Five days before launching their “Bridges to Babylon” world tour, the Rolling Stones played a surprise warm-up show at the Double Door, a small, alternative rock-oriented club in Chicago’s trendy Wicker Park neighborhood. And though their tour, which begins September 23 at Chicago’s Soldier Field, is thought to be a typically larger-than-life production, the band’s ninety-minute performance in the 500-capacity club underscored its roots in the blues.
In contrast to the media frenzy surrounding the band’s tour, the Thursday night show received little publicity — the Double Door’s marquee didn’t even announce the show until that morning. About 230 fans who saw the sign or were clued in by friends in the music industry bought non-exchangeable wristbands from the club for seven dollars — a bargain considering that tickets to the band’s Soldier Field show later this week go for $60.
With such members of Chicago’s rock royalty as Billy Corgan and Liz Phair rounding out an audience of about 400 (about that many also gathered outside the club to hear what they could), the Stones set a bluesey, down-to-earth tone for the evening by opening with “Little Queenie.” They followed the Chuck Berry classic with sped-up versions of some of their oldest and most recent songs — “19th Nervous Breakdown,” “Crazy Mama,” “You Got Me Rocking” and “The Last Time.”
Riding the groove pounded out by Charlie Watts and substitute bassist Darryl Jones, Mick Jagger was in constant motion, dancing across the club’s tiny stage with an energy that belied his age. The frontman’s vocals showed a renewed gospel influence as he brought an almost revival-show fervor to the band’s new single, “Anybody Seen My Baby.”
After playing “Let it Bleed” and an old Jimmy Reed song, the Stones ended the show with a few of their bigger hits: “Honky Tonk Women,” “Start Me Up,” and “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” After a few minutes, they returned to the stage for an encore of “Brown Sugar,” which featured breezy playing by Richards and a fluid saxophone solo by Bobby Keyes.