Uncut Editor's Diary
The Rolling Stones, London 02, November 29, 2012
After all the hoo-ha, huff, hysteria and hot air, here, finally, are The Rolling Stones doing what they do even better than raising the collective temperature with impertinent ticket prices, something they seem to have been doing at least since their 1969 American tour, nothing new in the Stones being accused of commercial banditry and the cynical exploitation of their fans, on whose behalf so many complaints have been indignantly voiced since the 50 And Counting dates in London and New York were announced. Why don’t they celebrate their half-centenary with, say, a free concert, the cry went up in some quarters, and let more people have a chance to see them, and for nothing too? Well, when they tried that in 1969, look where it got them: Altamont.
Anyway, here we at the O2, and the Stones are something like 45 minutes into a 23-song, more than two hour set, and they’re playing a version of “Miss You” that’s turning into a communal roar. Mick’s got a guitar strapped on that he’s not really playing, although he looks fabulous posing with it. Ronnie Wood and Keith Richards, until now both somewhat withdrawn, even when a couple of numbers earlier they were trading solos with Eric Clapton on a torrid version of Muddy Waters’ “Champagne And Reefer”, are both now increasingly animated, starting finally, perhaps, to loosen up, relax into a famously familiar groove.
The miracle of the moment is that it hasn’t actually taken them longer to locate. This is after all only the second time they’ve played together in five years or whatever it is, to which extent there’s a certain early stiffness, something almost stifled, about “Get off Of My Cloud”, with its vaguely unconvincing new funkiness, and professionally dispatched but weirdly remote takes on “I Wanna Be Your Man” and “The Last Time”, Keith noticeably muted on the latter.
Things had picked up spectacularly with a dramatic “Paint It, Black” whose sinister nihilism was mind-blowingly nailed, driven hard by Charlie Watts and given serpentine lustre by Ronnie Woods’ lubricious guitar lines, Ronnie on mostly terrific form tonight. On Sunday, at the first of these two London shows, Mary J Blige had guested with the Stones on “Gimme Shelter”, which tonight features a striking cameo from Florence Welch, who seems almost giddy with excitement at sharing a stage with them. She gives first Mick and then Ronnie and Keith each a huge hug before quitting the stage, then runs back on, as if she’s forgotten something, which turns out to be Charlie, who also now gets a smothering embrace when she leaps up onto the drum riser and wraps herself around him in a manner that suggests it may take a crowbar and a couple of strong men to detach her.
It’s followed by what’s apparently the first live performance of “Lady Jane” since 1967, but it’s from “Miss You”, though, that everything takes off. Ronnie and Keith seem suddenly unburdened, start to really spark, Keith increasingly limber. “One More Shot” and “Doom And Gloom”, the two new numbers recorded for the recent Grrr! Compilation, are played with crackling conviction, Ronnie tearing the place up on the latter, even if neither are truly front-rank Stones songs. Still, it’s the indisputable classics the fans have come to hear, and the Stones are unstinting when it comes to playing them. The last hour or so of the show is therefore the Stones at their most swaggeringly imperial.
Bill Wyman comes on for “It’s Only Rock’N’Roll” and an incandescent “Honky Tonk Woman”, a set highlight. Keith’s inevitable ‘solo’ turn, greeted with huge affectionate cheers, features the still-defiant rebel chug of “Before They Make me Run” and a blistering “Happy” and then Mick Taylor joins them for “Midnight Rambler”. Taylor looks like he’s tucked heartily into the backstage sandwiches, a bulky bloke draped in some kind of shawl, but still, as he demonstrates, an amazing guitarist. The rest of the set goes by in something of a blur – “Start Me Up”, followed by “Tumbling Dice”, a hugely raucous “Brown Sugar” and “Sympathy For The Devil” – as the crowd’s hysteria becomes ever more tangible, a surging excitement, something tidal sweeping through the entire crowd, most of whom have now been on their feet for nearly two hours, by which time more than a couple of us are wishing we had a fraction of Jagger’s jaw-dropping stamina, which would be pretty astonishing in a 25-year old, let alone a man of nearly 70, which it is nigh on impossible to believe Jagger will be next year.
The London Youth Choir are assembled on either side of the stage for a fabulous “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”. “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” meanwhile, is essayed with a delirious abandon that spills over also into a seething “Satisfaction”, Keith and Mick strolling together like debauched boulevardiers along the horseshoe catwalk that partly encircles the VIP mosh-pit at the front of the stage.
I’ll be writing more on the Stones at the 02 in the next issue of Uncut, in the meantime, if you were there, let me know what you thought of the show.
1 Get Off of My Cloud
2 I Wanna Be Your Man
3 The Last Time
4 Paint It, Black
5 Gimme Shelter
6 Lady Jane
7 Champagne And Reefer
8 Live With Me
9 Miss You
10 One More Shot
10 Doom And Gloom
11 It’s Only Rock’N’Roll
12 Honky Tonk Woman
13 Before They Make Me Run
15 Midnight Rambler
16 Start Me Up
17 Tumbling Dice
18 Brown Sugar
19 Sympathy For The Devil
20 You can’t Always Get What You Want
21Jumpin’ Jack Flash
23 (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction
Pic: Phil Wallis