The Bradley Center
February 19, 1999
Story by Tony Bonyata"It's nice to know we're making our mark on Milwaukee once again", exclaimed Mick Jagger last Friday evening to the nearly sold-out crowd at the Bradley Center. It's actually been almost 24 years since The Rolling Stones last "made their mark" in Brew City (their last performance here was June 8th, 1975 at the County Stadium). This was in fact only their forth time playing this city in their 37 year career as a band ( the first two shows were at the Arena in 1964 and 1965) and judging from the fan's hungry reactions to their music it's been way too long.
Photos Courtesy Barry Brecheisen
On their latest "No Security" tour (their 14th tour of North America) The Stones have decided to strip away all of the behemoth stage props and special effects that have made their last several tours more of a spectacle than a rock concert, with the stage trappings often overshadowing their music. Another major change in their tour strategy this time was to forgo the gigantic outdoor stadiums (which found Jagger looking more like the size of the hip-shaking ant on last year's horrendous Pepsi commercial, which used their song "Brown Sugar") and instead play smaller, more intimate venues (although the thought of a 18,000 capacity stadium hardly constitutes a cozy, intimate setting).
Above the wide clean, black stage was a large video screen which showed a black and white film of Mick, Keith, Charlie and Ronnie walking through backstage corridors leading to the stage. As soon as the short video ended they were onstage with guitarist Keith Richards ripping out the familiar chords of "Jumping Jack Flash". Jagger, with thick, shoulder length hair and neatly dressed in slim black trousers, black jacket and dark shades, defied age as he strutted, jittered and slid across the stage with the grace of a twenty-year-old, and at an age when most men are contemplating social security and viagra he still managed to ooze sex appeal. With Richards at his side, clad in a black leather jacket along with the deep 'laughing-at-the face-of-death' lines in his face, they proved to still be setting the standard for what a rock band should look like.
The show featured not only huge hits from their extensive back catalog but old treasures rarely played, with two never performed live before this tour. Considering that the tickets sold for unheard of prices for a rock concert (from $39.50 to $250 apiece, and that's before you get raked-over-the-coals from Ticketmaster's exorbitant service fees) this mix of familiar hits along with wonderful rarities proved to be the winning combination to satisfy both the casual fans and hard-core Stones aficionados.
Although the band sounded great on hits like "Brown Sugar", "It's Only Rock 'n' Roll", "Honky Tonk Woman" and "Start Me Up" these often heard numbers from their last few tours were beginning to sound a little predictable. It took the blasting, snotty punk sounds of "Respectable", which featured Jagger with a rather respectable rhythm guitar, and the back alley grit of Richards' guitar, along with a smoking sax from longtime sideman Bobby Keys, on "Live With Me" (from the 1969 album Let It Bleed) to give this tour a well needed transfusion.
Jagger's lifelong exploits with women are renowned, his most recent with wife Jerry Hall who, fed up with his years of philandering, filed for divorce last month. He indirectly reminded the audience of his latest indiscretion with Brazilian model Luciana Giminez Morad, who is purportedly carrying his child, on their 1978 number "Some Girls" as he coyly belted out, "Some girls give me children, I only made love to 'em once!". The audience seemed to approve of his bad-boy antics as they laughed and cheered along. Other rarely heard gems like the whiskey-laced, country-twang of "Sweet Virginia" (from "Exile On Main Street") and Keith Richards' wonderful "You Got The Silver", which featured his raspy, earnest voice and had him trading off bluesy acoustic slide licks with Ronnie Wood, more than justified the pricey seats.
The Stones, thankfully, kept one key element from their 'Bridges To Babylon' tour around for this one as well. The small stage located in the center of the auditorium brought "the world's greatest rock 'n' roll band" closer to those fans in the cheaper seats giving them a more up-close and personal performance. Hearkening back to their early days in the 60's they tore into "Route 66" before settling into a soulful version of the Motown classic "Just My Imagination". But it was the mystic groove of their 1969 number "Midnight Rambler" on this stage, with Richards' driving rhythm guitar, Charlie Watts thrashing drums and Jagger's short bursts of gut-bucket harmonica, that showcased the band's dynamics. Although the average age of the audience was in the neighborhood of 40, there was a broad range of both young and old in attendance.
"The first time I saw the Stones it was at the Milwaukee Arena in '65," recalled 52 year-old Milwaukee sales supervisor Russ Gamsky. "I loved their R&B sound in the early sixties. One thing that sticks in my mind from that show was that the Arena was only about half full and Mick said 'Everybody in the back come on and move up to front'. Everybody rushed up to stage, and I thought that was so cool." Although Gamsky remembers only paying about $8 for that ticket back in '65, he had absolutely no reservations in plunking down a steep $120 for his seat last Friday night. "The Stones are excellent entertainers and put on a great show. I also saw their 1989 Steel Wheels and 1994 Voodoo Lounge tours...excellent shows! $120 for tonight's show? Worth every penny!", he exclaimed.
13 year-old Rolling Stones fan Joe Munson, from Hastings, Minnesota who was also in attendance last Friday, was invited to do a lot more than just move up closer to the stage just a few days prior to the Milwaukee show. As Joe's mom and longtime Stones fan Cheryl explained, "We won a radio contest , and not only got to see the them in concert in Minneapolis but Joe got to go backstage and personally shake all of the Stones' hands." Cheryl went on to say, "Joe told me earlier that when he shook Mick's hand he was going to say, 'Pleased to meet you!' (in reference to Jagger's satanic greeting from their song "Sympathy For The Devil"), but he chickened out and at the last minute he just quietly said 'Nice to meet you'."
The Rolling Stones strategy to put the focus back on the personality of the band and their music for their "No Security" tour worked beautifully, producing one of their most enduring and entertaining concerts in long time. Unfortunately, if Milwaukee has to wait as long as they did last time to see them, the Stones would be nearing 80 years old, and I seriously doubt, assuming they're still around, that they'd be able to pull it off like they did last Friday. But then again....
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