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The Stones Tour: Rock and Roll On the Road Again

Page 6 of 8

What did he do?" one of the cops was asked. "He insulted a policeman," was the reply. The Stones were in another part of the building, tuning up guitars, getting ready to go on. They saw none of it. Midway into their show, just before "Sweet Virginia," Mick asked the crowd, "Who go' free today? Angela Davis go' free today. Fu'in' great."

* * *

It was not until the second show in Seattle that the music outdistanced the street fighting. As lights bounce off the mirror and pick up Mick Jagger standing in the mouth of two serpents on a pearl-white stage. "Brown Sugar" first, with Bill Wyman's bass and Charlie Watts' drums hitting like a sledge hammer. Then, quickly, before the audience has a chance to recover, right into "Bitch" and "Rocks Off" from the new album, the three songs an opening machine gun blast of bass lines and lead guitar.

Then Keith starting "Gimme Shelter" as Jagger built up the song to "Oh Children, it's just a shot awaaaaaay, a shot away, a shot away" and Mick Taylor spins snarling twisting leads. The song ends with Keith falling back into the amps. Then he has to race forward to the mike in time for the beginning of "Happy." Mick grinning at one side of the mike, closing in to shout the chorus in harmony with Keith, Keith taking those little rooster steps of his to one side to play the lead then charging back to the mike to sing. Back and forth and back and forth as Mick wails "Bay-baay, won't ya make me hapaayyy!"

"Tumblin' Dice" follows. Mick is soaked with sweat. It gleams off his chest and darkens his work shirt. "Tumblin' Dice," although it is the single from the album, slows the set every time the Stones do it. "Gonna do a blues for ya now," Mick says, as Keith begins "Love In Vain," with Charlie sitting quietly, spinning his drumsticks until the first chorus. Then he starts laying down a pumping locomotive beat as Mick Taylor takes off into two solos that get tighter and cleaner each time he plays.

Then "Sweet Virginia," with Keith and Mick Taylor perched on stools picking on acoustic guitars, Keith chopping and damping at his strings as Jagger plays a sweet harp solo over the top.

"You Can't Always Get What You Want," with Keith unfurling a slow beautiful opening pick as Jim Price comes in on trombone and Bobby Keys on soprano sax, and Nicky Hopkins picks up the rhythm on piano. "Midnight Rambler" follows and is still the showpiece of the act, the one that gets the heads bobbing and the forest of hands clapping, as Mick hams it all the way, slipping off his work shirt to reveal a pure white jumpsuit underneath, picking up the black rhinestone-studded belt to whip the stage as the six super troopers pour ruby light down on him. When it is over, the white spotlight picks up Mick all alone for the first total-scream-madness ovation of the tour.

After "Midnight Rambler" it's all rock and roll. Hold on to the amps and turn off the lights. "Bye Bye Johnny B. Goode," with Keith playing through the breaks like the illegitimate son of Chuck Berry. "All Down the Line," "Rip This Joint," and "Jumpin' Jack Flash" with Mick leaping high in the air, firing two finger pistols into the house. As always, ending with "Street Fighting Man" in a haze of feedback, all out dancing, and a shower of rose petals.

Essentially, it is the same stage act the Stones have always done, the one they know the best, with Mick introducing the band as "Beautiful but fragile Mick Taylor on guitar, our drunken Methodist Bobby Keys on sax . . .Nicky Hopkins on piano. Stand up lad, an' le' 'em 'ave a look at ya." When it all went right, and it did in Seattle and again at Winterland, it was outta site. It was worth the price of admission.

* * *

Everyone was still high from the second show in Seattle as they boarded the plane to San Francisco the next day. Charlie Watts stood in back of the stewardess demonstrating the proper use of the life jacket and pointing to the emergency exit located at the rear of the cabin. Mick chinned himself on the luggage rack, then hung upside down like an orangutang. "Used to be able to do that wi' one hand," he noted, uncoiling himself on to the floor, "till my strength-to-weight ratio changed." Down the aisle Bobby Keys was saying, "Ah came back to mah room last night to get some sleep and there's a gayngbayng goin' on. In mah bed. Chick looked like Joe Palooka."

"Loik what?" Mick inquired, with raised eyebrows.

"Lahk a bus mechanic." Mick's eyes narrowed to slits and he laughed. "This is the most critical part right here," he said biting down on his lip, "The power turn. If it's gonna happen . . . " He closed his eyes and settled into his seat.

Bill Wyman told someone they'd have to get a game of chance going during the plane rides. "I even accept credit cards," he said.

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