THE LEFSETZ LETTER: The Stones At The Fonda

START ME UP


"You make a grown man cry"


Like the one out front, who offered four grand cash, so he could take his ten year old son to see the Stones. I saw the green. But today it's all about experiences, not possessions, and there's no amount of money that will prevent you from having a peak that may never come again, like the Stones in a small venue.


It was Jan & Dean who sang "They're coming from all over the world!" but Jan is gone yet his fellow stars from the "T.A.M.I Show" are still doing it so it was amazing who came from far and wide for this event. I haven't done this much business in one night since MusiCares. But this time there was no riff-raff. Ha!


Bob Lefsetz, Santa Monica-based industry legend, is the author of the e-mail newsletter, "The Lefsetz Letter". Famous for being beholden to no one, and speaking the truth, Lefsetz addresses the issues that are at the core of the music business: downloading, copy protection, pricing and the music itself.

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Never boring, always entertaining, Mr. Lefsetz's insights are fueled by his stint as an entertainment business attorney, majordomo of Sanctuary Music's American division and consultancies to major labels.

Bob has been a weekly contributor to CelebrityAccess and Encore since 2001, and we plan many more years of partnership with him. While we here at CelebrityAccess and Encore do not necessarily agree with all of Bob's opinions, we are proud to help share them with you.

And the band started on time and they were not over-loud and by beginning with the obvious opener…THEY BLEW MY MIND!


And that's what it was, a band. A relic from the sixties and seventies. When there were no hard drives and ELO was put out of business for performing with tapes. There was no fakery, no smoke and mirrors, just a few lights and a bunch of fellows with instruments and amps.


This is the way it used to be. When the British invaded and changed our world forever.


WHEN THE WHIP COMES DOWN


My second favorite track from "Some Girls," the first LP that fully integrated Ronnie Wood, who, like Charlie, was really good tonight.


Up close and personal he's a mere wisp of a person, but on stage Ronnie is a giant, a full-fledged Stone, he's never been better. You could see all the way back to those Rod Stewart records, where he switched from bass to lead.


I think it was on this song that Mick first played guitar.


ALL DOWN THE LINE


This was the first stratospheric moment, when Keith opened with the signature riff.


Despite the recent accolades, "Exile On Main Street" was an overlooked album. Number one while the band was on tour soon after its release in '72, it fell off the chart almost instantly thereafter.


But if you put in the time, "Exile" reveals its magic.


And I always thought "All Down The Line" was a throwaway romp, especially compared to "Let It Loose," "Ventilator Blues" and "Casino Boogie." But tonight I got it, because of Keith and that guitar.


We know those legendary sounds, they came out of the car speaker, through the KLHs and JBLs, into our headphones. And it used to be that you went to see the Stones and the sound was not exactly the same. But tonight it was, as if Keith channeled '72.


Made me grin from ear to ear.


SWAY


So that's the gimmick of this tour, the playing of the '71 classic, "Sticky Fingers," from start to finish.


But they still might not. Because there are so many slow cuts. Will the people tolerate them? After all, the Who performed "Tommy" and always left a couple of numbers out.


This was not the first time the band did "Sway" live. It was good to hear, but not transcendent.


DEAD FLOWERS


They locked into the groove.


That was what was surprising about this entire gig. How good the boys were. They're famous for being ragged, not quite as bad as the Grateful Dead, but there are always moments when it's not quite jelling. But not tonight!


I like "Dead Flowers" on record, I LOVED IT TONIGHT!


WILD HORSES


The same, yet different from the record.


You see Mick was selling it more.


It's hard to play live gigs. No matter how famous you are, you only get the benefit of the doubt for the first thirty seconds. After that, you've got to prove yourself night after night.


Ever since he did that solo turn on the Grammys a couple of years back, Mick has upped his game, he's as good as ever, if not better. He's comfortable with himself, his patter is cutting and insightful.


For example, you can't perform "Sticky Fingers" from start to finish, because then you'd have to begin with "Brown Sugar" and you'd end up squandering your momentum. So Mick said they were going to play it in the order from the 8-TRACK! You remember 8-tracks, don't you? Unwieldy cartridges where the songs were rearranged to fit the four sections of tape? Needless to say, Mick was lying/making a joke, but even better was his tossed off aside that next time they're going to do "Satanic Majesties" from start to finish!


But my point is it's Mick who's keeping it under control, everybody else is just playing, he's moving, prancing, not as much as in the seventies and eighties, but in more of a refined fashion these days, and this toned-down version works.


And during the breaks between numbers, the audience talked, but Mick soldiered on.


It's all about being a professional.


SISTER MORPHINE


And here's where it starts to get really good. When you start to hear songs you'd never think you'd ever hear live.


