So there’s this organization out there called the Rolling Stones Liberation Front. Worth checking out at: http://rollingstonesliberationfront.wordpress.com/
|Now see how well they get along?|
The RSLF’s demands are ones that I, as a long-term, diehard fan, endorse, and I applaud the dudes for making the case. With the exception of rolling back the ticket prices, however, I think most folks would be disappointed if they didn’t hear a bunch of the warhorses, and I think that limiting the shows to very small venues would just drive ticket prices up for those shows on the secondary market, and cut out a lot of people.
1. Build on the "No Security" Model!
U From January to April of 1999, the Stones “tacked on” an extra four months of tour dates to their schedule, ostensibly to promote their live release “No Security” but it sure seemed like they just wanted to play some more. The tour consisted almost entirely of arenas with almost no stage props or nonsense whatsoever, just a short intro film and boom – right into the show. Yes they played a lot of warhorses but they also pulled out some lesser known numbers as well. They would often hit a city for a couple days at a time – definitely less wear and tear on the traveling entourage. They also retained the small “B-stage” they began to deploy on the mid-1990s tours and as the RSLF notes, that is definitely a highlight of the show.
NOW: How about instead of 3 songs on the small stage, they play seven or eight? In other words, almost half the show, just the core Stones unit, rocking out like they’re in a small club again. So let’s say, 10 songs from the main stage, seven from the small stage, and then they can go back to the main stage for a few warhorses to end the proceedings. Wow. I would love to see that!
2. The Back-Up Singers Have GOT To Go!
Generally the Stones play two or three songs without the backup singers to start the show and then the backups come sauntering out. Look, let me put it plainly: having the backup singers SUCKS. I’d rather have a sweaty old Mick Jagger barely croaking out the words than hear the backup singers. Lisa’s good eye candy and yes, she adds a lot to Gimme Shelter. But ok, what else is there to commend them? They detract from the Stones, they make the whole thing Vegas-y, and give Mick a crutch he doesn’t need. He’s MICK JAGGER for crying out loud. Ditch ‘em – or at least scale ‘em back.
3. Scale Back The Horns!
I don’t mind having a horn section, particularly if the saxman is named Bobby Keys. A lot of Stones classics have horns. As Keith has noted, a lot of their early 70s sound reflected not only the fact that they had a new lead guitarist, but because they brought horns into the mix. Can you imagine Sticky Fingers without the sax? And where is Jim Price these days anyways? Dead? Alive?
The problem is that the past few tours have overdone the horns. Scale ‘em back. More crutches. I’d rather the band just work a little harder.4.
4. Cap Tickets at $200!
They get paid a bunch up front just for touring. They sell a ton of merch. They’re rich as all get out. They make more off of a month of royalties from Exile on Main Street than most of us see in a lifetime. They can afford it. What if they capped tickets at $200.00? Sure that’s a lot of dough. But I remember on Bigger Bang there were tickets in the $450.00 range. Not the scalper price – the actual ticket price. And who knows how much the tickets “on –stage” were? Over a thousand? Let’s scale it back.
5. Play the warhorses – but yeah, explore your damn catalog a bit more, ok?
Here’s what happens every tour, with the possible exception of the “licks” tour where they DID reach back into the catalog a bit:
1. We hear reports of how they’re rehearsing “hundreds” of songs, all kinds of “chestnuts” and boy they’re sounding great.
2. They do a ‘club date” with a couple surprises.
3. The first few shows have long set lists with all kinds of cool stuff.
4. About a month or so into the tour, they kind of settle on about 25 songs, about 18 of which they play every night with one or two oddities or “deep tracks” thrown in.
Seriously, this is how it’s been for years now. So my suggestion is simple. If you’re going to do a 21 song set, which is about the norm on the past few tours, go ahead and do some of the warhorses. But you don’t have to do ALL of them EVERY NIGHT. Pull out some of those “hundreds” of songs you rehearsed. In fact, Mick, just decide on the spot what you want to play and tell the band. Keep ‘em on their toes!
6. Unleash the Ronni-nator, part one!
So here’s the deal. In the mid-1990s you made Ronnie a “full time” member. But hey, he had been playing with you guys for almost 20 years by then! And the fact is, he’s STILL the guitarist who isn’t Keith! Yeah he can be off his game sometimes and he sometimes has trouble keeping his nose clean. But ok, deal with it. This guy is a creative force, a legendary guitarist who has played with some of the greatest musicians and bands on earth. Unleash the dude! Let him out and see where it takes you.
7. Don’t make it a nostalgia show – cut a new record!
Okay now, you’re set to tour, do you support it with a new record? You’re darn right you do! Remember in 1989 when you made those slight digs at the Who, talking about how you didn’t want to be one of those bands that just played their old hits? Well I remember it, and it’s just as true today. Don’t make a fuss over it. Don’t spend six months on it. Just DO IT. And what do you do? Well…
8. Throw in a little Some Girls Disk Two, a little Bigger Bang, and yes, a little Dirty Work.
Yep, that’s the formula. SG II gives you the sound: basic, building on your roots, stripped down. Bigger Bang gives you the attitude: still rocking, a great blues tune thrown in, but lyrically reflecting the fact that you’re no longer the teen heartthrobs you were back in the day. Now, Dirty Work? That horrible album that everyone slags? YES, Dirty Work. It’s a GREAT album, I don’t care what anyone says. THAT is a topic for another column and it’s coming. But man, there is energy and passion and emotion on that album and maybe being less calculated in the studio pays off, huh? Yep, this is when Mick and Keith were at each other’s throats and yep, it all comes out on the album. And it’s great.
So there’s your formula. Knock it off in six weeks, put your heart and soul into it, make it an album you love yourselves, keep it at ten songs with no crappy filler, and oh I forgot to mention – no horrible Mick ballads. They always, always suck.
9. Unleash the Ronni-nator, part two!
See six above. Let him be a partner in making the album. In all honesty guys, the “fabled Jagger-Richards partnership” is a bit tarnished these days. Don’t be afraid to use the resources you have, like you do with your great drummer. Get the most out of Ronnie. Be a real band. I’ll bet an album with a dozen compositions by “the Rolling Stones” and not just by “Jagger/ Richards” would be amazing. I want to hear it.
10. Have fun!
You’re the Rolling Stones, goddamit. Enjoy yourselves. Mick – have Keith down to your dressing room once in a while, it’d mean a lot to him. Keith – um, if someone put the “tiny todger” label on me, I’d be a bit peeved too. (Brenda though is pretty classic). Hey – not saying you have to love each other. But 50 years is pretty amazing. Embrace it. Maybe you know, look at each other on stage now and then? You get the idea. Now get out there you crazy kids, and put on a show!