||The Rolling Stones Stay Steadfast and True
By JON PARELES
New York Times
There was exactly one pretentious moment in the three Rolling Stones concerts around New York: when an announcer at Roseland on Monday night said that the band was completing its "New York trilogy."
But the band's previous show was in New Jersey, at Giants Stadium on Saturday night, after the Madison Square Garden show on Thursday. For most of its 2002-3 tour, the band is playing arena, stadium and club shows on each stopover. Seeing all three in the New York area made clear that this was no trilogy unfolding from beginning to end.
Instead, the concerts were three variations on themes of stamina, sleaze, memory and, for both band and patrons, satisfaction.
There was ample self-congratulation in the audience. It took big money and quick action for most concertgoers to get tickets, and bragging rights are part of what they bought. But while the Stones may have the most durable brand name in rock, they are not just selling nostalgia.
The Stones still work hard every night, and this tour keeps the focus on the band. Concertgoers pay for the chemistry of live music, not for added spectacle. Video screens mostly show the musicians, with few recorded clips. At Giants Stadium, Mick Jagger could cue actual flames during "Sympathy for the Devil." But the crucial special effect is that the Stones are still here, socking and twanging the songs because they have not delivered the last word on them.
Each concert had the same opening. Keith Richards made the first sound: a ringing open chord, the beginning of an indelible Stones guitar riff. Then Mr. Jagger ran on stage, grabbed the microphone and began belting "Street Fighting Man" or "Brown Sugar" or "Start Me Up." The symbolism, perhaps, was that the shows were about music first and rock stardom second.
The Stones' job nowadays is to provide immediate pleasure and fondly recollected dangers, and to remind listeners that it is still possible to be absolutely professional while staying wayward. The three sets were full of Jagger-Richards songs that reveled in bygone decadence. Yet if the narratives are not being refreshed, the music is. In songs that repeated from night to night, the foundation was the same: Charlie Watts's drumbeats, which were steadfast until he chose to suddenly add rat-a-tat-tat accents. And the top was different, as Mr. Richards and Ron Wood improvised tag-team guitar.
If there is choreography for the Stones' concerts, it hardly shows. Mr. Jagger had new moves each night, while Mr. Richards made every concert a private encounter with his guitar, embracing it as closely as a tango dancer, caressing even the toughest chords.
The Madison Square Garden show was driven by bravado and amusement, with Mr. Jagger doing his little-red-rooster strut nearly nonstop for two hours while Mr. Richards and Mr. Wood leaned toward the leisurely, behind-the-beat leads of country.
Giants Stadium was about audience participation, with Mr. Jagger cuing clapalongs, and about aggressive guitars, as Mr. Richards and Mr. Wood came close to hard-rock chords. But the stadium crowd also heard an intimate version of "Angie," as Mr. Jagger sounded heartsick after decades.
And Roseland was the collectors'-item concert, with the Stones as soul-music aficionados. The band dug into its back catalog for "She Smiled Sweetly" (from "Between the Buttons") and knocked out a miniset of 1960's soul songs, with Mr. Jagger wagging a finger like a gospel preacher. But in "Going to a Go-Go," that go-go sounded a lot less wholesome than it did in the Motown original.
The shows were three slices of a touring continuum that dates to 1962, with every night different. At Madison Square Garden, Mr. Richards botched "Before They Make Me Run"; at Roseland he reached the high notes again. And at Giants Stadium he sang "Slipping Away," his reflection on mortality. "Seems I lost my touch," he crooned in his ravaged voice, then grinned. "Ha!"
||Absolutely a great article!!! The press, with the exception of Fox News and David Segal of the Washington Post, have been very positive this time around...
[Edited by jb]