entire delivery was far more energetic. It was though he pumped life into his own song all by himself with that jam. This one is a winner!!
Mick came back on stage, and then it was Oh No Not You Again. 110% superior to the press conference version. I could tell they have really worked on this one. Mick sang it, the timing was better, and I think they worked on the overall arrangement. So far I still like RJ and BOMH better, and Infamy, but I feel better about ONNYA now.
Then, while the others were changing guitars and there was an extended pause, Mick said something about "doing a Bob Marley song", and the crowd got pumped. Get Up Stand up was, simply put, an experience. Audience participation like crazy for the chorus. I think everyone there knew the song right away. A nice touch. And I'm convinced that pumped up the Stones, which pumped up the crowd, which pumped up..... You know what I mean. The back and forth the give and take. They have GOT TO do this one regularly. Please please please. They even did reprise (kind of like Love Train on the Licks tour - where it ends, but then starts up again for a couple minutes), and that totally worked. I "won't give up the fight" to see this one again.
And then, Mick says "now we'll do an Otis Redding song". After all that soul already, and I had no idea what to expect. Mr. Pitiful!! Hadn't even heard that song in years - let alone seeing it from the Stones. But I'd swear the Stones have been doing it all along. Polished. Now to wonder if this was a once in a lifetime treat (such as when they did Shame Shame Shame only at the Double Door in '97), or something we'll see from time to time.
Next was Dice. This is the one song all night I don't remember much about, other than I was that close at that show and got a song from Exile. Thank you very much (even if it wasn't RO, ADTL, or LC).
For Brown Sugar, Keith walked up toward the front, Mick was standing further back, and Keith did the opening riff. Mick splattered the bottle of water into the crowd, and we were close enough that I got splashed a bit.
Then the encore, JJF. Glad to say this was a slower and more true to form version, which hopefully is a good sign.
After that, as I wrote earlier, it was ONLY Mick, Keith, and Ronnie, who came up to the front. Not the back-ups. And no Charlie. I actually got worried, thinking maybe Charlie wasn't feeling well or something. Especially when the 3 of them turned and left the stage, with Ronnie being the last (that's unusual). Then...from the other side, Charlie came out all by himself. Wow!! How great was that - Charlie alone on the stage before the cheering, and exhausted, crowd!
It had gone from OK to warm to really hot at the end of the show, leaving everybody sweaty, as if any of us cared.
The new songs all went great. This is the most pumped I've been for both the new CD and the tour. And a night I will remember forever!
In a word?
I can't walk anymore. I can't talk. I can't hear. But I don't care. I've died and gone to heaven....................
Early afternoon Toronto time. I'm drenched. Walking south on Sherbourne Street in the summer down pour. Wet relief. The heat had finally snapped, if just for one unreal moment. But I know. You don't want to hear too much more about the wild line up party that raged on with all our good Stones friends. About the mosquito drone of the media trying to suck us dry for another slow summer news story on-why-are-you-so-crazy? About how the excited old man in the tacky poker suit, doing his Casino Boogie for the cameras, had peed his pants. About how the street wacko with the hand painted picture of Jesus on the Mount hit me on the head with it, then fled howling down the street. How I'd distractedly but in good natured manner, while trying to be helpful, told him he could go get it signed by Mick, who'd just arrived at the gate. Apparently the message was supposed to be that we are facing eternal damnation for worshiping false gods... why I'll be damned!!! It's a hard call- who are the sinners, who are the saints, outside the gates of a Stones club gig?!? :-)
Pure summer Stones mayhem a la Sherbourne Street Toronto...................
And the Phoenix was about to soar!!!!!!!!!!!
Suddenly the earth shook beneath my feet! The pagan gods had spoken! We were moving towards the door!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Security shook us down. We were about the 24th and 25th through, from the line-up. There were already a significant number of good Stones friends, plus assorted "beautiful people" and other icky show biz types etc. etc. etc. already there.
We bellied up standing about three very tight steps back from our stage right. A proscenium stage with a short runway in the centre. Maybe 5 feet high. We were in front of Keith, just to the left of Mick.
