What, one more live concert culled from the vaults of the Rolling Stones? Do we need another? Haven’t we heard it all before?
Well, yes and no. Back in 1978, the Stones decided to get back to basics with their new LP, Some Girls, and the supporting tour reflected this stripped-down stage in their career. For the performance, filmed at the Will Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth, Texas on July 18, 1978, we get the Stones and nothing but the Stones. No back-up singers, no horn section, only founding Stone Ian Stewart augmenting the ensemble on keyboards. The front line has to share mics and Mick Jagger is wearing “cheap and nasty” clothes he picked up in second-hand stores to be colorful and acknowledge the presence of the punk scene.
Knowing they had a strong new album to promote, eight of the numbers are from Some Girls. So, unlike most other live collections on vinyl, CD, or DVD, this performance was built on mostly fresh material both for the band and the audience. As Jagger claims in an interview recorded for this release, this resulted in an intense concentration by the band on stage as they feared making noticeable mistakes.
Jagger also notes the concerts that year were marked by a fast pace, each song workmanlike with no frills. This is evident in the opening numbers “Let It Rock,” “All Down the Line,” “Honky Tonk Women,” and “Starfucker.” Then the new tunes begin with “When the Whip Comes Down” in a version very different from the studio track. “Shattered” and “Respectable,” however, are straight-ahead bash and smash, just as they are on the original LP.
The band gets more melodic with “Beast of Burden” and their reworking of The Temptations’ “Imagination.” Then, the live “Miss You” downplays the disco-flavor of the single. (Jagger tells us he hadn’t had the dance grooves of the times in mind when he wrote the song until Billy Preston came up with the four-on-the-floor drum beat. As with “Shattered,” he thought he was more influenced by early rap records.) The pace slows down, briefly, with “Far Away Eyes,” wherein Ian Steward’s piano gives the song its honky-tonk flavor.
The concert winds down while drawing from the Stones’ back catalogue starting with the down and dirty “Love in Vain” with some sharp drum work from Charlie Watts. Then they knock off some early material from the ‘70s, “Tumblin’ Dice” and Keith Richards’ moment to shine, “Happy.” Wrapping it all up are quick versions of “Sweet Little Sixteen,” “Brown Sugar,” and “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” All this in 83 minutes.
Making this disc a bit of a time capsule, bonus features show the Stones appearing on television shows like Saturday Night Live, where Jagger sings three songs with a raw, strained voice, and ABC’s 20/20. Interviews with Geraldo Rivera remind us the band hadn’t been together for two years, Ronnie Wood had only joined the band in 1975, and rehearsals for the tour had taken place in Woodstock, New York. All together, the package shows 1978 was a very good year for the Rolling Stones despite punk bands and new wave groups challenging their musical relevance.
For viewers in 2011, this is a flashback to the period between the innovation of the ’60s and early ‘70s and what would become an era of uneven albums and stage shows where the emphasis was often as much on show as the music. True, the songs can often seem rushed and similar in tone and pace, but energy and excitement was clearly the point on this hot summer night in July. The only thing missing is getting hit by the water Jagger throws on some concert-goers. So bring your own bucket and make the experience complete.