Mick Jagger - vocals, guitar, keyboards, harmonica; Keith Richards - guitars, vocals; Ron Wood - guitars, vocals; Bill Wyman - bass; Ian Stewart - piano; Charlie Watts - drums; Ian McLagen - keyboards, vocals; Ernie Watts - saxophone
One of the biggest concert draws in America every time they tour, The Rolling Stones continue to pack the biggest arenas with legions of fans, despite having been at it for well over half a century now. There is little question that in terms of the states, experiences in New York and California had great cultural impact on the band, but it's Illinois - namely Chicago, Illinois, that remains the spiritual epicenter of America as far as The Stones are concerned. The amplified blues that flourished in Chicago, as created by the likes of Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf and Chuck Berry, were indeed the initial inspiration for the group and remain core elements of their music.
Following the 1981 release of Tattoo You, The Stones embarked on an ambitious American tour, performing at stadiums and large arenas, often for multiple nights in the largest cities. Promoted by Bill Graham, over three million tickets would be sold and this tour would become the most profitable in the history of rock and roll up to that time. This would also be the last America tour The Stones would undertake until 1989.
One of the most memorable nights of the '81 tour took place on the evening of November 22nd, an off night in Chicago, while the band was in town preparing for their three-night engagement at the Rosemont Horizon. Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ron Wood and Ian Stewart would turn up at Chicago's Checkerboard Lounge to catch Muddy Waters, joining him on stage and treating the club's patrons to a remarkable night of spontaneous jamming. Officially released on DVD and CD in July of 2012, this jam with Waters would be his last professionally recorded performance before his death in April of 1983.
Presented here in its entirety is The Stones second gig of their three-night run at Chicago's Rosemont Horizon - two days later. Although one would be hard pressed to find any career-defining performances here, this is certainly a solid Stones performance, featuring an abundance of their best material and most importantly, an engaged Keith Richards, both vocally and instrumentally. From "Under My Thumb", which starts up on a slinky groove before transforming into a hard rocking opener, to Jagger's exhausted voice at the end of the "Satisfaction" encore, The Stones rock out and cover all the bases. A surprisingly passionate "Time Is On My Side," a highly energized "Shattered" and a "Start Me Up" that greatly improves upon the new single version at the time, are all fine examples of the diverse range of material, both old and new, explored on this tour. However, the standout performance may indeed be their cover of "Just My Imagination," which rarely came across stronger than it did on this tour.
In retrospect, many now perceive this American tour as one of the better post-1970s Stones tours and it is notable for being the last to feature the core group unadorned by a large supporting cast of musicians and backup singers. Here only ex-Faces keyboardist Ian McLagen and occasional contributions by saxophone virtuoso Ernie Watts augment the core band, allowing The Stones' to be heard loud, clear and in all their ragged glory.