My photos from the show
Concert montage at RollingStones.com
Brown Sugar footage at RollingStones.com
RollingStones.com Media Page
BBC News - "Stones play £4 Toronto club gig"
Canoe.ca - "Royale Event"
Nando Times Review
Globe and Mail - "Surprise Stones gig gives satisfaction"
Itís Only Rock Ďní Roll'
- Sad Sad Sad
- If You Canít Rock Me
- Stray Cat Blues
- Hot Stuff
- Donít Stop
- Honky Tonk Women
- Torn And Frayed
- Wild Horses
- I Canít Turn You Loose
- Heart Of Stone
- Canít You Hear Me Knocking
- Tumblin' Dice
- Jumping Jack Flash
- Brown Sugar
A thousand tickets, a billion fans. Whenever the Stones are in town to rehearse for a major tour there's a buzz that a secret gig might come up. It happened in '77, '94 and again in '97, so now as the tour looms the city's been buzzing with speculation. Well, it's happening. The Chocolate Factory this year is the Palais Royale on the shores of Lake Ontario and I've got a golden ticket.
A friend got the gig to assist with filming tonight, I think
he actually gets to do this on stage. The lucky bastard got the call
about the job Wednesday, found out who and where last night, was generous
enough to call a few friends and I got the friend-of-a-friend call around 11.
Hit the line by 5:40 this morning and was in the first 300. Dream come true baby.
We saw Gary Numan at the Palais Royale a while back, what a great venue. It's a 50's-style
dance hall. You go in, snake around through the basement, which is like going
to a church wedding, complete with the two old women at a coat check,
and then back up to floor level. They're using like nearly half the main
floor for the stage (we saw it getting tix), whereas Numan's stage took
up maybe an eighth of that. I'm pumped. Now to get some zzz's before
the show. Someone said there's an opener but no one knows who, they
plug Keith in at 10, and his guitars at 10:15.
Welcome to the Show
Friday was a rush. I got an hour of sleep Thursday before the line-up, and only managed another two through the afternoon, but who needs sleep when you're about to see the greatest rock'n'roll band in the world do their fourth (technically, fifth) club show since the 60's. On the drive downtown I'd look at everyone on the street and think, "You're not going, that dude's not going, the guy on the bike's not going, that guy, definitely not going." Giddy doesn't describe it.
We arrived just before 9:00 and local act Danko Jones went on soon after. Here's a guy with a few things to say, though he did take a break from himself once in a while to pump out some hard hitting tunes. They obviously had a damn good time, a good choice to open.
Maybe the best thing about a lesser-known local opener is that the floor wasn't packed during their set. Plenty of people hung out either on the deck or near the bar, so when Danko stepped off it wasn't too hard to manoever into a spot three back from the stage. Near me were friends McCarthy and Christina, and a few people we met earlier in line from Ohio. Greg was working just across the rail from us (lucky bastard). The Ohio dudes got the word late last night and drove overnight from Cleveland to make the line. Their leader was a decent guy with a big dopey hat who actually thought for a while that Keith or Mick might wear his big dopey hat, and wouldn't stop waving it. But he chilled, enjoyed the show, and a few of his buds bailed for a spot closer to a fan so we had room to spare. One of his other buds, a die-hard Stones fan with John Lennon specs who runs a truck stop was a welcome neighbour and one of the coolest dudes at the show, another guy just ecstatic to be there. He even shared some water and man, did we need it.
And then the band arrived. No messing around. They walk on stage. There's Keith, coolest rocker alive. He stretches the limbs to make sure all is intact and grins at the crowd. Mick finds his mic and waves hello. There's Charlie, coolest drummer alive, settling down to business. Ron Wood straps in, and bam, it's on. The first number is "It's Only Rock'n'Roll". They're looking good. They're lean. Mick bounces around like a charged particle and gets the crowd moving right away. I gotta say, way back Charlie was the first to go grey and everyone thought he looked the old man but now, he's dropped 20 years and as Kevin observed, the others look to be passing him in age. Between songs he looks around and twirls his sticks like a little boy, fidgeting on his throne until the next downbeat. When Mick cracks a joke he's ready with the rimshot. His playing like always is serious, his time solid, but he's got this nervous kinda energy that everyone gets off on. Surprised to see a UFIP cymbal in the mix, it sounds great.
And Keith, man. I'm lucky to be in front of the spot where Mr. Richards is hanging out. The man loves to play. Ever watch a great artist noodle around and create? That's what Keith does, you get the feeling that even as he's playing Stray Cat Blues or Wild Horses for the bazillionth time, he's still experimenting, still trying to pull new sounds out. At those moments he goes into a sort of trance and those contortions he's famous for don't seem so much for the audience as they are necessary to get the sound out. And once he returns to the audience he laughs like he's not sure where he just was, and looks around like, "Was that all right?" Man, it was spectacular.
Mick moves the same way, every motion reflects what's on his mind. And if you've ever seen a documentary with him in the studio (like for the recent solo album) he's got the same physical style even when there's no one around. Mick is the perfect front man, fearless and busting with energy. I walked through the crowd towards the end and every eye in the place was on Mick the whole time. As I'd move through, people would move to look past me to keep their eyes on Mick, the urgent way a dog moves to see the tennis ball behind your back. Magnetic. Infectious. I couldn't stop moving for hours after the show. It also makes you think what a waste it is for anyone under the age of 60 to sit still for ten minutes of television. Damn this was a fun time.
They played a good handful of the hits -- Honky Tonk Women, Wild Horses, Jumping Jack Flash, and an encore of Brown Sugar. But the treats of the night were the rarities, a few tracks being played live for the first time. Ron broke out the slide a couple times. Yeah, he missed a bridge on Torn and Frayed, but man, no one cared. Moments like that are what a show like this is for. The live premiere of Don't Stop (a new track for 40 Licks compilation) was solid, though it's on a predictable path; a big horn number with a hooky refrain reminiscent of latter-day Alex Chilton. What is it with aging rockers and horns? Ah well, the best part of a new song like this is that it's the first time it's been trotted out for a crowd, when they play it you get the feeling that Mick wants you to like it and he's not entirely sure of it yet. This is what watching a band in a club is about.
It was an experience. Once in a while you forget you're watching some of the most influential musicians alive today. It's an eerie feeling to stop and realize where you are and what you're seeing, that all that history and talent is standing ten feet away. You take it for granted in moments. Like this could be any band that happened to stay together thirty-odd years, with a bit more success and better marketing than most. And even with a touch of truth in that, the reason these guys continue to sell out stadiums is because the magic is real. They work for every note, they're self-critical and don't take a minute for granted, they live the music and feed on the energy of the audience, they have fun, they're great friends, and damned if it don't pay well too. The show made me want to get home and pick up the guitar or sit down on the drums and get moving. How many bands will ever have that effect on people after thirty years? To hell with nostalgia, this is the greatest rock'n'roll band in the world.