Feb 162007

When the whole discussion about The Rolling Stones’lackluster performance in “Rock & Roll Circus” came up on RTH recently, it got me to thinking, Are The Stones ever good live? I’ve seen firsthand the “mach schau” they put on in concert (September 1981 at Philly’s old JFK stadium). No frontman before or since one moved like the nancy-pants Mick Jagger did. No one looked less pleased to be playing live than Bill Wyman. No one looked smaller on the big stage than Charlie Watts did at that show. Only Ron Woodand Keith Richards seemed up to the task of rocking the 100,000 or so fans in attendance. The only thing that saved me from completely hating the show was getting high for the second time in my life (the first time being the night before on my 18th birthday).

So they may be over-the-top live – too much so for my taste – but some fans counter that they are a “great live band” in a musical sense. The People must be right? They have released at least 8 live albums so the thinking could go, They must be doing something good live. But do people actually like these albums? I had Got Live if You Want It and Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out and I could never get into them. You know what always bummed me out? All the songs were sluggish! It’s like Charlie Watts thought he could get some extra oomph in the songs by playing them 15% slower. No thank you! I want to see some ENERGY live. I want to hear some ENERGY live.

Jagger’s vocals also bum me out. I know it is hard to sing when you are shaking your butt like Charo and skipping across the stage but some of fans actually want to hear the melodies and hear the tone of the singer’s voice they’ve grown accustomed to hearing on record.

Am I alone in this half-assed rant? Anyone care to back me up? What does RTH think?


  17 Responses to “Half Assed Rant: The Stones Suck Live!”

  1. Mr. Moderator

    You chose a generous live clip. I’ve always been shocked at how bad The Stones are live. How many times, over the years, has there been a big buildup for a LIVE BROADCAST only to disappoint? I agree that the typically slow pacing and Jagger’s vocals are the main culprits. Charlie Watts is so bad live that I wonder if he ever played drums on their studio recordings. Jagger just has a thin voice that sounds fantastic in the studio but sounds hollow and toneless live.

    I also think Richards and Wood make a lazy pairing of guitarists. Keith needs to string up his 6th string again and occasionally play something other than his chord hammer-ons. God, that posturing that follows each hammer-on is unbearable and long ago stopped adding much to their sound. Ron Wood’s never really found his place in the band. When the two fo them bashed out this amorphous rhythmic hammering on for Some Girls it was almost revelatory. Any more it just sounds lame. Lynyrd Skynnyrd (sp?) and even Black Crowes each surpassed their classic Richards-Taylor guitar tandem.

  2. BigSteve

    Are The Stones ever good live?

    The El Mocambo side of Love You Live is great, but the wikipedia claims that it’s heavily overdubbed. In my opinion Get Yer Ya Ya’s Out certainly has its moments.
    The only time I’ve ever seen them was the first date of the 75 tour. They were a mess. Despite the fact that they had just added a new member (Ron Wood), it apparently had not occurred to anyone that they should rehearse in advance, so what we watched was a rehearsal. The Meters, who opened, blew them off the stage, but that may have been the mushrooms kicking in.

  3. mwall

    I have to say that I think Get Your Ya Ya’s Out is pretty great. There are some true Power and Glory moments on the record, and some of the slower numbers are better than similar versions on Let It Bleed. Other Stones Live on Record material isn’t so hot. I only saw them live once, at the Capital Center in Maryland in the early 80s. The sound was sloppy and the screaming stadium actually made them hard to hear. I remember the show itself but not anything they actually played.

  4. sammymaudlin

    Was that 81 tour the Tattoo You tour?

    If so I think the live concert flick (part of at least) was the show I saw as Sun Devil Stadium. What an amazing turd.

    George Thorogood (sp?) opened and has more energy than the Stones and I hated him. The coolest part of the show was sitting in the stands with my friends in the warm December (?) evening in Tempe and listening as they played the white album in it’s entirety.

