The notoriously tight-arsed Stones have finally started to loosen up with the contents of their sizable archive. Long-awaited gems from their prime years, like the 1972 concert film Ladies And Gentlemen The Rolling Stones, a handful of Exile On Main Street and Get Your Ya Yas Out outtakes, even a tiny bit of the notoriously unreleasable Robert Frank documentary Cocksucker Blues have all seen release in the last few years, albeit some of them only as part of extra-pricey box sets.
The results of their latest dip into the vault is not too shabby – an unreleased film of a complete show from the Some Girls tour, which despite its later vintage, contains moments that blow all that stuff away. For one thing, it’s surprisingly well-shot, a much better visual portrayal of an entire band than Ladies And Gentlemen, which gave 95% of the camera time to Jagger. But mostly it’s indispensable for capturing the Stones at their final peak, their last moment of true potency.
You can hear the Stones’ response to punk in the relentless riffs of “Respectable” and “When The Whip Comes Down”, and the lyrics, which bring the depraved manor lord of “Live With Me” and “Stray Cat Blues” down to Taxi Driver-era New York and teach him multiculturalism. Their vision of punk seems more Lou Reed than Ramones, but the result is undeniably tighter and harder than the handful of albums that precede it, a step up for a band that had looked to be in decline. Of course, they’d slide right back into that decline a year later with the vapid Emotional Rescue, but for a moment, they sound re-energized, as if they have something to prove for the first time in God knows how long. They sound determined to rock more completely than these snotty teenagers that dare question their elders ever could, and do it in the big room.
For the accompanying tour, captured for this release on a brilliant night in Fort Worth, they ignored most of the expected crowd-pleasers and all their ballads, and put together a show built around the new album, with a smattering of numbers from the catalog that fit the groove – “Star Star”, “All Down The Line” and so forth. Mostly short, fast, sharp songs, the ballsiest and juiciest of their repertoire. Jagger sets the tone by announcing to the crowd, “We love being in Texas. If the band’s a little bit lacking in energy tonight, it’s because we spent it all last night fuckin’.”
Well, if that’s what it takes to get them to play like this, I say, let them do that EVERY night. Yeah, yeah of course I know – they do. They’re the Rolling Stones, after all. But they’re also human beings, and had, just two years earlier, proved themselves capable of giving a flabby, unfocused performance if they felt like it (see the highly underwhelming Love You Live for proof). The Stones practically invented the English manner of loose-but tight, but by then they’d clearly loosened it a little too much. Maybe it was all that time hanging with mellow Jamaicans, trying to project a relaxing glow instead of fighting in the streets. They really did sound like a band that had done a little too much fuckin’ the night before at that point, and even the drooling core audience that’ll pay good money for any old thing they put out doesn’t JUST pay them to get laid.
But by ’78 they’re back to working for it. Loose-but-tight becomes tight-but-loose, as they blast through the fast ones hovering an inch off the ground. The version of “Shattered” pumps it up to almost double the original tempo, Charlie Watts busting out a shifty backbeat at lightning speed, Woody asserting himself with some of the best playing he’d ever do. Not even those ealier films from the Mick Taylor era convey the level of energy shown by the entire band here. The pace only slackens for a handful of new songs, the disco-slinky “Miss You” and “Beast of Burden”, the country yarn “Faraway Eyes”, and a slow-grooving cover of “Just My Imagination”.
This tour was the last time the band would offer a new vision of themselves, one the fans hadn’t seen before. While it’s a short show, slim on big hits and not at all balanced, it’s overall more satisfying than any of the films of their later tours, in which the essence of the Stadium Stones doesn’t really change. The latter-day shows are still pretty good, well-planned to cover every facet of their long career, including just enough new stuff while focusing on the songs you grew up with. But if this is the tail end of their evolution, they seem determined to go out with a bang.
Some Girls Live In Texas ’78 will be screened in theaters for one night only, this Tuesday October 18 at LA Live and other locations, see the NCM Fathom website for all locations. CD, DVD and Blu-Ray versions will be released on November 21 by Eagle Rock Entertainment.