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Copyright Nick Morgan and crew

Concert Review by Nick Morgan
THE ROLLING STONES Twickenham Stadium, London, August 20th 2006.
I had better be clear about a few things from the start. I’m not a Stones fan. Way back when I was in the Beatles camp (my Mum thought they were so much nicer) and by the time I knew better it was really a bit too late to try – not that I haven’t since, but apart from a few high points I generally fail to see what the fuss is all about. And I’m really not a stadium rock man – this is only the third that I can remember, along with the Stones at Hampden in 1990 (this was when Keith Richards played with a badly cut finger – his grimaces were remarkable - it was septic by the time he finished the gig) and REM at Murrayfield a few years later (no comment). Half built Hampden was ok, but modern Murrayfield a nightmare, and tonight we’re in modern and expanding Twickenham. We should have been at unbuilt Wembley, but as Mick Jagger tells us “Yeah, they’re going to finish it for the Arctic Monkeys’ farewell gig”. Actually we’re in great seats (thanks) and after a great lunch (thanks) and a breeze in the corporate hospitality zoo (no thanks) even I’m rather looking forward to the evening.
So for those of you that don’t know, Twickenham is a huge Rugby Football stadium, just outside Richmond in West London, where with some sense of poetic justice, the Rolling Stones started back in 1962 playing at the Crawdaddy Club above the less than glamorous Station Hotel – “Yeah, like it doesn’t matter how many times you go round the world you always end up coming home”. There’s been talk that the Stones aren’t selling like they once did, that the price of the tickets is too high, and that what with Keith falling out of a tree, Ronnie having to go back into the Priory, Charlie still recovering from illness, and Mick having laryngitis it’s a bit of a dodgy bet for even the most loyal fan. “Panic for Rolling Stones as tour tickets go unsold” said our wonderful Daily Mail, reporting that the ‘seniors’ lifestyle organisation Saga was even trying to sell tickets to its largely geriatric members. Well the capacity of the stadium is around 75,000 – and I’m not sure if that includes pitch seating, and I have to say it looked pretty full to me.
And of course I had to ask myself what we were all really doing here. I mean, let’s be honest, if it’s quality music you’re after then you probably need to look elsewhere. ‘Primitive’ was one description of the Stone’s music that came to mind, even with Chuck Leavell on keyboards, Daryl Jones on bass, a brass section that included the great Bobby Keys and a gaggle of backing singers (including one who was helping out on guitar). And I should add that a regular warned me, not without reason, that “the sound at Twickenham’s normally crap”. Compared to today’s school of rock guitar slingers Keith and Ronnie look like cowboys who should have hung their guns up many years ago. And even I know that they haven’t written a decent song in years, or recorded an album of any great merit since 1978’s Some Girls – so when the new Bigger Bang was described as “their best in years” (the good old Daily Mail again) it didn’t really mean a thing. Hence I can really only assume that it’s the idea of the Stones that we’re all here for (or dare I say it, the brand?) – and whilst I’m sure everyone’s got a slightly different idea in their head (or dare I say brand perceptions?) I have to put on record that as far as I’m concerned, no matter what the caveats, these marauding band of old rhythm and blues buccaneers certainly delivered it at 110%.
It seemed to me that Richards was taking it easy – or at least that the Ronster was doing a hell of a lot of deliciously messy guitar work – perhaps it’s therapy... But needless to say the entire audience melted when ‘Keef’ stood in front of the microphone, lit a cigarette (of course he did this a few nights later in Glasgow and now faces a fine from the smoking police – rock and roll!) grinned through wisps of smoke, and said “I’m pleased to be here – really, you don’t know how pleased I am to be here”. Stones veterans were putting in their earplugs as he began to sing ‘Slipping away’ and ‘Before they make me run’ – but I have to say it was really rather agreeable, and even I was on my feet, arms waving, when he sauntered to our side of the side, and close enough to touch, held his Gretsch in one hand and feinted a Jack Sparrowesque bow. I can still hear Charlie Watt’s precise de-snared snare drum beat – not one missed. And love him or hate him, Jagger delivered a remarkably energetic performance, not singing like a man who’d just had a bad throat, working the audience into a frenzy with his (frankly absurd) histrionic strutting and posturing. In fact Serge I have to report with regret that it was on only the second of his many trips to our side of the stage that the Photographer entirely deserted her post, wriggling free from her seat screaming and squealing “oooh Mick”. And she wasn’t the only one.
And then of course there was the spectacle – a three tiered stage set (with a small audience standing on the upper balconies) marvellously lit, long walkways extending to the left and right. And as they broke into ‘Miss you’ a mini-stage carried the six piece band into the heart of the auditorium (although they must have still seemed like midgets to the people in the furthest away seats). We were surprised, shocked and singed by the flaming jets of gas that shot into the sky at the start of a red-soaked ‘Sympathy for the devil’ – probably the best set piece of the evening. And of course pyrotechnics aplenty as they finished on ‘Brown sugar’ and encore ‘Satisfaction’.

Sympathy for the Devil
And for the musically inclined Richards certainly got his act together for that solo on ‘Sympathy’ and ‘Midnight rambler’ was just a very classy performance all round (unlike some). And I even wondered if the marvellously entertaining ‘Senior moment’ wasn’t part of the show too – “Yeah, alright, yeah, err…. London, yeah London, now here’s a song we don’t normally play, it’s from, errr, hang on, anyone know which album it’s from … (collective shrugs from Ronnie and Keith) yeah, well anyway it’s called Sway”.
And that was that. Whether it was worth all the fuss I can’t say, but thoroughly entertaining it was. The world’s biggest, best and loudest pub band. Only a shame we weren’t seeing them in a pub I suppose. - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)

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