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(I Can’t Get No) Trainreaction: The Rolling Stones, Twickenham Stadium, June 19 2018

Vantage point: Pit B (Keith’s side), packed

Collectable merchandise: Bright yellow Rolling Stones beer glasses (£2)

 The final UK date of the #NoFilter tour saw the Stones returning to their geographical roots, with Mick Jagger reminiscing about their gig at the Station Hotel in Richmond a mere 55 years previously. Tonight’s cover of Ride’ Em On Down was from that era and a very raunchy Midnight Rambler benefitted from a snatch of Come On In My Kitchen, elsewhere on the tour it’s been You Gotta Move.

Street Fighting Man made for a swaggering opener whilst Tumbling Dice never sounded better, mainly because of The Return Of Keith Richards. He may technically never have left but his guitar playing had become highly selective. Now he is trading solos with Ronnie Wood on It’s Only Rock’n’Roll, Sympathy For the Devil and Honky Tonk Women. During an elegant Beast Of Burden support singer James Bay duetted with Jagger: Richards’ playing was even more tasteful than Bey’s Bacofoil trousers (very Iggy Pop 1972).

Other highlights included a a brass-driven Bitch, a gorgeous accoustic duet between Wood and Richards on You Got The Silver, bass player Darell Jones forming a Supremes-style trio with backing singers Bernard Fowler and Sasha Allen and Charlie Watts restarting final encore Satisfaction just so they could carry on playing right up to the curfew.

Before Keith started his solo numbers he paused and looked out over the crowd before nearly saying something. Maybe he wanted to say goodbye: if so this extraordinary band has left the UK on a high. The 60,000 fans here tonight were equally delighted until they discovered that Twickenham Station was closed and there was no direction home. Truly, You Can’t Always Get What You Want….

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Lemon Jail: On The Road With The Replacements

Bill Sullivan

University of Minnesota Press

Lemon Jail was the name the Replacements gave their first tour van, and Bill Sullivan was the guy behind the wheel. Thanks to Bob Mehr’s probably definitive Trouble Boys we now know more about the Mats disturbed and disturbing approach to touring. Bill Sullivan fills in the dots – he was there for the best bits, that is the early gigs with the band signed to Twin Tone through to the recording of major-label Pleased To Meet Me. Most of the time it was Sullivan’s job to keep the band out of trouble: sometimes it was his job to be part of the general on-the-road mischief. This could include anything from retrieving the band’s drumkit from the crowd (thrown by the band) through to annoying headliner Tom Petty by singing lead vocals on If I Only Had A Brain.

Sullivan’s literary style is breezy and straightforward, entirely suited to the material. His upbeat tone suggests he is the only person connected with the band who has come through more more or less unscathed. Downsides: the photographs, taken by Sullivan are for the most part worse than my holiday snaps. The mini-hardback format whilst nicely done is slightly expensive for a slim 148 pages – the cheapest copy I could find in the UK came from Wordery. However given that there have only ever been three books dedicated to the Replacements I am happy to welcome a fourth.

Behind The Shade – James Williamson and the Pink Hearts

Leopard Lady Records LLR008CD

Following the final demise of the Stooges in 2016, guitarist James Willamsons’ first LP of original material finds him collaborating with vocalists Frank Meyer and Petra Haden. And here is the paradox: the more this band attempts to emulate the demented raunch of James’ previous band, the less interesting the record sounds. Opening track Riot On The Strip is a case in point where Meyers oversinging and cliched “rock” mannerisms undermine the attempt to move things forward. The lyric of The Revolution Stomp bravely kicks off with You Say You Want A Revolution and would like to be the MC5 but ends up smoothed over and blanded out in the search for AAA Radio action. This Garden Lies is more ranch by rote, albeit with good trumpet.

Far better are the tracks where the vocals and violin of Petra set the agenda. Pink Hearts Across The Sky has a countryish lilt, You Send Me Down has a a Motown beat and wayward sax whilst Miss Misery has attractive Petty/Nicks style duet vocals from Meyer and Haden and a thoughtful guitar solo from Williamson.  Best of all is the closing song, a cover of Alejandro Escovado’s Died A Little Today. Haden sings in a low register and plays violin over woozy Big Star Third piano and understated acoustic guitar from Williamson. So a mixed bag, and whilst Williamson plays well throughout it is hard to see how he can carve out a new musical identity for himself in this setting.

So Alonesome – Johnny Thunders

Remarquable Records RMO2

Another Remarquable release from Pedro Mercedes’ label, dedicated to spreading the word about the excellence of Johnny Thunders studio work during his brief sojurn on Dave Hill’s Real Records.  Hence this latest release, a 12” ten track vinyl LP issued for Record Store Day 2018 which expands and amplifies Thunders So Alone LP from 1978. All the trademarks we have come to expect from Remarquable are here: a thick vinyl pressing, free download, extensive sleeve notes, unreleased pics and a colour poster featuring a cool painting of JT onstage by Wendy Dancey, which used to hang in Dave Hill’s office.

The opening version of Pipeline has a new guitar balance which emphasises Thunders rather than Steve Jones copying Thunders. The alternate mix of Dead Or Alive that follows is so much better than the single version with the backing vocals really coming through and the track sounding livelier all round. Great Big Kiss has a lot more going on with “Tell Me More”s all the way through the song and John Irish Earle’s sax more prominent. Leave Me Alone is a one-take experiment: Thunders with Peter Perrett and Mike Kellie (Only Ones) plus Paul Gray from the Hotrods producing a version that oozes mid-60s Who, clearly A Very Good Thing.  “Title” track.  So Alone is the last time the Heartbreakers recorded together, albeit with Jerry Nolan replaced by Paul Cook on this version inexplicably excluded from the original LP. A slow tortured song with restrained and effective guitar from Thunders that speeds up at the death to savage effect.

Side Two kicks off with a back to basics Daddy Rollin’ Stone –  Thunders on the verse and Phil Lynott on the chorus, no Steve Marriott – a classy bar band sound reminiscent of the Living Dead at the Speakeasy. London Boys remains a waste of space even in the alternate version offered here. Much more interesting is the early version of (She’s So) Untouchable, again the product of Thunders/Perrett/Kellie/Gray. Somewhat overshadowed by the better known You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory this thoughtful mid-tempo piece is a good example of the sort of song that Jerry Nolan refused to play in the Heartbreakers, resulting in an outburst of creativity at the So Alone sessions. A very live-sounding version of the venerable Subway Train is followed by an extended version of The Wizard. Fascinating to learn from the extensive liner notes that it involves BP ‘Beep’ Fallon on harmonica and Chris Wood on Sax

If you hated So Alone, there is not much for you here. If you loved So Alone – and it’s one of my all-time fave LP’s – then what you have here is more of the same. You know what to do.

The Rolling Stones @ London Olympic Stadium 22.05.18

Review written for Record Collector magazine

View: Down the front in Pit A (Ronnie’s side)

A beautiful summer evening and a packed stadium augured well for the Stones return to their home town and they did not disappoint. Mick Jagger’s opening remarks emphasised how much London means to the band, even claiming that they played at nearby Dalston Baths (they did, in November 1963). The No Filter tour has featured a stripped back stage with walkways and massive video screens, allowing the band to project to the back of the 80,000 capacity venue. The sound was loud and clear, with a mix that emphasised the guitars. Street Fighting Man made for an emphatic set opener, highlighting the increasingly robust contributions of Keith Richards. Whilst co-guitarist Ronnie Wood still played the majority of the solos Keith was a more active partner in their guitar weaving and delivered a tough solo version of Before They Make Me Run.

Winner of the audience vote was Under My Thumb, delivered in a bouncy arrangement reminiscent of the 1966 original, albeit with some of the more sexist lyrics edited out. Adding more variety to their two hour, nineteen song set was the ballad Fool To Cry, not performed live since 1999. Jade, the daughter that Jagger sings about putting on his knee, is now 46 and she watched the song from behind Charlie Watts’ drum riser. Ride ‘Em On Down was the only blues number, this and a  raucous Midnight Rambler provided Jagger with a chance to show off his considerable harmonica prowess. There was a real visceral impact to Ronnie and Keith hitting the opening chords of Sympathy For The Devil in unison as the stage flooded with blood red light – a great mix of visuals and music. Some hardcore fans are claiming this as the best Stones London show since Wembley in 1982. And it’s only the second gig of the tour – in the words of Keith Richards they are just getting warmed up!

Chuck, Wendy, Simon, Keith, Mick

“Ladies and Gentleman…the Second Greatest Rock’n’Roll Band in the World – The IORR Band!”

The Hope & Anchor, Upper Street, Islington 22.05.18

Wondering where to go next in your Rolling Stones rock’n’roll time machine? Will it be The Roundhouse in 1970? Madison Square Gardens ’72? El Mocamabo in ’77? Well tonight the IORR Band took a packed and sweaty basement all the way back to October 17 1973 and the Forest National Arena. Yes, its Brussells Affair, track by track, note by note.

And what a great job they made of it. No rehearsals and they only meet once a year. And the monitors weren’t working. Somehow these guys transcend the term ‘covers band’ through their love and commitment to these classic songs. DandelionPowerMan did a terrific job as a front man, ably supported by a rotating cast of musicians including guest harp (WildSlivovic), saxophone , keyboards, impeccable bass (Mr_dja)/drums (IrwinH) and a bewildering selection of guitarists (BluzDude, Roller99, Duke Richardson). Special mention to Mathjis who pulled off my favourite moment of the night when he did that Mick Taylor switching pickup thing on his Les Paul Sunburst on an ever accelerating Street Fighting Man that closed the set proper. Encores were not as per ‘73 but instead a rambunctious Let It Rock and then a real audience singlaong in Bye Bye Johnny.

Almost as good as the band was the crowd. I recognised ManOfWealthAndTaste , BarRoomQueen , SilverDagger, Beast and SomeTorontoGirl (thanks for the plectrum). And Steve. Where was PaulyWaul?

And I got a signed setlist – at last something that Matt Lee doesn’t have !

A great event in its own right and a perfect aperitif for tonight’s London Olympic gig – only with a much better setlist!

Photocredits: Dag Hakon Hellevik

Bryan Ferry, The London Palladium 01.05.18

View: Centre stalls, three rows from the front

Bryan Ferry provided a succinct summary of his career for a sold-out Palladium crowd, covering both solo material and a judicious selection of Roxy Music classics. The elegant theatre provided a perfect setting for his classy crooning and his well-drilled nine-piece band. The sequence of Ladytron followed by Out Of The Blue highlighted the contributions of violinist Marina Moore and slinky saxophonist Jorja Chalmers. Mid-set suffered from too many medium-paced songs of similar melodic construction, distinguished by an acoustic Bittersweet where bass-player Jerry Meehan switched to bassoon to great effect. Remake/Remodel and Do The Strand featured Luke Bullen’s energetic drumming and got the crowd on their feet as did Love Is The Drug and Virginia Plain. Let’s Stick Together allowed guitarist Chris Spedding to cut loose with a rocking Chuck Berry coda, Jealous Guy saw backing vocalists Bobbie Gordon and Hannah Khemoh demonstrate their impressive range and a final Editions Of You proved that “Stay Cool Is Still The Main Rule” .

Photocredit: Richard Gray/EMPICS ( richard@rugfoot.com )

Written for Record Collector Magazine.