How close were we? Keifer was grinning in our face as he and Ronnie stumbled out onto stage, and leaned into their thundering guitars. The Phoenix exploded to the heavy beat of "Rough Justice". In the club setting I thought it was a damn fine little hard Stones summer rocker. From up on his mount Charlie smiled, held down a steady beat. Mick raced out onto the runway, with microphone in hand, growling out the lyrics. From below, I looked up, could see the fillings in his teeth.
Next came one of the best live "Live with Me"s I have ever heard!!! Mick was absolutely demonic, as he strutted about like some crazed Nijinsky hind. Seething, Taunting. Sex. Keith coaxed and teased every note he could from his guitar. Effortlessly, it seemed, but with grace and satisfaction, like he'd been no doubt doing it all his life, but would never grow tired. It was pure, raw, undistilled rock and Rolling Stones!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Everyone, the Stones included, seemed to step back for just a moment, to catch our breath, as they then launched into a slow, and bluezy rocking "19th Nervous Breakdown", with the whole band, and of course the faithful in the audience, joining in the chorus. It was a fitting anthem, I thought, for my past week or so getting in here to be with the boys, to once again join in our communion of song. The Stones had arrived. The Stones are back!!!!!!
Next Mick cranked back up the Stones hot rock machine with a real rollicking over the top version of "She's So Cold" that actually sent a chill down my spine. This was the Stones in fine seventies form again, knocking out one of their hopeful hit single type songs, and this time scoring. I've had some mixed feelings about this song over the years. A little trite? Not with this uninhibited rock and roll edge, it really shined!
Mick pulled out his guitar for "Dead Flowers". The building heats up again. The air-condioner blows out a mist of condensation. I drift thru the guitar strings, back to the early seventies, as a teen, when this favourite first came out. Hunched up in the back of our family car, on summer vacation with good old mom and dad, who -God bless 'em, but not at the time, said, "If you gotta listen to that, all day long, put on your headphones!!!!!" In my minds eye, I'm still there, but it's 2005 now. We've gone over the top of the new millennium. Crank it up, I say! Every note, hanging above me, live, in the air. It's a swirl of great Stones country rock, with deep roots for me, a lifetime of memories................
Next Mick really surprised me, during "Back of My Hand". I thought he out did himself. When he usually pulls out his guitar on stage, it's often helped flesh out the sound perhaps, but never been especially interesting or spectacular. Tonight he treated us, by deftly doing some slide, to lovingly stretch out those powerful blues notes, throbbing, lingering in the hushed air of anticipation -what next?!?!?
Well, we got our Stones Motown Temptations pick o' the night, "Ain't Too Proud". The horns were really pumping, while Mick strut about, cocky as ever. I didn't need to be coaxed to join in singing on that one!
Keith treated us to the premier of "Infamy" A thoughtful, quirky tune. In his own gruff Keifer manner, he did it with grace and aplomb. It was risky in a way. It's harder for us, in the audience, to get a handle on a new song, when most of us haven't heard it before. But I knew right away this moment would always flash back as a first, whenever I hear this new Keith classic from now on. It was great!!!!!!
The boys ratched up the volume a bit with a rollicking version of "Oh No". Lots of fun interplay between Keith and Ronnie, as they joked about. Ronnie clowning with the different guitar parts, as they knocked together a weave. Kind of a toss off, but as a quickie throw away rocker, I think it still has potential. It will be interesting to see how they fine tune it live on stage in the months ahead. Maybe it will work, maybe not -but at an impromptu club off the cuff club gig like this, it was a neat one off to throw into the mix.
Now. I don't care what anyone else may say, or think, but for me, the next two songs were cathartic. They pushed me over the top. This was my defining moment, where one snaps at a Stones concert and goes over the top, knowing there's no looking back. All the tension to the build up, the loooooong waits, often hours, days, months, years, suddenly just breaks. It's over. I'm here with the Stones a few feet away. Yes, we've all survived. It's summer 2005, the big night I'll always remember, never forget, as a fan I'll take it to the grave.
