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Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia, PA September 18, 2002
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Topic: Aragon - Chicago SunTimes Return to archive
09-18-02 07:19 AM
Stones got it live: Bono and blues

September 18, 2002


'The world's greatest rock 'n' roll band" has always been a bit of a misnomer for the Rolling Stones. Not necessarily because of the hyperbole of that claim, but because that has never been all that the Rolling Stones are. During a relatively intimate performance Monday night before 4,500 people at the Aragon--the third and last Chicago show on the first leg of the band's tour--the Stones opted out of the arena rock that has dominated stadium extravaganzas of recent years, choosing instead to show the range and depth of their musical ambitions.

Since the band had promised to deliver "themed" shows during the small-venue gigs on this tour, and it has been highlighting a different classic album with five or six songs during each of the bigger shows, many fans expected that Chicago's "club" gig would be heavy on the blues that initially inspired the long-running superstars.

We did indeed get some of that, as opening act Dr. John joined the group to deliver a spirited cover of "I Just Want to Make Love to You," the Willie Dixon tune whose definitive version came from the great Muddy Waters (who also lent the Stones their name).

Mick Jagger introduced the tune by saying something about Chicago's legendary Chess Studio, where the band first met Muddy, but the exact comment was lost to the equally famous mud of the notorious sound pit that is the Aragon. (The venue was also hotter, sweatier and more disgusting than I've ever seen it in 10 years of reviewing there--though that is also part of its perverse charm.)

Yet rather than offering a back-porch Delta hootenanny, the musical menu was surprisingly varied as the Stones branched out to give us reggae (with an endearingly awkward version of Peter Tosh's take on the Temptations' "Walk and Don't Look Back"), disco (a fiery and funky "Dance, Part 1"), country (Ron Wood taking to the pedal steel for a sloppy but wonderful "Torn & Frayed"), and uptempo R&B (with the horn section leading the way through "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love").

Curiously, though the Aragon date was billed a show "for the fans," and the band took great effort with ID checks and an elaborate voucher system to assure that few of the $50 tickets would fall into the hands of scalpers, the audience's response to these fabulous musical detours was lackluster, compared to the rabid glee with which they greeted the greatest hits at the opening and closing of the performance.

For years, Jagger and guitarist Keith Richards have said they have chosen conservative and predictable set lists because that is what the fans who pay top dollar expect and demand. It was sad to see that claim borne out to some extent, but it was to the Stones' credit--and the hard-core fans' true rejoicing--that the band finally decided to dig a bit deeper into a catalog that truly is one of the greatest treasures in pop-music history.

And it wasn't as if the lovers of classic-rock radio didn't get some of what they wanted. The band also tore through predictable but exciting versions of "Start Me Up," "Jumpin' Jack Flash," "Brown Sugar" and Keith's ubiquitous solo showcase, "Happy."

There was also an added bonus with a high-octane celebrity cameo as U2's Bono sauntered onto the stage in his trademark sunglasses to trade choruses with Jagger on a rollicking run through "It's Only Rock 'n' Roll." As the band jammed out the ending of the tune, Bono's chant of "going to a go-go" was adopted by Jagger to become "going to Chicago," instantly becoming a moment that this city's fans will cherish forever.

Throughout, Jagger's moves were lithe and limber, though as he nears age 60, he spaces the dance numbers out with tunes that allow him to take a breather while he dons an acoustic guitar ("Torn & Frayed") or sits at the keyboards ("Worried About You"). Still, on the latter, he gave his vocals more of a workout than they've received onstage in quite some time, gamely catapulting into the higher regions of a still-impressive falsetto.

As always, one of the major joys of seeing the Stones in concert was witnessing the deft interaction of Richards and drummer Charlie Watts, who remains rock's great minimalist groove master. But a freshly rehabbed Wood was also in fine form, especially when he stepped forward to trade incendiary solos with Richards on "Can't You Hear Me Knocking."

Longtime Stones fans know better than to buy into the ever-present talk that "this could be the last time" (especially because the group just announced a Jan. 21 return date at the United Center, on a second leg of the tour).

But if the Stones do in fact opt to retire from the stage at the end of this jaunt, however long it lasts, they will have bid us farewell in fine form, indeed.
09-18-02 08:12 AM
scope Thanks for posting this Pam. Interesting and sad to read that the 'gems' that they pull out are not as well received by the crowd. Hope that doesn't lead to them becoming more conservative in the set list.
As hard as they tried with the allocation of thickets, it looks like the majority of the audience was still not the 'true fans'. Some people just don't get it.
09-18-02 08:21 AM
nankerphelge Doesn't that drive you nuts. They ought to allocate tickets based on test of Stones trivia. Put a 100 question test on the Internet and give people a reasonable amount of time to take it. Scores of 80 or above get into a theater -- just bring yer report card -- get a free beer -- you know...

Everyone will get "What 1981 song included the lyrics 'you make a dead man come?'"

Some will get "Name the Stones song that was yanked from ER"

Only a precious few will get "Complete the sentence: If the band is lacking slightly in energy tonight, it's because we _______________."

Then they can mine the fuck outta their catalog and we hard-cores can go to our graves knowing that we got THE gig!!

09-18-02 08:36 AM
Maxlugar Catalog: A Short Story, By Maxlugar.

Nanky said, "Then they can mine the fuck out of their catalog".

Maxy replied, "Fuck Yup!"

The End.
09-18-02 09:24 AM
Joey " They ought to allocate tickets based on test of Stones trivia. Put a 100 question test on the Internet and give people a reasonable amount of time to take it. Scores of 80 or above get into a theater -- just bring yer report card -- get a free beer -- you know... "

My God that is brilliant .

Nanky , I like the way you think .

Everyone who posts here on this wonderful board gets into the theater for sure -- bar none .

09-18-02 09:35 AM
Sir Stonesalot I will guarantee 1 thing...the "gems"...will get a roar of approval from at least 2 of the sweaty, convulsing, heaving, sardine-like crowd at the Roseland Ballroom.

Why, you ask?

Because sirmoonie and I will yell for all those who don't...including those of YOU who didn't get in.

That's right. Gather here during the Roseland gig. You will FEEL me 'n The can live vicariously through is our gift to you. We will be there for you.
09-18-02 10:32 AM
sirmoonie Fuck yes! I mean Fuck Yup!

09-18-02 10:58 AM
T&A I can't speak for the reaction at the Aragon - but the rare tunes got excellent responses at the Orpheum.
09-18-02 11:16 AM
jb Chucky Cheese has a program like that for the kids.
09-18-02 04:26 PM
littleredrooster We yelled and screamed for the obscure tunes at Aragon.
I don't know where Mr Sun Times was standing !
He probably was in the VIP balcony area on the side, up front where the sound probably sucked!
It was GREAT on the floor and the crowd was responsive to every number !
The chatter in the crowd was that more blues would come, like King Bee, LRR, Heart Of Stone.
They were yelling 'Around and Around', 2120 South Michigan,
Play With Fire, Spider and the Fly, Have you seen your Mother, Baby and Mother's Little Helper, those were the obscure tunes this crowd wanted to hear.
The band should listen and bag the Blues Bros theme and Love Train why do these when the mine is soooooo DEEP ?