||The Stones Start With A Lively Stop At 'Main Street'
By Steve Morse, Globe Staff, 9/4/02
The eyes of the rock world were on Boston last night, as dozens of press representatives from here to Europe and Asia came to see if the Rolling Stones still had any bounce left in their step. The verdict, at least from these quarters, was a resounding yes, as the Stones kicked off their "Licks World Tour" in lip-smacking form.
"There's nothing so exciting as starting right here in Boston!" singer Mick Jagger told the sold-out crowd of 16,000 fans. That might have been a bit of hyperbole, but the Stones backed it up with a volcanic set that, as advertised, featured a dizzying mix of songs they had either never played on stage before, or had played rarely, together with enough familiar hits to keep the night moving at a breakneck pace.
There were occasional signs of rust - a botched guitar solo here, a sloppy transition there - but the raw, rough-and-ragged tone was just what many diehards sought. The last few Stones tours had been a little too precise and show-bizzy for comfort, but this show echoed the group's bar-band roots with a bold-face exclamation point.
The Stones meant business from the outset. They opened with a whomping "Street Fighting Man," a gutsy choice given that the lyric "what can a poor boy do except sing in a rock 'n' roll band" no longer applies to a band of millionaires who commanded as much as $350 a ticket last night. Still, the Stones powered it home with Jagger at full gallop and guitarists Keith Richards (looking renegade-like in black leather and headband) and Ronnie Wood slashing away like ageless punks.
Next up was the obscurity, "If You Can't Rock Me" (with Wood playing what looked to be a gold-plated wah-wah pedal), followed by the well-known "It's Only Rock 'n' Roll," thus sharpening the mix-and-match tone of archival nuggets and time-worn crowd-pleasers. The night's only new song, "Don't Stop," was a decent if unexciting rocker, but the seductive "Stray Cat Blues" then upped the excitement level to the max, with Jagger, ever the prancing showman, shouting, "I bet your mother doesn't know you bite like that." Even at age 59, his sex appeal still connects.
The sublime country ballad "Wild Horses" gave backup singers Lisa Fisher and Bernard Fowler a chance to shine, before the band adroitly explored several straight songs from 1972's "Exile on Main Street" album. These included "Loving Cup" (with a horn section weighing in smoothly) and torrid versions of "Rocks Off" and "Rip This Joint." And Richards later added a festive "Happy" from that same disk.
The Stones benefited from some dramatic video images all night on a towering screen that mixed live footage with clips of the band's classic red-tongue logo and other provocative graphics. And the group really hit its stride on a never-before-played "Can't You Hear Me Knocking," leading to rave-ups "Honky Tonk Women" and a roaring "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," which saw Richards and drummer Charlie Watts in their finest moments.
After 90 minutes, the Stones finally strolled down to the B stage in the center of the arena, slapping outstretched palms along the way. Jagger then launched into Muddy Waters' still-affecting blues, "Mannish Boy," before grooving to "Neighbors" and a soaring "Brown Sugar." They kept it brief there, however, ending the set after those three songs, before returning for main-stage encores of "Sympathy for the Devil" and "Jumpin' Jack Flash." The show lasted two hours, but went by so quickly it seemed like 10 minutes. For a tour opener, this was a phenomenal success.
The Pretenders opened on a surprisingly mild note, minus the edge of their prime, but part of the reason was that the volume was set at about half of the Stones's volume, which ensured that the Pretenders couldn't upstage anyone.
-tSYX --- Pretenders: Just that.