The Rolling Stones – Hampton Coliseum (Live 1981)

Hampton Coliseum (Live 1981) (2012)


1. Under My Thumb 2. When The Whip Comes Down 3. Let’s Spend The Night Together 4. Shattered 5. Neighbors 6. Black Limousine 7. Just My Imagination 8. 20 Flight Rock 9. Going To A Go-Go 10. Let Me Go 11. Time Is On My Side 12. Beast Of Burden 13. Waiting On A Friend 14. Let It Bleed 15. You Can’t Always Get What You Want 16. Band Intros 17. Little T&A 18. Tumbling Dice 19. She’s So Cold 20. Hang Fire 21. Miss You 22. Honky Tonk Women 23. Brown Sugar 24. Start Me Up 25. Jumpin’ Jack Flash 26. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction


I told you this tour was awesome. I TOLD YOU. But did you believe me? Of course not. All I ever do is try to tell you the truth, and you just push me away. I tried to tell you your girlfriend was cheating on you with that dreamy Starbucks barista, but you just wouldn’t hear it. And I think we all know how that turned out.

OK, so while Hampton Coliseum should convince you that Still Life was a shoddy and inaccurate representation of the ’81 tour, it probably won’t convince you that anyone in the Rolling Stones was particularly preoccupied with attempting to sound like, you know, a professional musician (except for Charlie, of course, who I suspect wouldn’t miss a single snare hit on “Satisfaction” if there were a colony of flesh-eating scarabs living inside his butthole). It won’t convince you that Ronnie spent less time during the early 80s doing blow than he did playing the guitar; it won’t convince you that at some point after getting off the junk, Keith became incapable of playing a solo without throwing in a couple of inexplicable bum notes; it won’t convince you that Mick had entirely abandoned the notion of actually “singing”; it definitely won’t convince you that replacing Bobby Keys with some guy named Ernie Watts (no relation to Charlie), who spends the show filling every possible nook and cranny with hyperactive, eardrum-molesting alto sax, was even close to a good idea. It should convince you once and for all that the existence of a controlled substance known as “cocaine” isn’t just a myth, so that’s something. I’m honestly impressed that Mick actually manages to form words and that the entirety of the vocals of “Miss You” aren’t delivered in the form of sniffing.

But with all that being a given, shit man, I just love me some nasty and raw rock ‘n roll, and ain’t nobody gonna stop me. Although it’s certainly an influence here, I wouldn’t dare liken the sound of the show to punk rock, because basically the only thing the ’81 Stones and, say, the Ramones had in common is that they both played really fast. The Ramones played fast to cover up for the fact that they couldn’t technically play; the ’81 Stones play really fast because they were too lazy and/or high to put forth the effort to play technically well. But if you ask me, both approaches are equally entertaining. At least to me personally.

Of course, there were shows on this tour where they played a little too fast and loose, but this performance in Hampton, Virginia is just right. As a result of getting broadcast as a pay-per-view live on HBO, it ended up becoming one of their most famous concerts ever, although it’s probably better known for Keith whacking a guy who ran on stage with his guitar than anything else. That’s fair, since that moment was so awesome it would have overshadowed Jesus coming back. It proves once and for all that Keef is the badass to end all badasses, and is the reason you should seek out the video of this show rather than just the audio. But if you don’t, at least you’ll know there’s a reason for that horrible feedback skrawk at the beginning of “Satisfaction.”

But beyond that, man, I just love this fucking show. With Mick spending so much time jumping around the stage acting like a buffoon, Keith and Ronnie were left with an overabundance of extended instrumental sections to toss out all kinds of rugged licks and solos that I just eat up like they’re Cheeze-Its. Are they sloppy as hell and sometimes out of tune, sure, but I’m sorry… it just sounds great to me. This was their first stadium tour, but it’s like the complete antithesis of the rehearsed-to-a-tee big band Vegas shows they would start mounting eight years later when they got back on the road again. Plus, I absolutely love the long and varied setlist, starting out with what I think is their best show opener ever, “Under My Thumb” (this version is slower than the one on Still Life and much better) and then unexpectedly busting right into a wickedly rockin’ “When The Whip Comes Down.” The song selections are unsurprisingly heavy on Some Girls and Tattoo You, but they reach back for a couple nuggets (“Let’s Spend The Night Together,” “Time Is On My Side,” “Let It Bleed”) before getting to the inevitable parade of hits at the end (when I listened yesterday, I realized that “Brown Sugar” might not have ever sounded nastier).

Look, does this thing sound like shit in some respects? Yes. Does it also completely rule my ass? Yes. Must you now grapple with the overwhelming specter of cognitive dissonance? Yes. Deal with it.


  1. victoid wrote:

    Keith always played out of tune and often mis-hit the strings (or missed them entirely); It was pert of his endearing charm and disarming authenticity.
    The Stones did 20 FlightRock? I’m afraid to listen. I’m sure it’s a desecration of the memory of
    Eddie Cochran. Even better is <a href=";Robert Gordon’s version with the great Link Wray on geetar. If you’ve never heard Link’s immortal instrumental Rumble give it a listen or ten.

Leave a Reply