It goes without saying that the Rolling Stones have pumped out a boatload of live releases on CD, DVD and Blu-ray Disc in recent years. Some purists would argue that the band hasn’t released a decent live album since the classic Get Yer Ya- Ya’s Out or maybe I love you to livebut then they would exclude gems from the archives like Brussels Affair (Live 1973), LA Friday (Live 1975) And El Mocambo 1977. Live sets from newer shows like Sticky fingers live at the Fonda TheatreAnd A Bigger Bang – Live on Copacabana Beach offer unique perspectives, typically around an album, location or event. The Stones 2023 GRRR LIVE! follows this pattern by introducing several special guests.
Available in a variety of formats – digital in Atmos, triple black, red or white vinyl, double CD packages containing a DVD or Blu-ray Disc – GRRR LIVE! captures the Stones’ concert on December 15, 2012 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey during the band’s 50th anniversary tour. The night marked the finale of four shows in the New York area, so the Stones decided to turn it into a party, featuring Lady Gaga, The Black Keys, Gary Clark Jr., John Mayer, Bruce Springsteen and their former guitarist Mick Taylor invited to the party stage for a few numbers.
The practice of having guests at shows is something the Stones have been doing regularly since the ’70s. They typically bring out flavors of the day, along with the occasional contemporary or personal hero. In the case of the 50th anniversary GRRR Tour, Mick Taylor played a song or two at almost every stop, while original bassist Bill Wyman joined the band for a few songs in London. Other guests dropped in depending on location and schedule.
In New Jersey, the band makes no secret of delivering important stuff like “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It)”, “Honky Tonk Women” and “Start Me Up”. WWith an expanded line-up of support players, the Stones have been a smooth-running machine for over 30 years, their only major upheaval being the loss of original drummer Charlie Watts in 2021. For the 50th anniversary GRRR Greatest hits album and tour, the addition of two new hip shakers “Doom And Gloom” and “Oner More Shot” only heightened the celebrations. All this and the guests made for a fun evening in New Jersey.
Lady Gaga came first for Gimme Shelter. Wearing a skintight jumpsuit and what appeared to be extra-high heels, the singer made a statement with her brand of over-the-top prance and did her best to outshine Mick Jagger. The frontman of the ultra-cool Stones had no trouble maneuvering – you can almost feel his fear despite never losing his step. He even lets the deceleration run longer than it should.
With Gary Clark Jr. and John Mayer on “Going Down,” things are a lot more organic. Both guitarists provide fiery solos, with Mayer leading the way, usually lighting a fire in the Stones’ engine room. The Black Keys, back then at their peak with their El Camino album, take the prize for looking your most uncomfortable and awkward for a round of Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love?” To their credit, it must be a daunting proposition to play on stage with the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band in the world. In contrast, Bruce Springsteen, whose own legacy is closest to that of the Stones, had no qualms belting out “Tumbling Dice,” though no one could do the song justice like Linda Ronstadt.
That leaves the most awaited spot – at least for hardcore Stones fanatics – of the show: the Mick Taylor reunion. While it might have been preferable to see Taylor churning out the jazzy solo on “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” like he did on other stops on the tour, New Jersey was treated to a chunky “Midnight Rambler” instead . The guitarist upped it with a few licks here and there, but mostly dragged the line with Ron Wood and Keith Richards. Hey, you can’t always get what you want.
Speaking of which, in a rare attempt to reproduce the actual recording, the band offered a unique version of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” featuring the Trinity Wall Street Choir. This, along with a double punch of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” to end the show on a high note.
Since it first aired in 2012, this show has not been released in any form. With re-edited video and re-mixed audio, plus three songs (“Respectable” with John Mayer, “Around And Around” and “Gimme Shelter” without Gaga) from the December 13 show (also in Newark) as bonus material on DVD and Blu-ray, GRRR LIVE! is one to add to the library, especially when filled with dozens of other live sets released by the Rolling Stones.
~ Shawn Perry