It's hard to believe that 56 years after the band formed, and 55 years after it released its first single, a cover of Chuck Berry
's "Come On" that reached an admirable first-time position of #21 in the UK charts, the Rolling Stones continue their strangle hold on the moniker "The World's Greatest Rock 'n Roll Band." The group may release new studio albums increasingly less frequently, with a full eleven-year gap between 2005's A Bigger Bang
(Virgin) and a return to its blues roots with 2016's Blue & Lonesome
(Polydor), but original members Mick Jagger (vocals, guitar, harmonica), Keith Richards (guitar, vocals) and Charlie Watts (drums) have kept the engine revved by hitting the road every year since 2012.
Sure, the band, which has also included guitarist Ronnie Wood since 1975, may not engage in the months-long extensive touring of its earlier years, but given the demands of any Rolling Stones performance and the septuagenarian status of its four members (in particular the 74 year-old Richards, who has embodied the "sex, drugs and rock 'n roll" lifestyle more than any of his band mates...and looks it), it's admirable that the band continues to tour with unbridled energyin itself, a remarkable feat.
And if the Rolling Stones don't record in the studio as often as it once did, its From the Vault
series of live recordings, with releases covering tours as far back as 1971 and as recently as 2015, has maintained interest in rock 'n roll's longest-standing group. While more recent tour dates covered in the series, specifically Sticky Fingers Live at the Fonda Theatre 2015
(Eagle Vision, 2015), show a band still capable of not just delivering the goods but with the kind of relentless energy that a lot of musicians half their age would be happy to manage, No Security: San Jose '99
finds the Stones 16 years younger and filled with even more kinetic power as it draws upon twenty songs going right back to its very first album and through to its (then) most recent release, Bridges to Babylon
From Richards' iconic opening riff to "Jumpin' Jack Flash," complete with in-time full leg kicks, this two-night performance, which ended the North American leg of the No Security
tour, finds the Stones in particularly fine form. With a set list that may ensure those hits that simply have
to be in any Stones set are included, the other half of this two hour show is comprised of some other less-often-played hits and a couple of deep tracks, including "Route 66," the Bobby Troup cover that opened the Stones' very first UK album, The Rolling Stones (ABKCO, 1964). "Paint It Black" may occasionally show up in Stones set lists, but this ten-minute version takes it places the band could never have conceived when it was first released as a three minute-plus single in 1966.
Jagger, all skin, bones and lips, may be the relatively healthy half of the Jagger/Richards writing team that, to some extent, rivalled The Beatles
' John Lennon
and Paul McCartney
. His his ability to roam a large stage with the kind of irrepressible energy that feeds off the 30,000-strong crowd in San Jose is nothing short of remarkable. His voice is in fine form, too, whether it's on a look back to the group's 1965 single "Get Off My Cloud" (ultimately released, the same year, on December's Children (and Everybody's)
, (London, 1965), the more high-octane title track to It's Only Rock 'n Roll
(Rolling Stones Records, 1974), or an initially darker-hued but ultimately hard-rocking extended look at "Out of Control," from Bridges to Babylon
"Out of Control" is one of the set's highlights, stretching to almost double the original's length at nearly nine minutes and featuring, in addition to a gorgeous, Harmon-muted trumpet solo from Kent Smith (part of the band's four-piece touring horn section), some potent harmonica work from Jagger and some visceral in tandem soloing by Richards and Woods. And that's not to mention a little shirt-lifting tease from the veteran singer who, like the rest of his band mates, knows how to reach even the audience from the front rows to the nosebleed sections, whether it's in the "smaller" 30,000-seat arenas to which the No Security
tour catered, or the 80-100,000-seat stadiums that were, by this time, the Stones' usual stomping ground.
