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Concert Review: Rock-solid Stones party

Friday, March 12, 1999

By Scott Mervis, Weekend Editor, Post-Gazette

After all these years, diehard Rolling Stones fans not only got what they needed, they got what they wanted last night at the Civic Arena.

  Mick Jagger opened the concert with Jumpin' Jack Flash last night at the Civic Arena. More concert photos. (John Heller, Post-Gazette)

No corny concepts. No fancy stage sets. No giant inflatables. And no bad new album to take up unnecessary space in the set list.

The so-called "world's greatest rock 'n' roll band's" first show in the Civic Arena since 1972, and first in Pittsburgh since 1994, was a relatively stripped-down affair that mixed Hot Rocks with a few lesser-known nuggets.

Due to ticket prices reaching upwards of $250, the sold-out show was the highest-grossing event in the history of the Civic Arena, according to promoter Rich Engler.

The crowd of 17,500-plus, including many parents of Pearl Jam fans, seemed to get their money's worth, as the Stones were a gas.

Guitarist Keith Richards got the first licks in last night, stepping to center stage alone with the opening riff of "Jumpin' Jack Flash."

  More Stones coverage:

Fans say Stones still rocking, rolling

Photo Journal: Rolling Stones play Pittsburgh

PG Online Rolling Stones page


Mick Jagger, looking nothing like any 55-year-old I've ever seen, came charging out in black leather and shades, primping and strutting like it was 1966. Richards and fellow guitarist Ron Wood hung in the back as Jagger prowled the stage just like a front man should.

From there, it was "Bitch," "You Got Me Rockin'," "Gimme Shelter," "Honky Tonk Woman"... the Stones could have stayed out there all night and not run out of hits. But more and more they realize the depth of their vault and the fact that true Stones fans want songs that haven't turned up on all 150 live albums.

The promise of a "Moonlight Mile," alas, was not delivered. Instead, in that early ballad spot, Jagger, down to a tank top, stood at the electric piano for a gorgeous "Fool to Cry." Two songs later, the Stones unearthed the once-and-now-probably-even-more controversial "Some Girls." Maybe because of Jagger's ugly split with Jerry Hall, it was the edgiest, darkest and most dangerous song of the night. (In case you're wondering about that one line, Mick ended up changing it to "white girls just wanna ... ")

Watching Jagger on stage, you had to wonder if, back in the late '60s, he really did make a deal with the devil. Of all the members of the Stones, he had the most crucial items to maintain - his voice, his hair, his figure. And yet, at times, especially early on, it seemed like the other Stones had trouble keeping up with him.

As usual, Richards looked like he just rolled out of a bed, or a grave, for that matter. And sometimes he sounded like it. My personal countdown to this show involved spending a lot of time with old Stones records, particularly from "Beggars Banquet" to "Sticky Fingers." The solo on "Bitch" made it all too obvious that, between Richards and Wood, there was no match for former guitarist Mick Taylor on that stage last night.

Richards sounded best on his own "You Got the Silver" and, again, after the Stones took their stroll - the only gimmick of the night, and one that actually brought the band closer to its fans. The Stones walked a long ramp through the crowd to a middle stage and stepped back into their bluesy past. "Route 66" put Richards in vintage rock 'n' roll mode, where his Chuck Berry leads had some bite.

Also while in the round, the Stones took the sheen off their sound and got down and dirty with "Midnight Rambler." In a night of solid and for the most part energetically played songs, it was one of the few moments where the Rolling Stones were really getting their ya-ya's out.

For you collectors, here's the song list: "Jumpin' Jack Flash," "Bitch," "You Got Me Rockin'," "Gimme Shelter," "Honky Tonk Woman," "Fool to Cry," "Saint of Me," "Some Girls," "Paint It, Black," "You Got the Silver," "Before They Make Me Run," "Out of Control," "Route 66," "When the Whip Comes Down," "Midnight Rambler," "Tumblin' Dice," "It's Only Rock and Roll," "Start Me Up," "Brown Sugar" and "Sympathy for the Devil."

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