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Archives: Rolling Stones Concert Review (1969)   (Views: 23,265)

Contributed by skip on February 1st, 2002

On November 29, the Stones played their second concert in Boston. The first, over three years ago, had been played in Manning Bowl in Lynn. Then the press referred to the Stones as the GROUP SECOND TO THE BEATLES, but to the bikies, high school kids and college rock freaks who packed the Bowl, sat through the rain and the McCoys singing Hang on Sloopy, the Stones were more important than any press statement. There was no other band that through its music (both lyrics and instrumentals) could so precisely pounce on all that is most obscene and grotesque in our culture, mirror all our feelings, and throw them back at us in a selfconscious and rebellious way. The Stones were and are a ROCK group. On that rainy summer late afternoon when they broke into Paint it Black, Jagger cavorting, taunting, urging: black jacketed kids snaked, danced tore up the chairs, carried each other on their shoulders and felt all their passions, depressions, darknesses, petty rebellions and rage come pouring out.

Now the Stones returned to Boston. Again touted by the press, hailed by eager promoters, accompanied by unctuous disk jockies, they were now playing in a society that has a commercial youth culture, where rock has become an important part of tens of millions of people's lives. This time they played in Boston Garden, following Bruins games and preceding the Ice Capades. Tickets, unscalped, were going for $6.50 - -$7.50. But despite all the furbishings and prices, the Stones performance was still an attack on popular culture. They are what they were three years ago, except more so and better at it.

Their concert was long, and despite a few technical troubles brilliant. The Stones looked like their music. Jagger was dressed in black jersey, black silver-dotted bellbottoms and a long purple taffeta scarf. He walked on in an Uncle Sam hat; on his scrawny chest was a large painted Resistance sign. Keith Richards was also notably grotesque: red tee shirt with comic star in the center, and one flashy pearl earring. In general they looked thoroughly raunchy, ugly, pate and scrawny.

The first song, Jumping Jack Flash, revealed what was to be underscored all evening: that the Stones are musically, especially in their guitar work, among the greatest of the groups. Keith Richards, who no one used to be even aware of, is a stunningly exciting guitar player. And Mick Taylor, the newest Stone, has an impressive blues style of his own.

They next went into an old Chuck Berry song, fitting because that is where the Stones came from: Berry, Howling Wolf, the Kings, Muddy Waters. In the early years they played only their own, often very good, translations of Black America's music. They made little pretense at exact copy, no real attempts at innovation. They mastered and retained the classic rock form, later added some elements of Soul. Now almost all their material for the last three and a half years has been their own, built on this tradition.

What makes their music exciting and startling is the way in which it cuts through all the false sentimentality of pop romanticism. Unlike a lot of the commercial "youth culture", they sure don't obscure our society's realities. They reflect them so harshly, starkly, and creatively that their music becomes an assault on the culture, their concerts even a taunting jeer at the audiences. While other groups sing of idealized sexual relationships, or romanticize male supremacy, the Stones slap you in the face with it: Stupid Girl, Back Street Girl, Mother's Little Helper. They understand and make you feel musically all the tension, ugliness, tenderness, frustration and excitement that presently go into sexual relations. What other group could produce Going Home? Next to the Stones, the Doors seem hollow in their attempt to portray sexual release. What other group could have produced Satisfaction? Last week they also performed their more recent songs, still richer musically, especially Stray Cat Blues and Love in Vain. Jagger and Richards also did several with Jagger singing and Richards on acoustical guitar.

But the turning point was their long, theatrical straight old Stones Midnight Rambler. Against the impressive guitar work, Jagger sang and acted out the story of a rapist, with explosive contortions, down on the floor, taking off his belt, almost throwing the microphone into the crowd. And when it was over, the Stones had everyone in the audience digging them on their own terms. Then they whipped into some of their best songs: Satisfaction, Honky Tonk Women and finally Street Fighting Man. But not before Jagger had the house lights on so he could see his audience and exclaim (taunt?) "Are you not beautiful!?"

The Stones' music began from their appreciation of the culture, with all its contradictions, of the Black underclass. They continue to identify, to push to the extreme their identification with all, the outcasts whose lives indict our culture ("I want to dedicate this song to all the fags and junkies in the audience"). And with every performance Jagger taunts the audience, plays to them, plays with them, plays on every taboo. Their performance is a combination of great rock and the theater of the absurd and the cruel. It is not just that their lyrics accuse-their music expresses, releases, incites the anger and rebellion of a generation whose national anthem screams "I can't get no satisfaction. "

Source: Old Mole 12/5/69

Rolling Stones Concert Review (1969)
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