Chicago Pt. 3

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Posted by Fleabit Peanut Monkey on April 14, 1999 at 14:11:24:

Part 3

Beside us, the annoying pig woman of Dandelion's post was replaced by a friendly lady in her 40's who asked us what to expect. She wanted old stuff, she said, not new songs, but she said it in a nice way which didn't make me hate her for being a prole. Oh, we said, you'll get plenty of classics. We traded stories about other shows. She'd seen them 5 times. Dandelion and I tried to read the setlist on Charlie's plexiglass baffle with her opera glasses, but to no avail. I would just have to wait to see whether they did "I Got The Blues" or not.
Soon "Ball of Confusion" started playing on the pre-show tape and we knew it was TIME. The lights went down and the crowd went nuts, immediately. Everyone was on their feet, from floor to rafters. The intro film started and the fever pitch of anticipation was raised. That film is SO good. As the Stones on the screen approached and became flesh and blood, the United Center EXPLODED. There is just nothing to compare to that first moment, when anticipation gives way to realization, when everyone's expectations are met. I looked around me and saw the same expression on everyone's face. Whether it's your first show or your one hundredth, the RUSH of being in the same room with them is overwhelming.There is a sweet satisfaction in knowing that there is NO PLACE on earth that you would rather be.
After all of the horror stories about the abysmal sound at the UC, I was glad that I could clearly hear all of the elements - Keith & Woody's guitars were balanced , Charlie's drums pounded in my temples, Darryl's bass massaged my spine, and Mick's vocals, an arrogant sneer in JJF, riding over top of the maelstrom. With a few momentary lapses, the sound was good throughout the show. The horn section filed out onto the ramp and I knew Bitch would be next, as it was in Pittsburgh. As mentioned elsewhere, there was a bit of confusion in the middle, I think caused by Mick. He turned and looked for the horns to play the mid-verse riff earlier than he should have; they reacted and played it, 4 bars late; Mick started singing "feeling drunk" when he shouldn't have, and stopped; none of these flubs hurt the song a bit, and just revealed the Stones to be human after all. They all made eye contact and got their bearings, ending the song like a well-oiled machine, Mick's hand fluttering over the crowd, directing the music and conveying a benediction at the same time.
The show progressed, too damn fast, and it was obvious that (bitched-up Bitch notwithstanding) the Boys were in rare form. I started sneaking down to a landing a few feet away from Mick's stage-right preening platform and snapping pictures; I was careful not to obstruct anyone's view and to return to my seat after I got the shot, and all seemed well. Dandelion has already mentioned that blatant obnoxiousness from a drunk in front of us caused security to get tighter mid-show. The big guns were called in to replace the laid-back staff of the first half. A middle-aged woman, let's call her Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS, started turning back everyone who tried sneaking down to the little landing. I followed her down as she busted people, hoping to elude her by staying behind her, but she caught me....however, KEITH was heading toward us at that moment, on the ramp a few feet away. I ignored her, politely, and took a picture of Keith as he smiled and laughed at us.

"Under the smoke, dust all over his mouth, laughing with white teeth,
Under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a young man laughs,
Laughing even as an ignorant fighter laughs who has
never lost a battle,
Bragging and laughing that under his wrist is the pulse.
and under his ribs the heart of the people,
Laughing! "

It's hard to believe that Carl Sandburg did NOT write those immortal lines about Keith as he threw his head back and howled on the landing.

The show went on. Mick donned a long silvery jacket and announced "a sort of soul ballad called "I Got The Blues". The tempo was a bit rushed, and the sound changed a bit, but it was still achingly beautiful. Mick's vocals were perfect-- pained, soulful; at the bridge Keith chimed in: "every night you've been away/ I've sat down and I have prayed/that you're safe" - it was another moment of transcendence. "In the silk sheet of time/ I will find peace of mind". Incredible.

The show continued. The best "Some Girls" I've heard, "Paint It Black" incredible as always, Keith's set a down-in-the-groove JOY. The B-stage sound was unbalanced for Rt. 66, Keith WAY too loud in the mix, but it was dialed in by the galloping end of "Imagination" (during which Keith SIGNED AN AUTOGRAPH!!!! How cool is THAT???) and was perfect for "Midnight Rambler". The song was, as always, astonishing. Mick & Keith stood shoulder to shoulder as it shifted into overdrive for the end, and they walked to the front of the stage together.
The end of the show went by in a blur. Dandelion and I very carefully & stealthily edged back to the landing, blending in and arousing no attention; a girl followed us down and got busted by Ilsa, and, in a very grade-school manner, said "THEY don't belong here EITHER!" What a BITCH! We returned to the aisle, and as soon as Ilsa turned her back, we RAN to the landing and into newly-vacated seats. We watched "Sympathy" from this lovely vantage point.

Ah, what a great show, what a great tour, what a great band. Here's a fervent prayer for more moments like this to enrich our lives.

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