They were albums, and you played them from start to finish. And in the middle of "Sticky Fingers” second side was this magical track with that acoustic guitar and then wailing electric and the despair of a late night druggie. I always loved it then, and it was sensational hearing it tonight.


YOU GOTTA MOVE


The PIECE-DE-RESISTANCE! The highlight of the show, the moment I could not get out of my head.


So Mick says they're gonna sing a song they didn't write. Unlike so many of his brethren, he credits Mississippi Fred McDowell and then says Keith is gonna play the 12 string.


And from the wings a roadie comes out with an acoustic, Keith sits down and starts fiddling, smiling those pearly whites all the while.


AND THEN HE STARTS TO PLAY!


Forget the record.


On "Sticky Fingers" "You Gotta Move" is a throwaway. Tonight, it was a thread from what was to what is and will always be. The essence of rock and roll, the blues!


Having not performed these album tracks on a regular basis, the Stones rehearsed the hell out of them. These deep cuts were better than the rest. And, "You Gotta Move" evidenced a groove not even touched on the record.


If you were a fan, if you know the Stones catalog, THIS IS AS GOOD AS IT GETS!


BITCH


Listening to them play "Sticky Fingers" you realize how few hits it had. This was the album's second most famous cut, and how famous is this?


It was a different era. Where it was about the LP, listening to our favorites over and over again, the radio was secondary to our collection.


"Bitch" was good.


And is this the moment to say how Keith seems to have recovered from his fall, from his mental hejira? Not only was his guitar-playing on point, so were his background vocals!


CAN'T YOU HEAR ME KNOCKING


Mick Taylor's tour-de-force.


Alas, Mick is not on this tour.


But what put this over the top was the instrumental section, featuring Karl Denson in the place of Bobby Keys. They changed it up just a bit, improvised just a bit, and that made all the difference.


For those who weren't born back then, "Can't You Hear Me Knocking" is seven plus minutes long, it was a journey to the center of your mind and back. And when you hear it today you're connected with back then and your whole life makes sense. It's not about money, but art.


The Stones are the last of a dying breed. Sure, they're making beaucoup bucks, but there are scores of wet behind the ears techie-punks who make much more. Instead of chasing what cannot be caught, the Stones are laying back into who they are, merging with their legacy, being first and foremost musicians, not stars. Tonight was all about the playing. You could tell they were having fun. And that's the reason we do it, right?


I GOT THE BLUES


Almost as good as "You Gotta Move." A track that never resonated with me on wax, "I Got The Blues" was exquisite perfection tonight. The groove and Mick's delivery. This was when he had the audience in the palm of his hand. He even had the assembled multitude singing along with and without him at the end.


You go for the hits, but it's the hidden gems that get you, that keep you coming back.


MOONLIGHT MILE


Just a bit faster, not quite as ethereal as the album-closing track, tonight's "Moonlight Mile" worked on its own terms. It dragged not at all, yet still had you pondering those nights lying in the grass looking up at the stars as your mind was blown.


BROWN SUGAR


So let me paint the picture.


The Beatles had broken up. Despite the career peak double-whammy of "Beggars Banquet" and "Let It Bleed" there were no hit singles, the Stones were an album band, a big one, but their days on the hit parade were behind them.


That's right, "Sympathy For The Devil" was too dark for AM radio.


And as haunting as "Gimmie Shelter" was, you'd never hear Cousin Brucie introduce it.


And then this.


"Gold coast slave ship bound for cotton fields"


Not that we could make that out. The lyrics were buried in the mix, it was all a sound, one that dominated the airwaves for most of the seventies. The party did not begin, the weekend did not start, until someone dropped the needle on "Brown Sugar" and we threw our hands in the air and sang "Yeah, yeah, yeah, WOO!"


And we did tonight!


ROCK ME BABY


B.B. King's first hit.


And the first encore.


The Stones were devotees, historians, they had roots, which they extended deep into history. They were not just stars, but blues acolytes who filtered what once was to create something new that infected the entire hearing world.


"Rock Me Baby" is a song everybody knows, even if they think they don't. A great way to put a capper on the evening.


JUMPIN' JACK FLASH


A 1968 summer smash with an indelible riff that burned itself into our collective brains.


And I'd like to tell you it was as good as the "Sticky Fingers" stuff, but it wasn't. Because they play "Jumpin' Jack Flash" every night, they didn't have to rehearse it, they didn't have to make sure they got it right.


But it was great to hear it!


I CAN'T TURN YOU LOOSE


The finale.


Mick says they're gonna do this one really fast. Reminding you that they're a band, not locked into hard drives or click tracks. It was just ragged enough to evidence humanity. It was done for them, they seemed not to care what we thought, which made us care that much more.


And then they were gone.


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