From The Vault:
Hampton Coliseum & L.A. Forum

Rolling Stones

For years, before the advent of YouTube and instant video gratification, I proudly boasted of having video footage from virtually every year the Rolling Stones have toured. From 1965's Charlie Is My Darling to 1972's Cocksucker Blues to the 1994 pay-per-view Voodoo Lounge show in Miami, I thought I had the Stones video market cornered. Then the band and other vested parties got wise and started releasing live DVDs of some of the stuff I had commercially. Now, they've taken it further by creating the From The Vault series,

The Rolling Stones Archives has successfully mined the vaults for audio releases; now, the From The Vault series, in coordination with Eagle Rock, is releasing DVDs and Blu-rays of shows once only obtainable through pay-per-view and bootleg channels. The Hampton Coliseum disc, from a show on December 18th, 1981, coinciding with Keith Richards' 38th birthday, is reportedly the first-ever music concert to be broadcast on TV as a pay-per-view event, while the L.A. Forum disc is from July 12, 1975, during the Stones' five-night stand at the Forum in Los Angeles. A bootleg of this show has circulated for years.

Hampton Coliseum was a rare indoor show for a band now accustomed to stadiums. The Stones had released Tattoo You, their last Number One album, and they went to great lengths to document the tour behind it. Director Hal Ashby followed the band and filmed shows in New Jersey and Arizona for the 1983 film, Let's Spend The Night Together. The show at Hampton Coliseum was shot live for a worldwide pay-per-view audience (yours truly included). For over two hours, the Stones explore their catalog, playing staples like "Tumbling Dice," "Miss You," "Brown Sugar," "Jumping Jack Flash," And "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," alongside six songs from the then-new Tattoo You, including "Neighbours," "Black Limousine," "Waiting On A Friend" "Little T&A," (Keith Richards' lone lead vocal after a birthday wish), "Hang Fire" and "Start Me Up," now a staple itself three decades later.

With its provocative opening and revealing backstage footage (Bill Graham and Bill Wyman playing ping-pong; the band mingling with friend and family members in their dressing room), Hampton Coliseum covers a time when technology was expanding the possibilities of bringing popular music to the world. The band certainly went out of their way to please the TV viewing public. You see Mick Jagger scale ramps and waltz through the audience, while Keith Richards swings his guitar wildly at an onstage encounter with an over-anxious fan. It would have been cool to add a couple songs from George Thorogood's opening slot, but you can't always get what you want.

L.A. Forum was filmed during the Stones' 1975 Tour Of The Americas, their first tour with guitarist Ronnie Wood on board. They announced the tour in New York City and played an impromptu version of "Brown Sugar" on a flatbed truck driving through the streets of New York City. For the tour, the Stones were accompanied by Ian "Stu" Stewart, Billy Preston, Ollie E. Brown and a horn section that included Trevor Lawrence and Bobby Keys. The footage of this show is fuzzy in parts, but unlike my bootleg copy, it gets better and I was able to get through it. In addition to slouchy versions of "Honky Tonk Women," "Gimme Shelter," "You Can't Always Get What You Want" and "Tumbling Dice," riveting run-throughs of "Midnight Rambler" and "Sympathy For The Devil" are enough to seal the title at the time of world's greatest rock 'n roll band.

Jagger's voice is ragged at times, but his moves and command of the stage more than make up for it. His athleticism reaches new heights when he swings by a rope over the audience during the jam section on Billy Preston's "Outta Space." The bump and grind he does with Preston during the song reminds you it was the free-for-all 70s when Jagger's androgynous mannerisms raised more than a few eyebrows. Then again, songs like "Star Star" didn't survive the road test for as long as a lot less deserving tomes. At the time of L.A. Forum, the Stones weren't touring behind any particular album, although they plucked a couple deep cuts off their most recent platter, 1974's It's Only Rock 'N Roll, including the title track, their cover of the Temptations' "Ain't Too Proud To Beg," and the funky "Fingerprint File," with Jagger on a heavily phased rhythm guitar, Wod playing the throttling bass line (Mick Taylor played it on the record), and Bill Wyman on synthesizer.

Hampton Coliseum and L.A. Forum bring two special phases in the elongated history of the Rolling Stones into focus. Even as recent shows have been released in multi-disc value sets, the real value is in pulling out more stuff From The Vault. Certainly, footage of shows from the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s are there, waiting to be restored and properly released. It's 50 and counting for the Rolling Stones these days, but you can never get tired of those colorful and wild glimpses into their fascinating past.

~ Shawn Perry

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