- 11 Sep 17
Our man Pat Carty was in the heart of the action as The Rolling Stones took their European tour to Germany's capital of rock 'n' roll...
"Everyone seems to be ready, are you ready? For the next band..."
I was going to give out about an oversold venue: Hamburg's Stadtpark has a very slight gradient, making it difficult for a normal sized person to see anything. I was going to complain about the sound, based on the evidence of support act, Kaleo (no, me neither), who seemed distant, although with their boringly by-the-numbers blues rock, not distant enough.
I had retired to the bar to contemplate all this, when The Rolling Stones came on, and drop-kicked all of my bullshit right out the window.
Jagger sashays through opener 'Sympathy For The Devil' in a jacket that might be made of tin foil, but is more likely some sort of advanced NASA anti-aging device, so vigorous is the man in it. When the human riff clangs in beside him, it is ridiculously exciting. 'It's Only Rock and Roll' and 'Tumbling Dice' follow - Keith locks in with Charlie, and we achieve groove lift off. Richards and Watts circling each other, pushing and pulling at the rhythm, with Jagger the MC at its centre, are the true heart of the Stones. Everyone else is replaceable, but lose one of these three, and it will finally be over.
Mick gives it his best cockney German ("Hallo Deutschland! Rock Und Roll! Ja!" Etc.), introducing 'Out Of Control', and I suppose if anyone is entitled to re-write 'Papa Was A Rolling Stone', it's him, before pulling out two numbers from last year’s blues covers exercise, Blue & Lonesome, a record which may provide the key to tonight's triumph. For whatever reason, Jagger agreed to this studio return to the past, nostalgia not being something he's famous for. The record was a success, attracting their best reviews in a long time. Does it then dawn on Jagger that perhaps this is what people want - a rough and rockin' Rolling Stones, rather than the showband spectacle of previous tours? Whatever, tonight we get the greatest garage band in the world. Yes, there are horns, backing singers, and keyboards, but it is the Sturm und Drang of the three men at its heart, along with Ronnie Wood's symbiotic colouring, that is the true meat of the matter.
Consider also Eddie Taylor's 'Ride 'Em On Down', played alongside Little Walter's rollicking 'Just Your Fool'. Although it could have been written for them, The Stones had never recorded this song before, but they did knock it out at their first ever gig in 1962. Thrillingly, they're plugging into their past to get the power back on.
'Play With Fire' still sounds nasty on the Stepney/Knightsbridge line, and while 'You Can't Always Get What You Want' may have more mistakes than your first driving test, the Jagger-led singalong and the honky tonk piano make everything alright. 'Dancing With Mr. D' from the underrated Goats Head Soup is aired for the first time since 1973, prompting aficionados in the audience to gape at each other, open mouthed. 'Under My Thumb', 'Paint It, Black' and 'Honky Tonk Woman' are all then dusted down, Keith's solo in the latter a glorious two fingered salute. He takes his usual turn in the spotlight, channeling Memphis soul with 'Slipping Away', and grinning through 'Happy'. His vocals are as wobbly as a three wheeled pram, but no matter, everyone on earth loves Keith.
'Midnight Rambler' throbs with murderous intent, Jagger a possessed combination of whirl and shriek over the malevolent pulse emanating from the Richards/Watts machine. 'Miss You' turns a wet field in Germany into Studio 54, but 'Street Fighting Man' is something else again. The opening chords are a hurricane's roar, an enormous elemental noise. 'Start Me Up', 'Brown Sugar' and the set closing 'Satisfaction' are all delightfully rough as a bag of hammers, the band rocking like a car on the edge of a cliff. The encore's 'Gimme Shelter' exudes the genuine dread of the original, illuminated by an appropriately ominous full moon breaking through the clouds, and closer 'Jumpin' Jack Flash' kicks like a spooked mule, before fireworks send 80,000 smiles off to look for a train.
Short of seeing them do Exile On Main St. in the Olympia, this was the dream Stones gig, more vital than anyone could have reasonably expected. Part of me, a small part in fairness, hopes that I never see them again, for this is the way they should be remembered, and celebrated.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, the greatest rock n' roll band in the world, The Rolling Stones"