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Posted by Fleabit Peanut Monkey on February 22, 1999 at 02:24:20:

Still recovering from the arduous journey to Milwaukee -- feeling, in fact, like I've been run over by a bus. Nonetheless, I will not shirk my duty to intrepidly report the facts.
I still haven't seen the film which opens the show -- you can't see it from the front row. (I am NOT complaining!) The band hits the stage looking every bit like the World's Greatest Rock & Roll Band - except for the ever-dapper Mr.Watts, all in black leather jackets and ultra-skinny black pants, Mick & Keith in shades. Although complaints about the set-list are accurate - not nearly as adventurous as we'd hoped, at least not yet -- this is clearly a tour which aims to strip away the artifice of past extravaganzas and prove beyond ANY doubt that the music is first and foremost in importance. And the music is raw, primal, unforced. This is not a band which is trying to recapture its glory days by rote. There's nothing slick or calculated or forced about it, just a band with no peers delivering the goods. In-your-face openers JJF and Live With Me have all the fury they had in 1969, with the added perk of being in tune -- something which was not always the case with Mick Taylor.
Woody, who was ten feet away from me most of the night, did seem subdued at first. I read this not as a sign that he's burnt out; rather that he's been stung by the constant barrage of unwarranted bitching and whining. He performed at first with eyes closed, focused on his playing. I took advantage of my proximity to cheer him on, and he did indeed come to life as the show went on. AND I noticed that the ovation he got during band intros was tremendous. His stage volume is too low, in my opinion, but that's my ONLY complaint about him. He's overshadowed, but then again he's standing next to MICK JAGGER and KEITH RICHARDS, fer crissakes!
The Glimmer Twins -- the two greatest living embodiments of everything I hold dear in rock & roll -- are both healthy as horses, and not only sound great but LOOK great up close. The lines and wrinkles which leap out of photos are not apparent when they're playing - the music erases them. And the two of them are genuinely enjoying each other's company more than they have in decades. As Dandelion pointed out, Keith's vocal parts in Memory Motel were the occasion of an hilarious onstage exchange - Keith comes forward to deliver his lines from Mick's center-stage mike, and as always, is greeted by a roar of approval from the crowd. Mick stands off to his right with his back to the audience, his arms crossed, haughtily playing the wounded diva. This was done for the benefit of the band - we couldn't see his expression, but I noticed Woody and Charlie both cracking up. When the song ended, Keith, laughing hysterically, pointed up at the audience and said (I gathered) something like "see, they like me better!" Both laughed, leaning against each other. It was a great moment.
Much has been made lately of the fact that there's an on-stage teleprompter. This is NOT unusual - bands have been using them for years. Funny thing is, neither Mick or Keith ever looks at it! I could read it easily from where I was. I only noticed it being turned on for "Some Girls" and "You Got The Silver", and the boys butchered the lyrics to both of them! In the case of "Some Girls", I think one of the major factors in lyrical revision is the fact that Mick's daughters were there. He didn't deliver the song with the venom which has been described elsewhere. And don't get me wrong about "Silver" - it was ragged, seemed at times ready to fall apart, verses were repeated, AND it was absolutely a major highlight of the show. Keith's other tune was "Before They Make Me Run", and it sounded better than I've ever heard it.
The second stage set is UNREAL. Midnight Rambler is performed NOT as a well-rehearsed set-piece, but rather hinges entirely on Keith & Charlie double-clutching & shifting gears manually. The band keeps constant eye contact with each other. The result is totally organic rather than synthetic -- it's them actually PLAYING THE SONG. Hard to describe but incredible. Worth the price of admission by itself.
Actually the whole night had this organic element. As much as I hoped they would shelve the warhorses, they played the shit out of every one of them. Start Me Up and IORR in particular were great. They are very much a BAND this tour.
A BAD thing about front row seats - I could've taken one great photo per second if not for the fact that two security guys were in my face constantly. I had two disposable cameras with me. When they went to the second stage, I followed, easily got fairly close, and took 15 or 16 photos. Then I waited until they were taking their final bows and got the other camera out. I figured that the security guys would relax since the show was over, and even if they decided to be pricks, they wouldn't get the pictures I'd already taken. I took another dozen photos of the final bows. Charlie had a bright red ring of lipstick on his right cheek from Lisa, a big sheepish grin, and held a single rose in his hand. Several times during the evening I had noticed that Charlie's expression was different from other tours - rather than looking bemused or stone-faced, he had an expression that, without looking the least bit arrogant, made it obvious that HE was driving the plane. He was absolutely MAGNIFICENT all night.
Despite the fact that I've rambled on now for hours, it was actually hard for me to come to grips with what I was seeing. I'm glad there are more shows in my immediate future. But rest assured: the World's Greatest Rock and Roll Band is still, without any doubt, THE ROLLING STONES.

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