Rolling Stones

By Jae-Ha Kim
Daily Variety
September 23, 1997

Rolling Stones
Soldier Field, Chicago; 54,000;  $60
Presented by TNA in association with Jam Productions
Mick Jagger (vocals/guitar), Keith Richards (guitar), Charlie Watts (drums), Ron Wood (guitar), Darryl Jones (bass), Chuck Leavell (keyboards), Bernard Fowler (backup vocals), Lisa Fischer (backup vocals), Blondie Chaplin (backup vocals), Bobby Keys (sax), Kent Smith (trumpet), Michael Davis (trombone), Andy Snitzer (sax/keyboards).

Dismiss the ruminations about this being the Rolling Stones’ “401K” tour and faggadabout the Geritol jokes.  The Stones may be the grandfathers of rock ‘n’ roll, but they also are consumate professionals who can still teach the youngsters a thing or two about how to put on a good stadium show.

Looking fit and sounding tight, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ron Wood confidently kicked off their third stadium tour of the decade with a sold-out concert Tuesday night at Chicago’s Soldier Field.  The group also will play a second sold-out show there Thursday.

“Hello, Chicago!” Mick Jagger said.  “You’ve got da Bulls, da Bears, and now, da Stones.”  And like the sports teams he compared his band to, the Stones proved to be fighters who added a human touch to the cavernous enormodome.

The Stones opened their show with the one-two punch of “Satisfaction” and “It’s Only Rock ’n Roll (But I Like It),” and the classics were an indication of what was to come.  Performing a couple dozen songs in their 2-1/2 hour set, the Stones stuck to what the fans wanted to hear:  the oldies.  Except for a handful of tracks, including “Anybody Seen My Baby” and “Out of Control” from their “Bridges to Babylon” album–in stores Sept. 30–the band’s set list was top heavy on their 1960s and ’70s hits.

The music came across in pristine fashion, thanks to the band’s investment in a $3 million sound system for the Babylon dates, which are expected to outsell this year’s only other stadium show:  U2’s PopMart tour.   The Stones are lucky enough to have a Baby Boomer fan base that can afford the $30-$75 ticket prices being charged for their North American tour.  Their last tour in support of 1994’s “Voodoo Lounge” grossed more than $124 million in the U.S. to become the top-grossing tour of the year.

The Stones set the standard for corporate rock sponsorship 16 years ago when they sold ad space to Jovan for a then unprecedented $1 million.  The unapologetic millionaires capitalized on their name again for this tour by allowing Sprint to pay them between $4 to $6 million for the privilege of printing its logo on banners and tickets.

The band didn’t make any long distance calls Tuesday night, but they did make one concession to the ’90s.  Jagger turned to giant, oval video screen behind him and clicked onto the Stones’ Web site where fans had voted via the internet on the song they wanted to hear the most.  That’s night’s winner was “Under My Thumb,” which the group played with fierce intensity.

Whereas U2 appeared dwarfed by a barrage of videos, light shows and horrifically large stage props when they performed last June at Soldier Field, the Stones rose above their theatrics, which for them was minimal.

Of course it wouldn’t be a Stones show without a dose of raunchiness.  And Richards’ ankle length, leopard spotted coat and dangling cigarettes added that touch as much as the gold drapes, naked knight and nude, busty blowup dolls that surrounded the stage. But the days when Jagger glided over the audience in a cherry picker are gone. This time around, he was content to strut around the catwalks at either side of the stage.

The highlight occurred halfway through the show when Richards, who sang surprisingly in tune, handled the lead vocals on the emotional “All About You” and “I Wanna Hold You.”  After his showcase, the band moved over to a smaller stage in the middle of the stadium and rocked out with Chuck Berry’s “Little Queenie,” “Let It Bleed” and “The Last Time.”

In that relatively intimate setting, it was clear that time had indeed been kind to the Rolling Stones.  And yes, it was even on their side.

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