The Rolling Stones – Light The Fuse (Live 2005)

Light The Fuse (Live 2005) (2012)

B

1. Rough Justice 2. Live With Me 3. 19th Nervous Breakdown 4. She’s So Cold 5. Dead Flowers 6. Back Of My Hand 7. Ain’t Too Proud To Beg 8. Band Intros 9. Infamy 10. Oh No, Not You Again 11. Get Up Stand Up 12. Mr. Pitiful 13. Tumbling Dice 14. Brown Sugar 15. Jumpin’ Jack Flash

 

A document of the brief period time when we all thought the Stones might just revert back into a garage band again, before they quickly dashed our hopes and did the whole big pyrotechnic stadium blowout thing again, just with sloppier, slightly louder guitars. After all, they had just put out the stripped down A Bigger Bang, the merits of which can certainly be debated in retrospect, but it was at the very least way less produced than anything they had done in quite some time (if anything, it’s undercooked). Then, early word out of the tour rehearsals in Toronto, which culminated in this warm-up show at the rather small Phoenix Theater (to give you an indication of its size relative to the joints the Stones usually play, I saw Drive-By Truckers there a few months ago) was that they were playing rawer and nastier than they had since before the Steel Wheels era. At least that was what I was hearing on the Stones message boards I was frequenting at the time (hey weren’t you reading them too? Huh? STOP LOOKING AT ME LIKE THAT).

Well, there was at least some truth to the rumors, since the guitars here are certainly more ’81 than ’89, which has its positives (nasty, gritty tone, lots of little licks flying around everywhere) and negatives (plenty of ugly missed notes and chords – Keith’s solo on “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” is even lamer than the one he played on the Stones’ original studio version, if that is even possible). And this performance resembles the electrifying show I witnessed the Stones put on at Madison Square Garden about a month later more closely than the more fine-tuned but less spontaneous Shine A Light, which was recorded the following year. Unfortunately, a lot of Toronto Phoenix’s appealing qualities are tempered by the fact that the record (download? MP3 collection? Enigmatic digital amalgamation of musical emissions? What exactly do I call these Google Music thingies, anyway?) documents a pre-tour one-off that took place at a time when the band, not having played in front of people in two years, still had plenty of rust to shake before they hit the road for real. In that respect, this was an admittedly interesting but still sort of curious choice for an official release when there are plenty of better late-period shows sitting in the vaults (the excellent Voodoo Lounge tour remains the only Stones jaunt since the legendary ’72 tour that has yet to be enshrined with an official live release, unless you count Stripped, which I don’t, since it’s mostly studio stuff).

Look, I know I and every other Stones fans complains that they’ve been a glitzy Vegas simulacrum of the real Stones, but lemme let you in on a little secret that isn’t really a secret at all: they’re old and brain-damaged and if they kicked out the backup singers and horn section and fucking Chuck Leavell tomorrow, they wouldn’t start sounding like the ’69 Stones all of a sudden, OK? They’re a different band now, and they need a lot more practice and time on the road than they used to in order to play a transcendent rock show. And without those luxuries, some of the less appealing aspects of the modern day Stones get accentuated, like the fact that Keith doesn’t riff anymore, he noodles (which has to some extent been the case since at least the ’78 tour, but by 2005, with his abilities and focus diminishing, it doesn’t always sound as good) and that Mick, while far more note perfect than he ever was in the 70s and 80s, has now made up his own weird, unnatural dialect in which “whore” is pronounced “hahr” and such. Plus, this show’s very nature means that we are privy to a couple of the types of failed experiments that bands often try out once or twice early on in a tour and then drop when it becomes clear they don’t work very well on stage. That’s certainly the case with this recasting of “19th Nervous Breakdown” as a riffless, vaguely bluesy dirge, as well as “Infamy,” which is a great bubbly pop song at 3 minutes, but a directionless farce at over five. And the cover of “Get Up Stand Up” sounds pretty good, but they should have let Keith sing it – Mick’s grating, hyperactive vocal delivery clashes terribly with the music; imagine the Wailers fronted by Fred Schneider and you’ll get surprisingly close to what it actually sounds like.

All that said, there’s plenty of goodness to dig into here. The opening “Rough Justice” is so powerful Mick sounds like he’s gonna get literally blown away by the sheer force of the guitars; “Live With Me” kicks ass; “Tumbling Dice” is nice and loose like it should be; and I love the versions of “She’s So Cold” they did on this tour (and Mick is mistaken – this wasn’t they first time they had ever done it on stage, but it was the first time they’d played it since the ’81-’82. And yes, they played it at every single show on that tour, but just cause Mick can’t remember that doesn’t necessarily mean his memory’s going. At this point let’s just hope he can remember the names of all his kids, illegitimate and otherwise). And you know what the best performance of the set is? “Back Of My Hand.” A simple blues that could’ve been written and recorded at any point in the preceding eighty years, but which took Mick and Keith until they were in their 60s to come up with. But with Mick and Ronnie’s dueling slide guitars and Charlie kicking it into high gear midway through—something the studio version doesn’t have the benefit of—it’s genuinely chill inducing. It’s proof that every single Stones tour, no matter when it took place, has had its share of magic moments.



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