The first time that I ever saw The Rolling Stones in concert was many years after I wanted to. In 1989 I tried in earnest to get tickets to the Steel Wheels tour, to no avail. In 1994 I completely missed out on the Vodoo Lounge tour. So in 1997 when the Bridges to Babylon tour was announced and my best friend’s girlfriend had that opportunity to get advanced tickets, we jumped on the offer.
It was a cold October night for an outdoor event at Giants Stadium. If the temperature was above 50 degrees, it wasn’t there for very long. I was surprised that the Stones decided to play an outdoor stadium in the Northeast that late in the year. However, it was the largest venue in the area, so for 2 nights, they would maximize their gross intake.
Our seats were not the greatest (pretty high up), but I didn’t care. I was finally getting my chance to see The Rolling Stones live in concert! Dave Grohl’s post Nirvana band, Foo Fighters, were the opening act and I was curious to see them in concert. I hadn’t bought any of their albums, but knew their songs from the radio and was hopeful to hear a Nirvana song or two. The latter did not happen as Foo Fighters were focused on making their own name, not living off the past success of their drummer.
I do not remember what they played, or how long they played for, but I do remember that they gave a great performance. The Foo Fighters were excellent in concert, and since then I’ve gone on to buy a few of their records.
After the Foo Fighters left the stage, my anticipation and anxiety for the World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band taking the stage was off the charts. Finally, after many years, I was going to see these living legends perform live.
A huge video backdrop was revealed on center stage with a large ring of lights surrounding it. The video screen would be used all night long for close ups of the band, which was helpful to those of us up in nosebleed land. The group was spotted walking to the stage and the stadium erupted in cheers and applause. The Rolling Stones pounced into the spotlight and charged out to Satisfaction. I was stunned with disbelief. If this was how they would open their show, one could only guess at the endless possibilities of what else was going to be played.
It’s Only Rock and Roll followed next, then a new song from Bridges to Babylon (Flip the Switch) that I did not know. I had not purchased their new CD at the time of the concert, although since then I’ve gone on to buy all of their studio albums and most of their live collections.
Three mega-classics were next and it was at this point that I realized how much the Stones really mix it up for their live performances. Let’s Spend The Night Together was a much welcomed classic that the band played note perfect. This was followed by a stunning rendition of Gimmie Shelter with an amazing woman on backup vocals that really added to the song and pushed it to the top of my favorites list. A big surprise followed next in the form of Sister Morphine (from Sticky Fingers). I never would have guessed they would play that song live. That was when I realized how diversified The Rolling Stones really are. In the vein of Springsteen, DMB, and Pearl Jam, the Stones don’t stick to one setlist. They are capable of playing any song on any given night, which is part of the reason they are so desirable to witness live in concert.
Keith broke out two songs that he would sing lead vocals for. At the time, I didn’t like that idea at all. I didn’t want to hear Keith sing, and I didn’t even know the two songs that he was playing. Since then, the Keith moments have become my favorite in concert, but on that particular night, I pretty much ignored his songs and went out in search of food, drink, and a bathroom break.
After Keith played his two songs, the Stones made their way to a small stage in the center of the stadium floor. A lot of bands do this now, but at the time, it was an innovative idea, giving the fans further back on the floor a chance to be up front, and giving the entire audience a different perspective of the band.
From the small stage, the Stones really dug deep into their catalog. Little Queenie, Crazy Mama, and The Last Time came out of the vaults and were all brilliantly done. Crazy Mama was the biggest surprise of the night for me, as I had forgotten about that lost classic, and hearing it in concert brought it back to me.
At the end of The Last Time, the opening notes to Sympathy For The Devil washed over the audience and a huge connection bridge linked the small stage to the big one and the Stones made their way back to the large stage. Sympathy was performed in all its brilliant glory, and to me, it was a show stopper. Brilliant.
The Stones moved ahead with more hits and it seemed that the night was never going to end. For the encore the band brought the big guns in the form of Start Me Up, Jumpin’ Jack Flash, and the big final number, Brown Sugar.
It was the first time that I saw the Stones in concert, but it would not be the last. Their performance was dazzling, their show eye catching and appealing, their music, timeless. It would cement my love affair with The Rolling Stones and turn me from a serious fan into a die-hard fan. Giants Stadium had been taken over by The Rolling Stones and they conquered us all.
It’s Only Rock N Roll
Flip The Switch
Let’s Spend The Night Together
Anybody Seen My Baby
19th Nervous Breakdown
Out of Control
All About You
Wanna Hold You
The Last Time
Sympathy for the Devil
Honky Tonk Women
Start Me Up
Jumpin’ Jack Flash