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Posted by Hard Knox and Durty Sox on May 31, 1999 at 23:23:31:
In Reply to: Re: New Keith vs. old Keith posted by Mr. Ventilator on May 28, 1999 at 23:19:46:
I've read your posts and the related ones from the past few days, but didn't have the chance to respond with my opinions before now.
Yes, I believe that Keith can still play, and that he's actually much better technically now than he was in 1969-73. I agree that Keith has changed his style of rhythm guitar playing, and the Stones sound much differently as a result. My own general preference is for his former, more precise, energetic style, and I believe the Stones' peak as a live band was in 1972-73, and that Mick Taylor's presence had at least something to do with all of that. Having said that, my best guess is that Keith has intentionally chosen to stop playing in that intense, non-stop mode, and now prefers an approach where the music of the band as a whole is allowed to "breathe". I refer to the band because it's acknowledged that the other members previously played to the pace set by Keith's rhythm guitar. I think it's to be expected that most serious musicians, especially those who have some say in the music they play, can be expected to change over time, especially a 30-plus-year period, even if the changes might disappoint some of their fans. It may be a little ironic that even Mick Taylor has changed since 1974 (I think he's gotten better) - I enjoyed seeing him in SF 2 months ago, did you catch one of those shows? (I'm assuming that you live somewhere in the Bay Area also)
My perception is that the Stones still sound like a guitar-dominated band live. I've assumed that they bring along a contingent of horn players and backup singers because they're needed to perform certain songs from an expanded "greatest hits" type of setlist. But I've wondered why they use a 4-piece horn section, when they're usually buried so far down in the mix. I also cannot hear the keyboards as well as I would like, since the one instrument that I play is the piano, and I'm always very interested in hearing what Chuck Leavell or any other keyboard player is contributing. And the same goes for the 3 backup vocalists. I think that the difficulty is hearing individual instruments is usually an aspect of rock concerts in large venues.
I gave some thought to your comments regarding the possible effects of Keith's drinking, but I still think that the change in his guitar playing is his own choice because (1) the change occurred quite some time ago, (2) in terms of degree, his current style is not that far removed from what it was formerly, and it doesn't appear that there's the kind of advanced impairment from alcohol abuse that would prevent him from playing in a somewhat more active, intense style (this might be more applicable if he was a classical guitarist, and had to play extremely long solo pieces that required extraordinary manual dexterity and mental clarity), and (3) I think that the way he played live with the X-Pensive Winos in 1988 and 1993 sounded like his recent guitar playing with the Stones, even though the Winos lineup was much scaled down compared to the Stones tours of the past decade, and I am taking into account the singing he had to do (did you catch those 2 shows, in Oakland and SF?).
Specific songs were mentioned in the various posts, and I agree that most of them sounded better in other years. However, I think that "Gimmie Shelter" is an exception because the more recent tours (1) had a female vocalist to provide the crucial harmony on the choruses, and (2) I think that slowing down the tempo on this great song produces a superior, more dramatic effect. I think the Atlantic City version from December 1989 was a remarkable performance, with outstanding guitar solos from both Keith and Ron, and the best one I personally witnessed was in 1993 by Keith & the X-Pensive Winos, with Sarah Dash filling the Merry Clayton-Lisa Fischer role, although I admit comparing a concert in a football stadium to one in a medium-size auditorium might be unfair.
Regarding "Ladies and Gentlemen, the Rolling Stones", I saw it at a couple of different theaters in SF, the last time must've been way back in the '80s. As fantastic as it was, can you imagine if it had been shot using IMAX technology? Seeing that film in an IMAX theater would have been mind-boggling! I have it on video, but the sound quality is not good at all, even when it's routed through my stereo system. I don't suppose you were lucky enough to have seen them at Winterland in June 1972? Unfortunately I missed them, the '72 version of the Stones, with Mick Taylor, in a small indoor venue, although I did see them in '69.
As I started out saying, all of these are just my guesses and opinions.