    And now that Andy mentions it, I can’t recall ever seeing a stirring performance by The Rolling Stones. Then again I haven’t looked very hard.

  5. hrrundivbakshi

    Coupla points:

    1. The live Jagger thing has become an abomination unto the Rock Lord in the last 20 years. (yes, TWENTY.) That tuneless bellow thing he does as he scampers across the stage, flapping his arms at the crowd for extra emphasis, stopping every now and then to place the mic hand on his hip while wagging his finger at the audience — just awful.

    2. Pince-nez revelation: as much as I love “Get Yer Ya-Yas Out,” it, too is heavily overdubbed, as well as spliced together from a number of different shows. There are a number of Prock sites out there that go into the excruciating detail of how this was done, if you’re really interested.

  6. mwall

    1. The live Jagger thing has become an abomination unto the Rock Lord in the last 20 years. (yes, TWENTY.)

    Would I be wrong in suggesting that the Stones have now been making bad records (or at least seriously mediocre ones) for 25 years? This is a different subject, I know, but if what I’m saying is true, has any other band made bad music for that long a period of time, without a single good record to break the string? I’m genuinely asking.

  7. Mr. Moderator

    Hey man, Voodoo Lounge won Record of the Year from the GRAMMYS.


  8. mwall

    Sounds like a Rocktown topic to me; how has 25 years of downright sucking (mediocrity, if you’re feeling gentle) changed the reputation of the Stones?

  9. I don’t think it really has – at least in my mind. I think once you achieve “legend” status espcially at the Stones level, you can’t lose it. just like the great athletes who hang on too long – Unitas, Namath, Mays. etc.

    While their music has gone to crap, I do respect their money-making prowess.

  10. I’ve never seen them live but let me tell you – the last good record they made was 1978’s Some Girls. Everything since has been CRAP!

    Go home boys, spend your millions and relax. Let us not see you prance like a prat on stage again Mick. Keith – stay away from coconut trees and Charlie should stick to the big band jazz stuff.

  11. sammymaudlin

    Is any of Charlie’s jazz stuff worth a spin?

  12. Mr. Moderator

    It’s funny that Andy brought up Willie Mays as an example of a baseball player whose legend was not tarnished by a terrible ending stretch, because he’s closest to the case of the Stones. That is, the Stones are the Willie Mays of the 1973 Mets. As painful as that ending was, Willie’s always Willie.

    Paul McCartney’s long stretch of suck, however, has definitely knocked off whatever solo legend he might have established, and it’s threatened to place him ahead of only Ringo in the Beatles’ hierarchy.

    Bob Dylan’s sucked for so long that the fact he’s been able to put out albums with any coherent sense of style makes him seem almost brilliant again.

  13. hrrundivbakshi

    Mr. Mod says:

    Bob Dylan’s sucked for so long that the fact he’s been able to put out albums with any coherent sense of style makes him seem almost brilliant again.

    I say:

    Let the healing begin!

  14. Emotional Rescue-half crap

    Tattoo You-Not Crap

    Undercover of the Night-Not Crap

    Dirty Work-Mostly Crap

    Steel Wheels-Not Crap

    Voodoo Lounge-3 crappy songs, the rest not crap

    Bridges To Babylon-Not Crap

    whatever the new one was called, a couple of good songs, but mostly crap.

  15. mwall

    Is any of Charlie’s jazz stuff worth a spin?

    I have to admit that it is. Never would have bought it myself, but a friend got one of them and burned me a copy. Enjoyable high energy big band outing, with some decent soloing. Still, “worth a spin” is not “essential listening,” and I don’t see how the record really changes the legacy of the Stones.

  16. I remember his tribute to Charlie Parker being pretty decent, though I haven’t heard it in probably a decade or more.

  17. I’ve always said the Stones were a hit or miss live act. Unfortunately it has been mostly miss with Ron Wood in band. Same with studio recordings. Extremely hit or miss with Woodie. Really nothing relevant since 1974 IMO. In summary Ron Woods era Stones suck.

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