The Rolling Stones
Arrowhead Duck Pond
NO SECURITY TOUR
By Shawn Perry
West Coast Correspondent
Maybe they truly are the World's Greatest Rock n' Roll Band. In the last year and a half, I've seen the Rolling Stones twice. They have astounded me with their rugged durability, their ever-present edge, and the fact that they are in their late 50's and still kicking some serious ass. As the sun slowly sets on the state of classic rock n' roll, this is indeed comforting news.
When I saw them at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas in November of 1997, I spent $200 for a $100 seat, and ended up sitting in a $300 seat. This was one of the few indoor shows the Stones played during their Bridges To Babylon tour, and it was a seemingly more intimate affair. It was to be the first and last time I would ever see the band in such closed quarters. Or so I thought.
At the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim -- home of the Mighty Ducks -- I spent $40 and sat in a $90 seat. It was the best $40 I ever spent. Not only was the stripped down stage show suitable for the venue -- it was suitable for the Stones. After all, when it comes right down to it, the Stones are nothing more than the coolest bar band that ever blasted through London.
Hence, the significance of the No Security tour. For the first time since 1975, the Stones are exclusively playing indoor arenas throughout North America. The stadium-sized, bombastic productions of the past have been stowed away so that the boys can get up close and personal with their legion of fans. The word on the street is that the audiences -- a mixed bag of old and young -- are loving every minute of it.
Opening with "Jumpin' Jack Flash," the Stones pushed the pedal to the metal and never let up. Normally faced with the task of covering a stage the size of an airplane hangar and stirring up a crowd of 50, 60, 70 thousand, Mick Jagger was in complete command of the 18,000-seat Pond, exhibiting the stamina of a man half his age. Even with his recent domestic squabbles, Jagger remains as cool as a cucumber, making the whole gig look like a cakewalk. The Pond -- a milestone of modern arena architecture -- was suddenly transformed into a small, smoky nightclub.
Of course, the Stones are not all about Mick Jagger. Since the Voodoo Lounge tour of '94, Keith Richards has come into his own on the frontline -- crooning more than ever, wielding his six-stringer as if it were an extension of his body. He started things off on the right foot by unearthing a gem from the Let It Bleed album called "You Got The Silver." To my recollection, this was the first Stones recording Richards ever sang lead vocals on. It's also the only tune he and the Stones hadn't performed live since the taping of the Rock and Roll Circus in 1968. What a treat it was to hear Richards begin with his first, and follow with his latest, "You Don't Have to Mean It," a rollicking R & B rave that catches old Keith in a rather rapturous mode. It's hard to believe that people once thought he'd never see 50.
As the Stones proceeded to tear through more classics, the set wavered from the obvious to the not-so-common. "Memory Motel," originally from 1976's Black and Blue, has enjoyed a bit of a resurgence, due in part to the added voice of Dave Matthews on the No Security version. For reasons unclear, the Stones also leaned heavily toward material from 1978's Some Girls album -- ripping through "Respectable" and "When the Whip Comes Down" -- true-to-heart endearing rockers if there ever were any. They also took a stab at the title track -- a wicked example of Jagger's misogynistic side, speculated by many to be a timely jab at Jerry Hall. "Shine A Light," a soulful, almost gospel-like classic from Exile On A Main Street, skillfully anchored by Chuck Leavell's incredible organ work, may well have been the best of the lot.
The continued interest in the Stones is cultivated by the fact that the band refuses to rest on its laurels. They haven't fallen in with the likes of the Beach Boys and the Moody Blues -- revivalists on endless strolls down Memory Lane. Instead, the Stones have plunged forward with new music that blends in tastefully with the old. At the Pond, they confidently served up helpings of "You Got Me Rocking," "Saint of Me" and "Out of Control," the latter featuring some wild kinetic moves by Jagger.
Perhaps the most enticing moment of the concert was when Jagger, Richards, Ron Wood and Charlie Watts ambled down a walkway through the middle of the floor to an even smaller stage -- about the size of a 2-car garage, equipped with the bare essentials in gear, and little room to spare. I had a bird's eye view of the entire spectacle, and there couldn't have been a better way to witness the staying power and high-spirited energy of the Rolling Stones. Now I understand why Watts is so coveted by his band mates -- he's the epitome of precision and steadiness. Woody, still regarded as the new kid on the block after almost 25 years of service, seemed to peel off each note as if it were his last. With Leavell and bassist Daryl Jones in tow, the Stones paid homage to their roots with a rumbling version of "Route 66." One spectator was so caught up in the excitement, he leapt onstage and cavorted its perimeter before being swiftly ejected. An almost frightening "Midnight Rambler" hypnotized the audience into a daze as Jagger succinctly enunciated the chorus with rapid-fire machismo. It's amazing how the women still swoon over this guy.
Back on the main stage, the Stones played their most road-tested tunes -- "Tumbling Dice," "It's Only Rock n' Roll," "Start Me Up" and "Brown Sugar." After encoring with "Sympathy For The Devil," the band and their entourage of singers and horn players took their bows while confetti covered everyone within the first 20 rows. Seconds later, Jagger, Richards, Wood and Watts were alone -- core members of an institution spanning over four decades and showing no signs of fading away. Somehow, by the grins of their aging faces, I have a feeling they'll be back. There's just no point in spelling out the demise of the Rolling Stones.