It began as a trance with the Stones launching into what is definitely my Marley-Tosh favourite, "Get Up-Stand Up". Keith cranking out the reggae rhythm, Ronnie’s bopping up and down plugging in the fills. Charlie and Daryl holding down the bottom end, the beat shaking the Phoenix to it's very foundations. Bernard and Lisa dance. Sway. Stick out their tongues. Pure delirium. Mick raises his hands in the air, beckoning us all to join in, clap along, chant the chorus. It becomes like a wave, washing back and forth, between them and us. Purifying whatever ails you. Real. Imagined. It no longer exists. Nothing does, only us and the Stones, now washed clean. It's transporting- like one doesn't even exist anymore. Stand up for your rights! The right to be! There is only now; a total communion of heart and soul, united in music, friendship, the very moment. It is everything, the essence of our humanity baby. It is us. We are it. We are all here. Together. Again. Well, perhaps I get carried away, but if you've ever been there, be it in a club, a concert, at a party, listening to their music, I think you'll know what I mean. After a Stones musical, nay-spiritual orgy like this, one is never the same again!!!! ;-)
Of course it wasn't just this song, tho it happened to do it for me, but everything they played before hand carefully leading up to this moment, and everything that was to follow...........................
I was in complete stupefaction as Mick did his best Otis Redding -"Mr. Pitiful" indeed. The cocky swagger, the self depreciating supine heart on the floor pleading, of our soul brother number one. Otis lives! He's risen from the dead! He's strutting across the stage, a Jagger possessed. No doubt, Mick, like anyone else who's grown up with this song, knows every punchy nuance, every little quirk, and twist, and he is soul. Otis has taken over his body. The horns too, I betcha they've worn out every damn vinyl copy of that record they've ever had -it's note perfect in every sense. And we've got the feel too. Matter of fact I can feel nothing else. I swear to God there were periods here where I began to fade in and out, I no longer existed, I was just there, as I let go again, singing and dancing up a storm. Hallelujah, it's a soul revival time for me and the Stones and anybody else who cares to catch and share the vibe!!!!
At this point the Stones once again shifted into overdrive, if that is even possible, they outdid outdoing themselves with back to back versions of "Tumbling Dice" and "Brown Sugar". Guitars cranked. Drums pounding. Horns blasting. Lisa and Bernard dancing up a storm. Mick jumping up and down driving these Hot Rocks home like a Stone reborn. Too familiar a choice? So what. It was primordial. The fans carried the songs, the rhythm, the chant, fists and hands in the air, waving in unison. It was like the boys were just riding the wave.
A wave? Shit it was like a tsunami, that came crashing down on us. Mick sprinkles his water bottle over the crowd. We are the anointed. And it keeps building, every note, word, chord. To come crashing down on us full force. This is it -we are the Stones, and they are us, and they are..............gone?!
Clap! Clap! Clap! We are in freefall……
But of course they'll come back. A constant in our lives. Best in person, of course, and here they are again, as the boys rip into a kick ass "JJF", Keith’s gritty, swirling guitar reverberating back and forth, from the past, and now once again into the future!
All hail the Rolling Stones!!! Rock and roll shaman and conquering heroes!!! In a Phoenix rising to pure rock and roll ecstasy!!!! A communion of souls, the faithful, the true believers..............
A Bigger Bang? Indeed!
First...about the lineup. It was great to meet so many fellow stones fans. There was so many rumours floating around during the course of the entire day and nite, that it was a while before we knew for certain if the gig was at the Phoenix, or if it would be a change of venue at the last minute. Once it was settled the gig was there, rumours were also going around that the tix might possibly be released at another location....I found it hard to believe the stones would do such a thing, but these rumours kept everyone on edge, quite unnerving. Thank god for those umbrellas we bought to "gimme shelter" from the 40 C heat, and the kindness of fans who stuck together and took turns sitting on chairs. I did not get any sleep at all, some did somehow. The heat, the rumours and no sleep was beginning to get to me. People were also on edge over the recent gun shootings in the area, and were hoping tix would be released soon so we wouldn't have to wait around there too long...I think the line was taking such a long time to fill up during the day and early evening, that this was impossible. Rumours that the tix would be released at midnite...sigh of relief. Then around 8 or 9 pm, we were told tix would be issued at 8 am the next morning. Getting that wristband was just a matter of time, and we all made the best of it and chilled out. On with the show now....