And the Stones really know how to pace a set. With "Out of Control" following a two-song vocal feature for Richards (the guitarist's very first recorded solo vocal feature, "You Got the Silver," from Let It Bleed
(ABKCO, 1969), and the more electric ""Before They Make Me Run," from Some Girls
(Rolling Stones Records, 1978), it also acts as something of a set-splitter, with some incidental music giving Jagger, Richards, Woods, Watts, bassist Darryl Jones and keyboardist/musical director Chuck Leavell
the time to move, along a lengthy runner where they shake hands, fist-bump and high-five with the audience, from the larger main stage to a smaller one further out in the arena.
As a sextet reduced from the full 13-piece band with four horns and three background singers, the group delivers a three-song set of "Route 66," "Get Off My Cloud" and, finally, a fourteen-minute version of Let It Bleed
's "Midnight Rambler" that gives everyone plenty of room to stretch and is another highlight of the show.
With another instrumental "interlude" allowing the sextet to return to the larger stage, the full band launches into an evening-closer of truly iconic Stones tunes, including relatively faithful versions of "Tumbling Dice" (the only track from 1972's Interscope Records mega-seller, Exile on Main Street
; "It's Only Rock 'n Roll (But I Like It)," and an equally anthemic "Start Me Up," originally from Tattoo You
(Rolling Stones Records, 1981). If the crowd hasn't already been whipped into a frenzy, Richards' gritty opening chords to a thundering (and, at over eight minutes, significantly extended) version of Sticky Fingers
' (UMe, 1971) "Brown Sugar" ratchets things up even further, with a long outro driven by horns, vocals and a little audience participation as the onstage energy reaches a climactic peak with which even the rapid-fire camera cuts can't keep up, as the song ends with a rain of streamers coming down on the audience from the arena's rafters.
For an encore, the band returns with a lengthy "Sympathy for the Devil," the song from 1968's Beggars Banquet
(ABKCO) that's often attributed, inaccurately, to being played while Meredith Hunter was being murder at the Altamont Speedway in December, 1969, the festival which signalled the end of the Woodstock Nation just four months after it began (the actual song being played was "Under My Thumb"). With horns blazing, vocals screaming, guitars chunking and bass and drums driving, it's a perfect (if not uncommon) end to one of the better entries in the From the Vaults
Richards' tone has never been better. Originally overshadowed by the late Brian Jones, he continues to impress as not just a definitively influential rhythm guitarist but as a fine soloist as well, with his combination of gritty power and crystalline twang. Wood, too, is at the top of his game. Darryl Jones, who joined in 1994, anchors the group with a lithe dexterity that original bassist Bill Wyman's "meat and potatoes" approach could never achieve, while Wattsrarely drawing attention to himself but always maintaining an unshakable groove, hand-in-glove with Jonesremains as fundamental to the Stones' sound as any. And if everyone in the bandalso including the horn section of saxophonists Bobby Keyes and Tim Ries
, trumpeter Kent Smith and trombonist Michael Davis, and background vocalists Lisa Fischer, Bernard Fowler and Blondie Chaplinmanages to keep so much visually going on that it's impossible to keep up, it remains Jagger and Richards who provide, sometimes together and other times spread far apart on the huge stage, contrasting and connecting energies that never let up across the show's two-hour runtime. No Security
comes in a number of formats: DVD, Standard Definition Blu Ray (but with high resolution sound), and both video formats augmented with two CDs of music from the show. Despite being standard definition (and, unfortunately, a 4:3 aspect ratio recording that you'd think would have been converted to widescreen by the turn of the new millennium), the images are sharp, and the remastered soundespecially the LPCM stereo mix on the Blu Raysounds absolutely crystal clear, rich and full (as do the CDs, but the higher resolution sound on the Blu Ray especially noteworthy).
Nearly twenty years may have passed since the Stones delivered two high-powered nights to a San Jose audience, and Richards may no longer be able to manage those double-kicks, but in almost sheer defiance of most laws of nature, the Rolling Stones continue to define the heart, soul and spirit of rock and roll. No Security: San Jose '99
captures the band at a mid-period peak, firing on all cylinders at the end of one leg of a tour that would wrap up two months later in Europe, and is a potent reminder that the years simply have not slowed down the world's greatest rock 'n roll band.