Live Review: The Rolling Stones, Tokyo Dome, 20th February, 1990


Everyone knows the lyric: "I know it's only Rock 'n' Roll but I like it..." So, what is Rock n' Roll? Going to a Stones concert – even if it is in Japan – is still one of the best ways to find out. Lesson number one: Don't make a weak entrance, as the stage is almost demolished by a curtain of dangerous-looking explosions that clear the air for the Stones to run on and rev up with Start Me Up. Mick is really bouncing and strutting tonight.

Lots of energy and a legend, they hit you hard. You hardly notice the first few songs, the catchy Sad Sad Sad and the grinding sass and brass of Harlem Shuffle amongst them. You're still trying to say, "Wow! This is the Stones!" and stop your head spinning.

The fast pace carries us through Miss You where we have old Michelin Mouth comparing lip sizes with the sexy backing singers. Then they pause for breath... They do Angie nice and slow, and, the wind back in their sails, belt out the two big songs from the album.

Rock and a Hard Place comes back slightly mangled as "Lock anda Hahd Praise" by the 50,000 audience in this massive indoor baseball stadium that saw the demise of Mike Tyson only days before.

For Mixed Emotions Mick dons a guitar but it's still Ronnie Wood doing everything in this department, solos included. As the smoke clears, Keith looks out of it stoned and confused but then we've still to hear him sing.

But before that quite a few things happen. Honky Tonk Women is the visual highlight. Halfway through the song, just the right thing happens – two giant Honky Tonk dolls inflate before our eyes on either side of the stage. One of them has her hand dangling between her thighs. At the climax of the song (pun fully intended) Mick shakes her leg and lets the big wobbly thing do unmentionable things to herself in front of the assembled millions. Ludicrous! Brilliant! This makes the tired classic sound a lot better.

From one song about the seedy underworld to another in the shape of the Midnight Rambler, this ain't the cleaned up, anti-drugs, ecologically aware rock of the Live Aid era and thank God – or the Devil – for that. (Nothing wrong with saving the planet, but its better to do something than feel you're doing something by going to all the right-minded concerts.)

After Little Red Rooster, Mick takes a tea break as the next two songs belong to Keith. The limelight must be rousing him, because he handles Can't Be Seen and Happy well, his soft smokey vocals contrasting nicely with Mick's rasping, sneering, jeering style.

When Mick reappears were suddenly back in the Sixties – I can almost smell Carnaby Sreet! Wearing a green caftan he descends a staircase chanting the dirge-like but potent Paint It Black. Then things get psychedelic (does Keef notice the difference?!) as rainbow-coloured blobs of light swim around inside the giant Tokyo Dome.

With horns, Hammonds, and synths supplementing, the Stones have an extremely wide range of sounds tonight – from the rag-time brothel piano of Honky Tonk Women to the luxuriant crescendo of Indian rhythms that introduce Sympathy for the Devil... This is a song about a violent, changing world, all seen through the eyes of Old Nick himself. You could say the Stones occupy a similar position with regard to Rock n' Roll. Like the Devil in their song, they've seen so much come and go and have remained unchanged. The ultimate Stones song!

Where could we go from here? Only downhill I'm afraid, though most people didn’t notice it. We had the enormously popular It's Only Rock and Roll. Then the songs the Stones have been playing to death for years. They rushed through Brown Sugar, Satisfaction, and as a very quick encore Jumping Jack Flash, and finally past the finishing post.

After amost two-and-a-half hours, the tention and tautness of their performance was beginning to sag. Would Old Rubber Lips suddenly deflate like those giant Honky Tonk dolls? He never gave us a chance to find out.

Riff Raff
July, 1990
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