Live: Stones Back To Basics On Triumphant Return To Garden

Trade high-tech lighting and special effects for classic rock show -- and fans love it.

NEW YORK -- The Rolling Stones' triumphant return Wednesday to

Madison Square Garden, their first show at the famed arena in 17 years,

shattered once and for all two myths about the granddaddies of rock's current

world tour:

1) The Rolling Stones are an oldies act.

2) The current tour works only because of the multimillion-dollar stadium effects

and pyrotechnics.

Quintessential frontman Mick Jagger and company, playing their first show at

the Garden since a November 1981 date on the "Tattoo You" tour, treated the

completely sold-out audience of baby boomers -- including wealthy socialite

Ivana Trump -- and curious youngsters to 20-plus songs. In the course of the

night, they mixed the expected standards with a number of old surprises and

five enthusiastic tracks from their latest CD, Bridges to Babylon.

The self-proclaimed "world's greatest rock 'n' roll band" lacked most of its

traveling video show, much of its usually ornate stage design and its fireworks

display and rocked the house harder and louder than on any of its much

ballyhooed stadium dates. Yes, there were strolling waiters with fruit-adorned

champagne roaming the halls, but aside from these niceties, this was one damn

fine, old-fashioned indoor gig -- just like the Stones of old.

It shows just how far rock 'n' roll has come since 1969, when the Stones first

played the Garden. Back then, many predicted that such a venue was just too

big for a good rock show. Wednesday night, the Garden in the hands of the

Stones was like a small club, and Jumping Jack Jagger -- who even at 54, was

the master of the cabaret -- pranced around maniacally as he shuffled

standards such as "Let's Spend The Night Together" with world premieres from

the new LP such as "Lowdown."

Modern-rock chick and MTV mainstay Fiona Apple also took advantage of the

Garden's great sound-system by opening the evening with a surprisingly

effective set, helped immeasurably by a tight band. She earned a good deal of

applause with her video favorite "Criminal" and with a cover of Jimi Hendrix's


And while she helped warm the crowd, she had nothing on the veteran Jagger

with her trademark, charmingly morose stage presence. No one else in rock

can move or stare down a crowd like Jagger. At times it seemed as though

you were watching a sped-up tape gone out of control. When he leers and

sneers at the crowd and shakes his hands spastically at the end of most

numbers, it's enough to make you feel you're being taunted by the Devil


"Jagger totally owned the crowd," said Raymond O'Connell, 36, of Westchester,

N.Y., after the show. "There's nothing like seeing the Stones in a small venue.

The young kids who don't get it are really missing a lot."

Back in '69, the Stones didn't have flashy backup singers such as the powerful,

audience-mooning Lisa Fischer (who was held down on her knees by the

naughty Jagger during one track) or an elaborate horn section led by Bobby

Keys. But when the main band left the large stage for its now customary bridge

walk to a small stage in the middle of the arena, the Stones stepped back in

time for all intents and purposes, left to do it alone again.

The tight ensemble -- Jagger, Keith Richards, Ron Wood, Charlie Watts, bassist

Darryl Jones and keyboardist Chuck Leavell -- played intimately and without

any elaborate lighting to the entranced orchestra audience, many of whom

threw bras and panties to an obviously excited Jagger.

The band followed with Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone," causing rumors to

circulate that the folk-rock legend himself might join the Stones onstage when

he plays Madison Square Garden's other venue, The Theater, on Friday and

Saturday, shows that just happen to coincide with the Stones' next two dates at

the Garden.

The night was not without its glitches, although some added to the fun. At the

small setup, Wood's guitar conked out, causing unscripted banter and some

musical ad-libbing that was a perfect lead-in to a surprise rendition of the old

blues classic "Little Red Rooster." At some points, when the band performed

rarely played old favorites such as Black and Blue's "Memory Motel"

(which was requested by fans voting on the Stones' website) and a rip-roaring

version of the classic "Bitch" from Sticky Fingers, Jagger lost his place

and flubbed some lyrics, but Richards and company rallied to catch right up.

The two Richards-sung numbers caused a massive bathroom run as usual, but

good old Keith seemed unfazed, belting out his numbers with a purpose, and

charmed the crowd by saying, "It's good to be back home, at least as close to it

as I get."

But the glitches and the Richards-inspired lull didn't really matter in the end. As

the band kicked in "Sympathy For The Devil" and began its end-run of super

classics, capped with an encore of "You Can't Always Get What You Want" and

"Brown Sugar," the frenzied, confetti-covered crowd certainly got its money's


Considering ticket prices ranged from $85 to $350, that's saying a lot.

Color="#720418">[Thurs., Jan. 15, 1998, 3:30 p.m. PST]