The Rolling Stones Live: A Content Analysis

Performers at concert: The Rolling Stones, with Bryan Adams.
Date of concert: February 2, 1999.
Location of concert: McNichols Arena, Denver, Colorado.

Description of pre-concert hoopla: Less than anticipated. The weeks of relentless hype that usually precede Stones shows is largely drowned out by the weeks of relentless hype that's focused on the NFL champion Denver Broncos. (The Channel 4 story about Les Shapiro getting his Super Bowl press credentials was fascinating.) But that doesn't stop the Denver Rocky Mountain News (apparently renamed to avoid confusion with the Bayonne, New Jersey, Rocky Mountain News) from running a review of a Stones gig in Oakland the day before critiquing the local version of the very same show. Guess they needed to fill extra space now that the eight-part series on Mike Shanahan's genius is over.

Degree of age-oriented ridicule inherent in pre-concert hoopla: High.
Example of age-oriented ridicule in pre-concert hoopla: On show day, KOA-AM/850's Steve Kelly and Ed Greene play a clip of lead Stone Mick Jagger singing, "What a drag it is getting old," then joke that the band's tour is being sponsored by Metamucil.

Number of people who would describe Steve Kelly and Ed Greene as "young, hip arbiters of taste": Zero.

The top three reasons the Rolling Stones willingly subject themselves to the ridicule of people like Steve Kelly and Ed Greene: 1. Tremendous profits. 2. Ego gratification. 3. Tremendous profits.

Description of ticket prices for the Rolling Stones' Denver appearance: The highest ever for a rock concert in the city. Unscalped: $50-$250. Scalped: Got a calculator?

Most recent excuse for the show's high ticket prices: Mick Jagger's marital status--or lack thereof. When Jerry Hall, the Texas-born model who wed Jagger in 1992, recently filed for divorce (and asked for a reported $50-$100 million settlement), Jagger responded by claiming that the marriage wasn't legal. No one has yet revealed whether he had a straight face when doing so.

Description of Mick Jagger that appeared in a recent statement by Jerry Hall: According to NY Rock, Hall called the father of her four children a "lying, cheating, no-good slimeball."

A partial list, courtesy of NY Rock and the New York Daily News, of the women with whom Mick Jagger has been publicly linked since beginning his relationship with Jerry Hall in 1977: 1979--beer baroness Catherine Guinness; 1980--heiress Natasha Fraser, age seventeen; 1982--the late Duke of Windsor's goddaughter, eighteen-year-old Cornelia Guest. 1992-present--Italian model Carla Bruni. 1995--Hungarian porn actress Orsolya Dessy. 1996--model Nicole Kruk, who described Jagger as "skinny and really old," plus model Jana Rajlich and actress Uma Thurman. 1998--sex therapist Natasha Terry. 1999--Brazilian lingerie model Luciana Gimenez Morad, who claims to be pregnant by Jagger.

Possible reason Mick Jagger is performing in Denver on February 2 despite flu symptoms that caused him to cancel a concert the previous week: If he stayed home in bed, he'd be too easy for subpoena servers to find.

Description of the sounds being broadcast over the public-address system outside McNichols Arena fifty minutes before showtime: Muzak with a capital Kenny G.

Description of the sounds being broadcast over the public-address system inside McNichols Arena forty minutes before showtime: Electronica.

Number of people inside McNichols Arena who seem to be enjoying the electronica being broadcast over the public-address system: Zero.

First artist featured on the public-address system whom members of the audience seem to recognize: Buddy Holly.

Description of the stage: A loading-dock design accented by yellow and black stripes intended to echo the concert's theme--No Security, named for a concert CD readily available for purchase. Overhead hangs a giant video screen alternately featuring the Stones' tongue-and-lips trademark and the logos of VH1, a cable network for people who are suspicious of any music less than twenty years old, and Tommy Hilfiger, manufacturer of youthful clothing no one in the audience is wearing. Money well-spent, Tommy?

Three random character sketches of audience members: 1. A middle-aged woman wearing a suit made of snakeskin. (She doesn't take the outfit off when she gets home; she sheds it.) 2. Two middle-aged guys--one wearing a leather shirt, the other wearing leather pants. Together they make one well-dressed leather man. 3. A fifty-something woman wearing a tight-fitting black-sequined jacket with matching black-sequined headband designed to catch the eyes of the boys in the band. Odds that she'll get lucky with one of them: None and none.

