One year later, another night with the Rolling Stones
By NICK TAVARES
STATIC and FEEDBACK Editor
One new wrinkle to the quarantine experience has been the addition of a puppy to the house. His name is Cosmo: he’s very chill and he spends a good amount of his time napping and peeing, alternating between the two and already happy to walk to the front door when napping is through and it’s time for a whiz in the yard.
Which means that I’m spending a decent amount of time indoors, even more so than I expected. So I sit on the couch with my laptop and a pair of headphones and I cruise around the internet for things that pique my interest, things to listen to, things I feel the need to digest and file and store away for later listening.
This is just a long way of saying that I spend a lot of time collecting and listening to bootlegs. I have a lot of bands where I’m basically trying to build and maintain archival collections — Pearl Jam, Led Zeppelin, Neil Young, etc. — and chief among them is the Rolling Stones. While having a complete archive of their stuff is probably beyond me thanks to about 58 years of activity, I try to hit as many eras as possible. Any outtakes from the 1968-74 stretch are immediately grabbed, along with live shows from that period. Soundboard recordings from across the gamut are also snatched, post haste. It could be the Some Girls run from 1978 or the Voodoo Lounge tour circa 1994-95. There’s a lot of good stuff and it can be hard to delineate what to listen to next.
So I wasn’t even looking for their July 7, 2019, show at Gillette Stadium when it crossed my path. I missed that show — not in the way we’ve all missed every show for the past four months, but I missed it all the same. But I’ve got it in the library now, and I’ve given it a few spins. The sound quality is pretty good for an audience tape, but more to the point, I can place myself there, towards the back of the stadium, high up but with a decent center view of the band. It sounds like a good night of music.
The Stones’ stop in Foxboro was originally scheduled for June 8, 2019, before Mick Jagger’s heart surgery pushed the tour off. Unfortunately for me, this show slid a month down the calendar, right in the middle of a planned 10-day trip through the Canadian Maritimes. I likely wasn’t going to get from Nova Scotia to Massachusetts and back in a day, so I passed the responsibility of taking my dad to the show to my sister. I got some glowing reports back, along with a t-shirt for my efforts in navigating Ticketmaster the few months before.
Listening through, there were plenty of highlights. The band came charging out of the gate with “Street Fighting Man” and set the crowd home with fireworks and a version of “Satisfaction” that was jammed out to the eight-minute mark. They stretched their blues chops with Gary Clark Jr. on “Ride ‘Em On Down” and stripped it back to basics on the two-song “Play With Fire”/”Dead Flowers” acoustic set.
And it can be lame and obviously pandering, but while Jagger was rattling off the names of other New England cities — Hartford, Providence, Portland, etc. — it was a nice surprise to hear “New Bedford!” thrown into the mix. Typically, my hometown only makes the radar under the most dire of circumstances. Tossed out by the frontman when he could’ve called out less controversial locales like Burlington or Nashua, it was a nice change of pace.
While the love for Jagger and Keith Richards is plainly and often stated, here and elsewhere, along with Charlie Watts’ unerring rhythm (he’s locked in with bassist Darryl Jones without fail throughout the show), a special note should be made for Ronnie Wood. So often victimized for simply not being Mick Taylor, Wood is in top form and tears it up here. Healthy and in high spirits, he trades licks with Clark, shows his versatility on the acoustic numbers and he lays down an especially nasty solo during “Midnight Rambler.”
And the funniest moment by far occurs during that song. The band sounds mean, with Keith’s riff chugging and Jagger’s harmonica wailing. Jagger even throws in bits of Jimmy Reed’s “Little Rain” into the jam. But, just before the “You heard about the Boston?” breakdown, Richards slams into the return riff too early. Video evidence shows Jagger looking back confused and Richards quickly halting and, the rascal he can be, breaking out a laugh after realizing the gaff, all before falling back into place. But I appreciated it more than another picture-perfect performance. The loose, ragged feel of the band is one of the charms that keeps their show human, from getting just too slick and glossy. It’s a huge production and an enormous business, but sometimes they’re still just a gang up there, cutting loose and having fun.
I spend a lot of nights up late now, waiting for the puppy to wake up and use the front yard as his bathroom one more time, typically some time between midnight and 2 a.m., before curling back up on his bed, only to wake up again around 6 a.m. to restart the entire process of eating, playing with his toys, using the bathroom, napping, on and on.
I need something to accompany that final night shift. Sometimes it’s music and a book, sometimes its one of the many streaming options that have been leaned on and exhausted during this ordeal. One title that comes up far more frequently than the others has been Keith Richards: Under the Influence on Netflix. I can’t say how many times I’ve watched it now, but like Sticky Fingers or Beggar’s Banquet or all these bootlegs, it’s offered the same kind of comforting presence, a familiar blanket I can toss on.
I think I avoided listening to the Stones specifically on the day of this show, but it wasn’t long before I was back into that groove — the Mick Taylor years, Ronnie, live shows, acoustic demos, all the stuff I’ve meditated on for hours in an effort to better understand what’s happening and to simply listen to it all again because, on the right day, nothing really hits harder or sounds better.
There’s a lot of time to fill these days, and along with that, the familiar seems to accompany that space more ably. In absence of the in-person experience, lean on what’s been there, I suppose. So I watch the same documentary on repeat. I strum the same songs on the guitar. I listen to the same albums and jumble them up into different mixes and playlists. And I hunt down bootlegs for shows I saw and shows I missed.
I wasn’t there that night, but I’m here tonight. And thanks to some stealth recordings, I have the music with me. The dog is asleep, work waits in the morning, I have right now to listen. It makes for a pretty good night of music.
July 13, 2020
Email Nick Tavares at firstname.lastname@example.org