By Brian Wise.
THE ROLLING STONES: SWEET SUMMER SUN (EAGLE ROCK)
By my estimation the Rolling Stones’ performing and recording career has lasted longer than the careers of Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. That is serious longevity!
When I saw the band in Las Vegas earlier this year I almost had to pinch myself when I recalled that I had first seen them more than 40 years ago. That is a scary thing.
How we have all survived this long is completely beyond my comprehension (apart from Mick Jagger who, at 70, still moves like a 50 year old!)
In 1977 Johnny Rotten and The Sex Pistols were railing against the dinosaurs of rock, including the Stones, and somehow those relics from the past outlived punk and just about every other fad and fashion (although they occasionally if only briefly succumbed to influences such as disco, e.g. ‘Miss You’ and ‘Emotional Rescue’).
Cynics might ascribe this proclivity of Mick, Keith and Charlie to hang around to be driven by greed but I am not sure that is the case. Ronnie, who is merely a wage earner and not a partner, has even sobered up and got off drugs, thus saving the incredible millions he spent in previous decades. It could be that commercial radio networks which spurn good new rock music and opt for oldies acts are to blame. It might be that baby boomers are insistent on clinging to a past that was never really as good as they would like to believe (but they can no longer remember that).
I like to think that the main reason the Stones are still here has something to do with the relationship with their audience. (Oh yes, they’ll make a packet from sales of this DVD too!).
After all, why would Bob Dylan still bother to tour to mainly small audiences compared with the old days? As a music manager once pointed out to me, Bob could have retired in the early ’70s’ and he would still be making a fortune from royalties. Watch Bob on stage after a show as he stand and soaks up the adoration from his fans and you can understand why he is still on that Never Ending Tour.
Watch Mick Jagger throw himself into a performance and you can see that he is not only trying to prove that he still has ‘it’ but also shows that he loves being in front of an audience. He is the consummate front man, maybe the best ever.
All of which would be purely academic if the Stones sounded terrible and we were complaining that they were past it. But that is not the case – yet. Even at the Las Vegas show, where I had to sit through a ghastly guest spot from Katy Perry doing ‘Beast of Burden’ (oh the humanity!) there were still moments that were sublime.
Moments only but enough to make me think there is no reason that the Stones cannot go on for as long as Jagger’s knees and hips last. He may not be able to quite hit the high notes of the past and he has slowed down a fraction but Mick is still way fitter than 90% of the audience! Of course, he is more than ably supported by his band mates and some other crack backing musos – including keyboardist Chuck Leavell, bassist Darryl Jones, long-time sax player Bobby Keys and singers Lisa Fischer and Bernard Fowler – who reproduce the classic songs as acceptable facsimiles to huge audiences in massive outdoor settings or cavernous arenas.
This year marked two landmark Rolling Stones shows. The first was a spectacular appearance at The Glastonbury Festival where they headlined for the first time ever and drew rapturous reviews from the English press (and that is high praise indeed). Then the Stones returned to Hyde Park in July, where they had performed just days after the death of Brian Jones in a concert that turned out to be a tribute to their late founding member and also the debut of Mick Taylor (who is a special guest here almost exactly 44 years later).
In front of more than 130,000 people across two shows the band once again delivered noteworthy performances that ran for two hours and included 16 songs (with 6 songs from the original set list).
The setting probably demanded that that songs were delivered in rather formulaic fashion but that is not the case when Mick Taylor joins the band for ‘Midnight Rambler’ and ‘Satisfaction.’ He was always the best guitarist the band had and we get an inkling of that from his solos here.
Of course, the foundation on which the band’s sound is based is Charlie Watts and his rock steady drumming and he again underpins the show. A few months earlier he had complained that he hated doing outdoor shows because of the lousy sound but he obviously, and thankfully, overcame his reluctance.
Sweet Summer Sun – Hyde Park Live may not win the Stones any new fans but it does give us something to look forward to when they are here early next year. (Make sure you do not miss the Glastonbury show if that ever becomes available).
Track-listing: Start Me Up, It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll, Street Fighting Man, Ruby Tuesday, Doom and Gloom, Honky Tonk Women, You Got The Silver, Happy, Miss You, Midnight Rambler, Gimme Shelter, Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Sympathy For The Devil, Brown Sugar, You Can’t Always Get What You Want, (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction