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Got To Scrape That Shit Right Off Your Shoes

March 13, 2012

First published August 2007

The Stones Conquer Slane Castle 

So we’ve flown from London to Dublin, driven to some village in the middle of nowhere and stood in a muddy field place packed like sardines for 8 hours in the soft Irish rain…to watch one old geezer touch another old geezer on the neck? Absolutely. And it was money and time well spent. Here’s why.

At this stage in the game going to see the Stones is about many things of which the music is only one strand. What fascinates me is the relationship between the three frontmen – Mick, Keith and Ronnie. It is worth going through the aforementioned  to see the drama played out close up and personal.

Reports of recent gigs have put Mick in the ascendent with Keith subdued and Ronnie doing most of the guitar work. Tonight Keith certainly came roaring out of the traps with an extraordinary high kick that accompanied the first chords of set-opener ‘Start Me Up’ but then after staking out his territory he rather laid back until a beautifully judged version of ‘Dead Flowers’. Here Mick played effective acoustic, Ronnie played lead and Keith provided those flaky harmonies we so rarely hear now the touring band includes more ‘professional’ back up singers. (photo in Pictures section). By some bizarre coincidence I’d rented The Big Lebowski two days earlier, which features ‘Dead Flowers’ over the end-credits. I love it when synchronicity kicks in like that

What happened next was that Keith metaphorically woke up, shook himself down and drove the band into a rocking version of ‘All Down The Line’  which would not have disgraced the legendary ’72 USA tour. Suitably challenged Mick delivered his best vocal of the evening – every word clear, no pointless running around or faux-ballet moves – totally focused on the job in hand. Charlie was good tonight. Kudos all round.

The next act in the drama came during the band intros. It used to be Charlie whose name was chanted endlessly by the crowd. Now it’s Ronnie and you could see Mick getting more pissed off as the chanting goes on. Ronnie plays up to it and eggs the crowd on. Mick has a quiet word. Ronnie looks totally unabashed (has Ronnie ever looked abashed in his life?). Very visible proof of his new-found importance in the band.

Which was emphasised by the two Keith solo songs that followed. This is traditionally the time when those present to hear the Greatest Hits go for a piss. With 70,000 people between us and the nearest latrine that wasn’t an option tonight. Plus to me Keith’s solo spot is usually a show highlight. And so it proved tonight. ‘You Got The Silver’ emphasises Keith’s current limitations in that he played no guitar but he sang, and sang quite beautifully. Last time I saw Keith do this song he sang and played guitar, suggesting that his accident and subsequent surgery have taken their toll. Whatever, Ronnie took up the slack and played magnificent acoustic slide country blues, even waiting for Keith to come on vocals a couple of times in order to keep the song on track (photo in Pictures section)

And just as the song was finishing Keith reached out to Ronnie – I thought Keith was going give Ronnie a kiss but instead Keith touched the side of Ronnie’s neck, briefly – a sort of “after everything we’ve been through you’re still here to help me” thing and a touching moment of tenderness between two of the craggiest blokes on the planet.

There was a final act in the soap opera that is the closing stages of the Bigger Bang tour. With no ‘Gimmie Shelter’ in the set Lisa Fishers vocal showcase is a call and response session with Mick on a (very good) cover of James Brown’s ‘I’ll Go Crazy’. Mick is doing the whole JB thing of finishing the song, then singing another bit, then stopping, then singing another bit and so on. To 69,999 people this is good fun. To one person it’s too much. That one person is Keith Richards and he’s carrying a Les Paul Junior. Mick’s working up to another ‘I’ll Go Crazy’ when a maximum r’n’b riff from Keith kicks the band into ‘Tumbling Dice’ and a visibly surprised Mick has to reconsider his options. Funniest thing I saw all night.

To be continued (concluded?) at the 02 on Sunday….see you there

 

Full review and setlist at http://www.iorr.org/tour05/slane.htm

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