The Rolling Stones
From the Vault-Hampton Coliseum-Live in 1981
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
The first ever pay-per-view music concert is now the first in what is promised to be a series of Rolling Stones archival releases (the next is already scheduled for late November). Recorded on December 18, the next to last date of a 50 gig US jaunt and also Keith Richards’ birthday, the show is a rip roaring example of the Stones at arguably their peak. The tour was behind Tattoo You which means such now golden oldie hits like “Start Me Up” and “Waiting on a Friend” were new at the time, with this being their initial live airing.
The performance has been available on bootleg DVD for decades but for its official release the original video tapes were sourced and the sound is newly remixed by Bob Clearmountain. It’s available in a variety of formats with the Blu-ray edition and its uncompressed surround audio making you feel as if you are sitting on stage. An abbreviated, 10 song mix from the tour was released as the much maligned Still Life live album in 1982, but this full 27 track performance is where you get to hear, and see, what was missing from that truncated and disappointing sampler. The set covers a lot of Stones territory from their earliest years (“Time is on My Side” and “Under My Thumb”) through the then recently released Tattoo You (“Black Limousine” is a raw return to their Chicago blues roots) and even a few covers that hadn’t been previously recorded (“Twenty Flight Rock” and “Going to a Go-Go”).
The quintet is augmented by long time pianist Ian Stewart (the last tour before his death four years later) and ex-Faces keyboardist Ian McLagan (both are nearly inaudible for most of the show in the new mix) and a two piece horn section. Although the visuals are far from what you would expect today, this is professionally shot and edited with the best equipment available at the time. The 4:3 ratio of old televisions takes a while to get used to, but the gig is so hot and inspired, you won’t even notice the black lines on either side of the screen once the music gets sweaty.
As usual there are bum notes, missed cues, off key Keith singing and Jagger’s hyperactive, playing to the back rows stage stealing shenanigans which teeter on the border between corny and cool. But that’s all part of the Stones’ charm.
It’s equal parts chaotic and slick, shambolic and snazzy, schlocky and joyous … in other words, the Stones as the showmen many have come to appreciate, tearing it up in their distinctive fashion and making sure everyone leaves with a smile on their face knowing at the end of the sprawling 2 ½ hour show they experienced the best rock and roll band in the world going through the paces. If this is the quality we can expect with future “from the vault” material, bring it on.