First words I overhear from the T-shirted, tattooed, obviously drunk man sitting behind me: "Do they sell booze here?"

First announcement I see on the message board on the opposite side of the arena from my seat: "STAY WHERE YOU ARE IF THE POWER FAILS."

Seats filled when Bryan Adams begins his set: Approximately 30 percent.
Number of audience members who seem genuinely excited to hear the first notes of "Summer of '69," one of Bryan Adams's biggest hits: You can count them on one hand.

Attire worn by Bryan Adams and his two-man backing band: White T-shirts, white pants.

Other professionals who wear similar attire: Housepainters and male prostitutes working Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood.

Description of the audience's reaction to "Summer of '69" and most of the songs that follow: Lukewarm.

Description of Bryan Adams's reaction after he fails to prompt more than a relative handful of concertgoers to na-na-na along with him during "Cuts Like a Knife": Obvious embarrassment.

Description of Bryan Adams's current musical approach that would probably please Bryan Adams: Back-to-basics rock and roll that's tougher than his adult-contemporary fare.

A more accurate description of Bryan Adams's current musical approach: The type of innocuous rawk cliches you'd expect to hear booming out of a lounge in a Canadian bowling alley.

Likely reason Bryan Adams has temporarily stopped making adult-contemporary fare in order to concentrate on innocuous rawk cliches: He's no longer getting as many offers to write love themes to bad Kevin Costner movies.

Proof that Bryan Adams hasn't abandoned adult-contemporary fare entirely: He croons "Heaven," an icky power ballad.

Response of the T-shirted, tattooed, obviously drunk man sitting behind me to Bryan Adams's decision to croon "Heaven": "Fuck you!" At the end of Adams's set, he adds, "You white-wearin' motherfucker! We want the Stones!"

Seats filled when Bryan Adams exits the stage: Approximately 80 percent.
Number of concertgoers who brought their children with them: Surprisingly few. Most of the attendees love their kids, no doubt, but not enough to spend several hundred dollars to bring them along.

Description of the people in the now-filled fifteen-seat row in front of me: Race--about as Caucasian as you could possibly get. Average age--approximately 42. Number of men with receding hairlines--four. Number of men with a touch of gray, for that distinguished look--two. Number of people wearing wire-rimmed glasses--four. Number of people wearing Hawaiian shirts--one. Number of people wearing brocaded vests--one. Number of people wearing cashmere sweaters--one. Number of people who dressed down for the evening--zero. Number of people who could probably buy and sell me a dozen times over--fifteen.

Description of the people in my now-filled fifteen-seat row: Mainly music critics who, like me, aren't exactly paragons of machismo. When we walk into bars, guys start drawing straws to see who gets to beat the hell out of us first.

Response of the T-shirted, tattooed, obviously drunk man sitting behind me to an announcement asking people not to stand on their chairs: "Fuck you!"

Response of the T-shirted, tattooed, obviously drunk man sitting behind me when the lights go down, indicating the Rolling Stones' imminent arrival: "WHOO-OOO!"

Name of the band's first song, which kicks off following a brief video introduction: "Jumpin' Jack Flash."

Description of Mick Jagger: Black jacket, white shirt, tight black pants, dark glasses that he ditches almost immediately. Resembles Steven Tyler--or is it the other way around?

Description of guitarist/vocalist Keith Richards: Pink jacket, purple shirt, dark glasses, gray fright-wig hair decorated with feathers and who knows what else, bugged-out eyes, skin like the only shammy at a used-car lot. Resembles a cross between comedians Marty Feldman and Charlie Callas--both of whom have been dead for quite a while.

Description of drummer Charlie Watts: Gray hair, laconic expression, collared, short-sleeved shirt. Resembles a stereo repairman in the Circuit City service department.

Description of guitarist Ron Wood: Black leather jacket, red shirt, tattered trousers, hatchet nose, lacquered hair. Resembles Rod Stewart with a bad dye job, or Joan Jett's mom. When the T-shirted, tattooed, obviously drunk man sitting behind me sees him on the video screen, he yells, "Woody! Woody!"

