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Phases & Stages

Live shots

Reviewed by Raoul Hernandez, December 9, 2005, Music

The Rolling Stones

American Airlines Center, Dallas, Nov. 29

The Rolling Stones

Toyota Center, Houston, Dec. 1

Ian McLagan & the Bump Band

Continental Club, Houston, Dec. 1

When your heroes become mortal, so too are you. As up close and personal as it was, the $425 seat at Dallas' American Airlines Center – courtesy of the band – was also a bit disconcerting. They looked as wobbly as opener "Start Me Up" sounded. Mick Jagger has achieved Iggy Pop tautness in his old age (62), but his face betrays his pact with the Devil. Keith Richards, also 62: guess. Even Ronnie Wood (58) appears frail. By far the best looking of the bunch is the Rolling Stones' true rock, drummer Charlie Watts, 64. He looks better now than he did at 40. The band's new album, A Bigger Bang, is no doubt named for Watts. He pounds like his silver, sinewy life depends on it. Otherwise, the surviving quartet, augmented by Darryl Jones on bass, keyboardist Chuck Leavell, and a cadre of horns, plus MVP soul chorus Lisa Fischer, Bernard Fowler, and Blondie Chaplin, looked almost as rickety as canceled opener Merle Haggard. Delbert McClinton, who coolly kicked Ft. Worth butt with 40 buckskin-tight minutes of R&B instead, should've been giving lessons. "You Got Me Rocking," "Shattered" – the guitars and guitarists sounded like shit. A full contingent brought "Tumbling Dice" to life, though it might well have been Fischer's dress. Contrary to popular opinion, new material highlights any Stones' tour and snarky rock-up "Oh No Not You Again" and moody, midtempo "Rain Fall Down" didn't disappoint. Guitarists, arise! Richards' acoustic on "Wild Horses" sparkled, but his harmonies, not so much. A knife right down your throat (baby, and it hurts) proved the antidote: "Midnight Rambler." A staple since their 1969 spree of the Americas redefined modern rock juggernauts, the 10-minute blues bludgeoning was rusty, sure, but with sharp objects, that's okay, Jagger's harp strutting along with him in his black leather pants. When Jagger, Richards, Wood, and Jones gathered at Watts' drum stall in heads-down, meet-you-at-the-end mode, you could almost smell the sulfur. When Fischer next torched Ray Charles' "The Night Time Is the Right Time," even Jagger shrieked with delight. Richards' twofer "Slipping Away" and new double entendre "Infamy" proved the entirely wrong excuse for bathroom runs, but the moment the middle of the main stage detached and floated raftlike across the arena floor, all eyes were on the band. "Miss You," new keeper "Rough Justice," "Get Off My Cloud," and "Honky Tonk Woman" preceded the now usual end-run of hits: "Sympathy for the Devil," "Brown Sugar," "Jumping Jack Flash," plus encores "You Can't Always Get What You Want" and "Satisfaction." By stark contrast, from out in the cheap(er) seats – $185, courtesy of and moi (though the band was still kind enough to pony up the $425 view) – the group was banging from the "Start Me Up." There are two kinds of Stones shows now: the ones where Keith lets Ronnie do all the wank and those in which Richards tears it down. With "It's Only Rock & Roll" in the No. 2 slot, Richards punched out the song's Chuck Berry riff and never looked back. "She's So Cold" breezed by next with its predecessor's video nostalgia from two tours ago. "Dead Flowers" and "Bitch" stood in for "Horses" and "Rambler," while "Satisfaction" traded slots with "JJ Flash." The only other difference? The second to last night of this tour leg, and thus a certain elan, a wicked grin – Richards', no doubt. And no sooner had the streamers fallen from the Toyota Center's rafters than those with 40 licks of sense high-tailed it down the street to Houston's Continental Club, where "Miss You" pianist and longtime Austin icon Ian McLagan was grinning just as sharp. Halfway through the first set, the Small Faces/Faces' organ donor had a full house eating off his keyboard setup. The Bump Band, guitarist Scrappy Jud Newcomb, bassist Mark Andes, and drummer Don Harvey, is Mac's perfect pub band, so when they kicked into the Faces' "Cindy Incidentally" early in the second set – a song Mac wrote – not even Ronnie Wood could contain himself. In fact, only Chuck Leavell, pleasantly anonymous in the audience, could; Blondie Chaplin and Bernard Fowler quickly followed Wood onstage to rollick through some ancient New Barbarians tunes. Twenty-thousand strong at the Toyota Center didn't react with the verve of those clamoring inside Austin's satellite venue. "What'cha Gonna Do About It," the Small Faces' first single from 1965, capped the evening with a pair of shaggy ex-Brits, Mac and Woody, embraced in a timeless expression of love and affection: music.

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