Mick and Keef: Slightly Older, Slightly Wiser, But Nearly as Much Fun as Ever

If you’re a gen Yer who’s recently entered your third decade on the planet, I suspect that these November “From the Vault” releases of classic Rolling Stones performances might...

If you’re a gen Yer who’s recently entered your third decade on the planet, I suspect that these November “From the Vault” releases of classic Rolling Stones performances might be the absolute perfect Christmas gift for your very favorite Coors-light-drinking uncle (who likely recently entered his sixth decade on this spinning rock).  This Tuesday, November 4th, Eagle Rock Entertainment will be releasing From the Vault – Hampton Coliseum – Live in 1981 and November 18th Eagle Rock will drop From the Vault – L.A. Forum – Live in 1975.  Each release comes in various formats (Blu-ray, DVD/2CD, DVD/3LP, etc.) and boasts a feature that is two-and-a-half-hours in length… And while 1975 and [certainly] 1981 weren’t exactly the “hippest” periods for The Glimmer Twins… I must admit that the first of the two releases is quite enjoyable… in the kind of way that I would never admit to my actually-hip girlfriend, whose favorite thing about The Stones, I suspect, is their inspiring Anton Newcombe’s The Brian Jonestown Massacre…

From the Vault – Hampton Coliseum – Live in 1981 captures the very same tour most famously documented in Hal Ashby’s 1983 documentary Let’s Spend the Night Together.  And while this performance [which was actually the very first pay-per-view live concert] is not exactly as “artfully” shot, edited, or composed as the better known doc [although it was co-directed by Ashby, who lent a certain cinematic elegance to the TV special], it does focus entirely on the band in the significantly more intimate setting of an arena (which takes a backseat in Ashby’s original film) and also displays the band as the masters of popular performance art in the round, which U2 would go on to try to claim three decades later.  Mick, in his unfortunately over-sized (and over-colored) outfit navigates not only the 360 degrees of the stage itself, but also treks through the audience with as much calculatedly chaotic precision as you could ever hope of someone nearly two decades into their existence as a “rebel youth.”  In addition, Keef and Ron Wood maintain their appearance of black-and-white-denim-and-leather-clad badasses who… have “grown up”… but only just barely (In addition to their ability to remain sonic badasses, even while amidst the arena rock pomp of being surrounded by a largely white horn section…)

Although it’s a bit disappointing that the set list found on this release is nearly identical to that of Ashby’s film (which is, to be fair, entirely the fault of the band… and not the release), the song selection is eclectic enough to likely satisfy fans of any period of the band (with the possible exception of those who can only appreciate their moment in psych rock or their politically radically leftist leaning roots rock).  It does include a number of the band’s early ‘80s tunes… which weren’t necessarily “profound” in any manner that I would like to promote, but it also includes a plethora of the anthems that well-deserve to have made the band the legends that they are (“Under My Thumb,” “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,”  “Brown Sugar.”), a handful of the songs that they truly should be most proud of (“Tumbling Dice,” “All Down the Line,” “Let it Bleed”), and even a number of tunes from their slightly later years (as of 1981) that are quite a bit better than they regularly deserve critical credit for (“Shattered,” “Beast of Burden,” “Waiting on a Friend.”)

The Rolling Stones’ “From the Vault” series may not be the best way to sell the average 20-year-old Pitchfork snob on Mick and Keith’s legitimacy as Rock’N’Roll’s quintessential combo (that would inspire the forever admirable likes of Johansen and Thunders and Iggy and Asheton), but for those already in the know, they are certainly something worth having… and something that could potentially serve as the perfect background for an alcohol-fueled night of fun-loving and letting go of pretentions… Keep checking PHILTHY MAG for coverage of the series’ next entry…

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During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.