Description of bassist Daryl Jones, keyboardist Chuck Leavell, saxophonist Bobby Keys and the rest of the supporting musicians: Insufficient data available, because they remain in the shadows most of the time. When the horn players and background vocalists aren't needed, they're stored under stairs on either side of the stage, like worn-out mops and leftover buckets of paint.

Description of the band's sound: Solid, but not as pleasantly sloppy and full-bodied as during the act's last Denver appearance, at Mile High Stadium in 1994. It's professional, sure, but it lacks a certain raucousness, and the tempos feel a tiny bit slower. Maybe the musicians were afraid they'd cut themselves on rough edges.

Proof that Mick Jagger has an inkling about what city he's in: After singing "Live With Me," he says, "I'd like to congratulate you on winning the Super Bowl."

Chances that Mick Jagger gives shit one about the Super Bowl: Slimmer than Kate Moss after a post-meal trip to the bathroom.

Number of nods toward material released during the Nineties: Not many, but more than the audience would have preferred. After running through "Respectable," from 1978, the Stones confuse the crowd with 1994's "You Got Me Rocking." Three other contemporary efforts are heard later, affording listeners an opportunity to sit down until they're over. Shockingly, all four numbers can be found on No Security, a concert CD readily available for purchase.

A breakdown by decades of the seventeen non-Nineties songs on the Rolling Stones' set list: Forties and Eighties--one apiece (a cover of Bobby Troup's "Route 66" and "Start Me Up," respectively). Sixties--five. Seventies--ten.

Number of truly surprising selections on the Rolling Stones' set list: Zero.
Reaction of the audience to the dearth of truly surprising selections on the Rolling Stones' set list: Sheer joy.

Reaction of the T-shirted, tattooed, obviously drunk man sitting behind me to just about anything that happens: "Woody! Woody!"

Description of the dance techniques displayed by three men in the row in front of me: Head lunging forward, caboose jabbing backward. Call it "the Heimlich Maneuver."

Description of the dance techniques displayed by Mick Jagger: Consistently astounding, particularly given his vintage (he's 55) and recent health woes. Richards definitely looks decrepit--he carries his head around like a damaged pinata on a pole--and Woods wasn't exactly doing wind sprints, probably because he didn't want to shake the ash off his ominipresent cigarette and set himself ablaze. But Jagger shook, shimmied and strutted for two hours straight without once whining about the thin air.

Possible explanations for Mick Jagger's stamina and energy: 1. He regularly drinks monkey blood. 2. He dines exclusively on the brains of former mistresses. 3. He knows that he won't have any more former mistresses if he starts moving around like the average 55-year-old.

Description of Mick Jagger's wardrobe changes: Every couple of songs, Jagger reappears wearing two or three shirts. He then strips off the top one or two to reveal a muscle T-shirt beneath. Tricky variation on the routine: At one point, he strips off one muscle T-shirt to uncover another muscle T-shirt under it.

Funniest Mick Jagger line: At the end of "Some Girls," he barks, "I'll give you half of what I own."

Funniest Keith Richards line: Before his spotlight sequence, Richards says, "You're taking care of yourselves, I hope. I know I am."

Description of the concert's most boring passage: Richards delivers "You Got the Silver" and "Thief in the Night," a bland song from 1997's Bridges to Babylon, in a somnambulant rasp that's practically hypnotic. Afterward, the audience applauds more out of surprise that Richards is still conscious than anything else. That's followed by "Out of Control," another weak Bridges tune during which Jagger sings from inside a cage for no apparent reason.

Description of the concert's most exciting passage: The main Stones, supplemented by Jones and Leavell, gather on a small stage at the arena's center (a nod to the Bridges to Babylon tour) and perform three songs while dodging roses and other projectiles hurled by the throng around them. The highlight is "Midnight Rambler," a creepy song that is given a far creepier rendition than are "Paint It Black" and "Sympathy for the Devil," two equally creepy songs that the Stones strip of creepiness.

Overall response to concert: Mick Jagger is still a marvel, but time isn't on the other Stones' side.

Comment made to a companion by the T-shirted, tattooed, obviously drunk man sitting behind me as the Rolling Stones depart: "This could be the last time we see them, dude."

Thought that goes through my head: Wanna bet?


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