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The Freedom of Music: Rolling With the Stones One Last Time

January 22nd, 2012


One likes to believe in the freedom of music.
Rush – Spirit of Radio.

The rumor is the Stones will return to the road this year to celebrate 50 years together as a band. If, as is the common belief, Mick Jagger likes the money more than he dislikes his guitar player, Kieth Richards, then the Stones circus is coming to town.sidebar-7

Here’s the rub. A groups of Stones fans – or Renegade Stones Fans, as it’s being reported – have begun a petition demanding some changes to he way the Stones Roll. Here’s their list of demands:

– smaller venues, arenas, not stadiums.
– no huge stage with wings, &tc.
– no onstage props: no inflatable falluses, honky tonk women &tc.
– lower ticket prices
– set list overhaul
– elimination of horn section and back up singers
– no opening acts

While I have some issues with the demands, for example if you lower ticket prices and play smaller venues, the same fans will be complaining they can’t get tickets. And while I agree with the horn section and back up singer clause, I would add no musicians onstage who are not listed as Rolling Stones. Bring back Bill Wyman and Mick Taylor, plus a keyboard player, and have a seven piece Rolling Stones on stage, playing all the parts.

Recently the Rolling Stones released a live recording, liberated from the world of bootlegs, on their website. It could be had on MP3 or lossless FLAC formats for $7.00 and $9.00 respectively. The Brussels Affair was a 1973 Stones concert in Belgium consider to be among the Stones greatest concerts.

Even a cursory listen to “the worlds greatest rock and roll band” at their peak, as they were in 1973, reveals an astounding live act, capable of playing great rock and roll without a lot of fanfare. They were sloppy and careless, song tempos sometimes far too fast, such that Jagger had a hard time keeping up. Jagger himself was prone to the missed note and odd stage banter, while the band at times seemed to wander all over the song.

Yet it’s great. It has all the fun, all the energy, all the feeling that great rock and roll should have.

Compare that to the post- Steel Wheels Rolling Stones from about 1989 onward. The stage is crowded with support musicians and back-up singers. The spotlight may stay on the four main guys, but they are certainly not doing the bulk of the playing. If Kieth Richards wants to run from his place on the main stage to one of the ramps out over the crowd, all the better to preen and pose my dears, then he stops playing and runs up the ramp. Somehow, even when the main guy is not playing, there is no noticeable difference in the sound. Kieth Richards, in other words, is relevant to the Rolling Stones only as a visual.

The American Idol Equation is in full force at a modern day Stones show: everything is slick and perfect, gathering no moss as it rolls. Music is note perfect, stage movements almost choreographed, inspiration and spontaneity banished to a different time, a different place: Brussels 1973 say, or Oshawa in 1979. Certainly not now, never now.

And so Rolling Stones fans, hearing the whispers of a 50th anniversary tour, have hopes, hopes for a meaner, leaner Rolling Stones offering fans something more like The greatest rock and roll band in the world and less like the greatest show on earth.

here’s hoping they get it.

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