By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Photos by Gregory Bojorquez
THE ROLLING STONES, SHERYL CROW at Staples Center, October 31
Strange to see Sheryl Crow warming up for the Stones, whose current cultural saturation falls oceans short of hers — though not within this asylum of middle age, where numerous empty seats gaped as she and her do-it-all band rocked modestly through her hits and a strong new song. Such a singer, such a writer, even a good occasional bassist: What would happen if Crow stopped being good-naturedly wounded for a minute and got some blood on her perfect teeth? We'll never know.
The Rolling Stones summed up their dilemma as early as 1968, when they waxed "Street Fighting Man." While many wanted to hear it as a battle cry, the song was really just Mick Jagger's ironic apology for not being the revolutionary pig-burner he was trumped up as; his mission was just "to sing for a rock & roll band." By the time the Stones opened with that song on Halloween night 2002, after a minidirigible featuring the conjoined logos of Their Satanic Majesties and E*Trade had floated above our heads, and 200 limousines had pulled away outside, Jagger's message had long been understood: Party today, but invest tomorrow.
Jagger whirled out in a classy ibis-beak mask, fluttering his fingers with shamanic allure, and the party commenced. The Stones remain good entertainers, if sometimes a bit mechanical, with Charlie Watts generally whomping out detail-free four-on-the-floor in lock step with Darryl Jones' basic bass. They were plainly glad to be playing anything new, which made "Don't Stop" less mediocre and gave their cover of "Love Train" some real juice. "Monkey Man" packed a lurching jolt. "Tumbling Dice" regurgitated that big ol' groove; so did "Honky Tonk Women," which splashed especially rich chordal coloring from guitar granny Ron Wood, who also cut into some smoking slide on "Love in Vain." The jam on "Can't You Hear Me Knockin'" was full of sparky dynamics; Bobby Keys again proved himself one of the few who can still blow gut-roaring rock & roll sax. The intimate blues set on the runway (à la Elvis' 1968 comeback), without the horn, keyboard and vocal support players, was kinda cute and warm. No "Gimme Shelter." No "Midnight Rambler." We do not approve of violence.
Jagger belted solidly, and his jazzy off-rhythms on "Brown Sugar" were neat, but by far the best moments came when he left the stage to Keith Richards for a few songs. That old bastard is so romantic, so charming, so goddamn real — his broken crooning on the slow ballad "Slipping Away" was heart-fluttering, and his compromised yet rocking valor on "Before They Make Me Run" got me teary; I wonder why.
The crowd, pumped up by the closing "Jumpin' Jack Flash," poured out of the hall and across the street, marching boldly against the light, exactly as if that meant something.
THE ROLLING STONES at Staples Center, October 31, and at Edison Field, November 2
Beyond the finale's unintentional homage to the White Stripes (a conflation of blood-red confetti and pulsing white smoke) and this tour's loose lick-up-the-past theme — a set list emphasizing the post-'60s era(s) and Exile on Main Streetin particular — the Staples Center concert was largely about the redemption of Ron Wood. Given the thankless task of replacing the far more fluid, dazzling soloist Mick Taylor in 1975, Wood's usually credited more for being a visual icon, for looking the part of a Stone, than for his sympathetic chunk-and-response conversation with Keith Richards. At Staples, Wood was especially impressive on the slide, carving up "Love in Vain" with oily, spiky precision. Other highlights: Chuck Leavell's gumball piano rattling around the corners of "Street Fighting Man" and the icy intro flickering of "Monkey Man." Mick Jagger, sporting black suspenders and a white shirt, warned, "This is really too fast," before a properly rambunctious (and fast) "Rip This Joint." Contrary to critical consensus, the one new tune, "Don't Stop," was memorable and kinda poignant, a deceptively laid-back statement of purpose. Biggest surprise: a goofy but exuberant version of the O'Jays' "Love Train."
Ron Wood wasn't quite as sharp at Edison Field, and Charlie Watts sounded a little tired on a leaden "Honky Tonk Women," but the band played longer, and mixed in a dozen tunes they hadn't performed at Staples. Everything was bigger and louder in Anaheim, especially the row of black gas tanks mounted perilously high above the massive stage, belching humongous fireballs choreographed to the ominous rhythm of "Sympathy for the Devil." The emotions were bigger, too, with "Gimme Shelter" taking on a timely resonance ("war, it's just a shot away"), as violet searchlights probed the audience reproachfully. Deep feelings turned to indulgent sentimentality on a gloriously mawkish "Angie"; couples throughout the stands began making out. For the acoustic-driven "Sweet Virginia," the crowd erupted in spontaneous "woooh!"s when Jagger drawled, "Thank you for your wine, California," perhaps overlooking his forked-tongue following line: "and your sweet and bitter fruit."
The higher reaches of the ballpark's ironically named "View Level" were literally rocking by the time the group thundered impressively through "Midnight Rambler." It was only rock & roll, but, as Keith Richards rasped, "It's good to be here. It's good to be anywhere."