Mick Jagger - vocals; Ian McLagan - organ, keyboards; Keith Richards - guitar, vocals; Ian Stewart - piano; Charlie Watts - drums; Ron Wood - guitar; Bill Wyman - bass
In the last 20 years, The Rolling Stones have done their legacy something of a disservice. Swaddling the back-alley, whiskey-and-opium menace in Vegas-style pomp and gloss has tarnished the memory of the Stones in their prime. And not in an "I-can't-believe-they're-still-at-it-at-their-age-how-embarrassing" sort of way, either; the dismissive ageism is a crutch for those jealous that a bunch of sexagenarian Englishmen are having more fun than they are. What's missing is that element of chance - that harrowing feeling that the whole thing might just crumble before your very eyes - for it was on this precipice that the Stones staked their claim as The Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Band in the World.
In a career spanning four decades, losing the plot is nothing new. The Stones first began to stagnate following a series of classic albums in the early '70s. Curiously, it was the New York City club scene that brought them out of this slump. 1978's Some Girls was a timely release, reclaiming some of the glitz and grit missing from their mostly forgettable mid-'70s efforts. Mick's boogie nights at Studio 54 translated into a massive chart triumph when combined with the sleazy blooze bravado of the prototypical Bowery punks, Keef and Ronnie, and the ensuing tour may have been the last time the band married a creative peak to commercial success.
This show, recorded during the '78 tour, is a reminder of how it should be. The Stones' strength is making a 4,000 seat theatre feel like a sweaty, smoky, beer-soaked juke joint, and they achieve it here. At times it's loose and ugly, but that just makes it so much sweeter when they get it together. The more "modern" likes of "Miss You" and "Shattered" stand up against classic material such as "Tumbling Dice." If Mick sounds a little out of breath, just picture him shimmying back and forth across a 100 foot stage and ask yourself if you could do the same and stay in key. This ain't the opera - this is rock 'n' roll at its raw and bloody essence!
The Stones' are still great, still packing in massive venues around the world, but their enduring success is built on an unsteady foundation of rough-hewn and raggedly perfect music. For all the rollicking, shambling glory, minus the smoke and mirrors, listen here.