Friday, November 18, 2011

Review: The Rolling Stones' 'Some Girls Live in Texas '78'

No offense to Ron Wood, but there’s little denying that The Rolling Stones crossed an unfortunate threshold when they lost Mick Taylor in 1974. Heavy drugs, superstardom, and a bloated reputation for hedonism started taking the place of genuine inspiration. If Goat’s Head Soup and It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll displayed a definite decline in quality from the Exile on Main Street high-point, 1976’s Black and Blue was The Stones at their most desperate, flailing through boring jams and pathetic grasps at trendiness. The sloganeering “Hot Stuff” alone is evidence that the once threatening Rolling Stones had gotten kind of sad. The exploding punk movement of the following year (“No Beatles, Elvis, or The Rolling Stones in 1977!”) didn’t make them seem any more relevant, yet Jagger’s penchant for trend hopping meant his band was going to incorporate those now sounds into their music whether they liked it or not.

Surprisingly, the experiment wasn’t a total failure, and 1978’s Some Girls is regularly cited as The Stones’ last consistently great album of all-new material. After the directionless Black and Blue, Some Girls found them making a calculated effort to write well-realized songs and recapture the most celebrated and condemned aspects of the now-mythic Stones persona: their casual offensiveness and misogyny, their “fuck you” humor, their willingness to explore transgressive topics, as well as their soulfulness and lean muscle.

When The Stones toured Some Girls, that same attitude ruled their performances. The show captured by filmmaker Lynn Lenau Calmes at the Will Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth, Texas, is a testament to this. The Stones work hard, delivering a clutch of classics and most of Some Girls with force and speed without slumping into the sloppiness that sometimes called their “World’s Greatest Rock & Roll Band” status into question. Ronnie Wood has assimilated into the band nicely, recreating Mick Taylor’s slide lines on “All Down the Line” with uncanny ease. This is a professional band playing at the peak of its powers. So why does the guy out front keep drawing attention away from that serious Rock & Roll with his goofy jumping jacks?

As The Stones settled into their professional routine, Mick Jagger settled into his role as clown. At his most self-conscious, he’s absolutely ridiculous in the new DVD Some Girls Live in Texas ‘78, grabbing his and Ronnie’s cocks and mumbling about how the band is weary from fucking all night. Jagger’s attempts to give the people the shocks he thinks they want from the bad, bad Rolling Stones are as inauthentic as the “punk” swastika T-shirt he reveals toward the end of the set. Ooooh! Dangerous!

But amidst all his insufferable posing, Jagger can’t help allowing authenticity to peak through from time to time. Not when he has cats as genuine as Keith and Charlie powering away behind him. So we get moving versions of “Beast of Burden” and “Love in Vain”, even though it’s jarring to see a guy wearing garbage-bag trousers paying tribute to salt-of-the-earth Robert Johnson.

Jagger also deserves credit for the unexpected versatility he displays on this DVD, contributing extra guitar on several numbers and keyboard parts on “Far Away Eyes”. And if much of his stage shenanigans are ludicrous, it’s refreshing to see such a lack of spectacle at a show that took place after The Stones had become a splashy juggernaut. There are no inflatable boners. The stage is small and intimate. The supporting musicians are limited to official sixth-Stone Ian Stewart and Ronnie’s former bandmate Ian McLagan on keyboards. And let’s face it, even if this isn’t prime-era Stones when one could really be in awe of everything they ape here, it’s still the fucking Stones, which means the guys still put on a damn good concert.

Along with embalming Jagger’s silliest tendencies and grabbing some genuinely mean music, Some Girls Live in Texas ‘78 also features a great selection of bonuses. There are vintage and new interviews in which Mick comes off as infinitely more authentic and charming than he does in the concert they accompany, further drawing attention to the fact that he was really just playing a role on stage. Even better is The Stones’ full appearance on “Saturday Night Live” in October 1978, both the 12-minute musical portion and the “Tomorrow” sketch in which Dan Aykroyd plays Tom Snyder interviewing Mick. The band is kind of sloppy and the singer sounds like he has laryngitis, but the sketch is still hilarious, with Mick holding his own nicely against Akyroyd’s rock-solid comic capering. An actor to the end.

Some Girls Live in Texas ‘78 is available in several formats. Get the one of your choice at with the following links:

Rolling Stones: Some Girls Live In Texas '78 [DVD]

The Rolling Stones: Some Girls - Live in Texas '78 [Blu-ray]

The Rolling Stones: Some Girls - Live In Texas '78 [DVD/CD Combo]

Some Girls - Live In Texas '78 [CD/Blu-Ray Combo]
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