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Posted by from SF Chronicle on April 22, 1999 at 21:00:01:
Rambling Stones Show No Musical Revelation
James Sullivan, Chronicle Staff Critic
Thursday, April 22, 1999
©1999 San Francisco Chronicle
Keith Richards lit a cigarette and shambled to the microphone. ``This is our last one for a bit, but we'll be back, y'know?''
Oh, we know, all right. The Rolling Stones, rock 'n' roll's sole invariable, played the last date of the band's ironically dubbed ``No Security'' tour at the San Jose Arena on Tuesday. As soon as the last falsetto ``oo-oohs'' of ``Sympathy for the Devil'' floated free, talk began among Stones die-hards of the group's European dates this summer and a possible 2001 world tour.
Tuesday's two-hour show, the second of two dates making up for Mick Jagger's throat troubles in January, was a loosey-goosey affair with plenty of onstage camaraderie but few musical revelations.
Songs that were welcome surprises at January's tour-opening show in Oakland -- ``Moonlight Mile,'' ``Some Girls'' -- were rattling around the set list by Tuesday like so many ``Tumbling Dice.''
After a forgettable opening set by modern rockers Sugar Ray, the Stones took the stage just as they did in January. On video, Jagger, Richards, Ron Wood and Charlie Watts stalked the bowels of an arena like the world's skinniest bullies. Then they prowled out in person, limbs twitching in that collective reflex of theirs on the opener ``Jumpin' Jack Flash.''
Richards flicked a spindly leg to instigate the first notes of ``Bitch,'' slinging his guitar low as the band's four-piece horn section squawked the song's unruly school-band riff.
Two songs later, backup singer Lisa Fisher nearly stole the show with her roof-raising vocals on ``Gimme Shelter.'' While she took center stage, Jagger fell into line with the other backup singers. Later, he called Fisher ``my partner in crime.'' The band didn't have a care in the world. Richards trotted out an old trick, sneaking up on keyboardist Chuck Leavell during ``Honky Tonk Women'' and pounding out an expert boogie-woogie run on electric piano. A few minutes later, as Jagger introduced the group, the ``slightly mad'' guitarist Wood poked Fisher in the butt and then hid behind his band mates.
Richards' obligatory turn as front man included two insignificant tracks from the group's last studio album, ``Bridges to Babylon'': the directionless ``Thief in the Night'' and the blase reggae tune ``You Don't Have to Mean It.'' Wood's 20-year-old daughter, Leah, joined the band to sing backup on the two numbers.
Clearly, this was not one of the Stones' leanest, meanest performances. The highlight may have been the core band's foray onto a ministage jutting into the floor seats, where they squeezed some sparks from ``Route 66'' and ``Get Off of My Cloud.''
``Well, you heard about the Boston . . .'' As the band whomped the familiar next note of ``Midnight Rambler,'' Jagger jerked his arms like a threatening vulture. A black bra sailed onstage, momentarily attaching itself to his hip. He tossed it back into the audience; it landed at his feet again.
It was idolatry by the numbers; it was idolatry nonetheless. Mick might have been indifferent to the bra, but he and his band mates seemed genuinely gratified by their reception at concert's end, when they took several deep, grinning bows. Arm in arm, Jagger and Watts were the last two onstage; Richards, who had already started down the runway, ducked out again to wave one last time, like a game-winning slugger.
The Stones are nearing the end of their contact with Virgin Records. Whether they'll produce another studio record or toss together a collection of outtakes next is anybody's guess; ditto their free-agent value thereafter.
What is certain, health permitting, is that they'll forge ahead as rock's barnstorming
lifers. The Stones seem determined to outlast all their fans, just for the hell of it.