I skipped the opening act the Trews because I saw them before and wasn't very impressed. The security was real tight on the way in as it should be. Decided to take a relaxed approach and hang back from the stage instead of trying to get right up front...let's face it, anyplace in the Phoenix gives a great sightline! This was my first club gig, so it's all new to me. I do have a minor criticism, which I will get out of the way.... namely that the Phoenix is a small club venue and often the word "intimate" is used in the press to describe the club gig. I guess in a relative way, but it seemed more just like a mini concert than what I imagined a club gig would be like....I envisioned more of a social, party atmosphere of people circulating, dancing, getting drinks to & fro, rather than a packed crowd of people standing facing the stage watching the show as with a stadium show. It soon becomes understandable though, as the stones launch into Rough Justice and the band commands all your attention.
This song was the perfect opener, hard-hitting and rocks your socks off. Very catchy. The songs I thought stood out most & were done best were Rpugh Justice, Live With Me, 19th Nervous Breakdown, Dead Flowers, Infamy, Get Up Stand Up, and Brown Sugar. Live With Me I had actually never seen them do live in concert and that was a real treat, it was an amazing rendition. The band changed clothes a couple of times throughout the evening, which I admit I did enjoy too... esp Ronnie in purple and yellow, and Mick looked slick in his black shirt & slate jacket. I was also pleasantly surprised I guess that in a club gig, Mick would be so polished and doing his dance moves.
They had the crowd cheering and swaying all nite. I thought 19th Nervous Breakdown was a highlight of the evening in that they did a completely different take on it, Mick was singing in a countryish manner, and it was done slower yet still had the same emotion.... it reminded me of how they said in the stones early days, there was such a raw edge and aggressiveness to the band, that some guys wanted to both hit them and hug them both in equal degrees. Some guys used to want to punch Brian on stage, he got that kind of reaction. This song had that kind of aggressiveness to it. Many songs on the setlist had a bit of a misogyny theme to them and an edge, which was also a bit surprising because I was beginning to get the impression the stones were dropping the majority of those from their concert setlists. I loved every minute of it and was soaking it all in like a sponge, hoping it would never end. She's So Cold brought me back to the era of my youth when I was first into the band. Mick seemed a little unfocussed, but it was still awesome.
Dead Flowers was another tune that brought me back down memory lane, back when it was the music and only the music, no internet.... yep those were the days, pure unadulterated joy, just the music, music, music. They better keep this one, a real gem. Back of My Hand was refreshing delta blues. Ain't Too Proud To Beg... God I felt like I was given a chance to go back in time to a stones era I wasn't around in, just wonderful. I loved that they included songs from many eras.
Very impressed with Keith's Infamy.... some of his songs are iffy, but this is a keeper, well done, clever lyrics, well sung last nite. Keith was singing with a smile on his face for most of it. I was watching Mick & Ronnie for the majority of the show. Ronnie wasn't quite his clownish self although we did see glimpses now & then of the joking gestures. I wish Ronnie well. The whole band looked great and in fine form which is comforting to see. Get up Stand Up: hey I love those reggae tunes, and Bernard & Lisa were excellent. Lots of spirit, lots of soul. Looks promising that the stones will include some reggae tunes on tour!!!
The Otis song I had never heard before and wasn't too crazy about it to be honest. Brown Sugar & JJF left us totally stoked, and had me walking out of there on cloud nine!!! Am I still dreaming or was I really there? I feel like I'm still floating from the high and will be for quite some time. (By the way whilst floating outward I did see Michael Cohl..lol). A magnificent evening and a once in a lifetime experience I will always treasure!!! Wonderful memories.
Thanks to Høgne Midjord for news links!