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POP MUSIC REVIEW

The stuck-out tongue

The Rolling Stones put on a great show at the Hollywood Bowl but continue to give current tunes the raspberry.

November 08, 2005|Robert Hilburn | Times Staff Writer

The Rolling Stones' concert Sunday night at the Hollywood Bowl remained so rooted in the past that Mick Jagger even joked about it.

Early in the performance before a wildly enthusiastic crowd, the wry lead singer pointed out that a lot has changed since the Stones last played the Bowl in 1966. "Tickets were $4 then," he said, not having to remind anyone the top price this time around was $450 more. "The only thing that's the same is the set list."

The crowd, whose diverse celebrity list included Garry Shandling, KISS' Gene Simmons and Michael Keaton, chuckled, but that set list has become a point of debate in the new tour.

The Stones have been relying on the same core of great signature songs for concert appeal for nearly a quarter century because, frankly, they haven't come up with a noteworthy new album since then.

But this tour is in connection with "A Bigger Bang," the band's strongest album since the early '70s, and you'd think the group would welcome the chance to play half a dozen or more of the songs to show, if nothing else, that they are still relevant musically.

There was some hope early in the set that the band would move beyond the mere three new songs it included in Friday's set at Angel Stadium in Anaheim.

In introducing a blues song during the show's first half-hour, Jagger stressed teasingly that "it's not an old blues song, it's a new blues song." Picking up a guitar one of the few times in the night, Jagger played a wonderfully flavorful blues solo before beginning to capture the apocalyptic tone of the song, "Back of My Hand," with a growing, intense vocal: "I see love / I see misery / Jammin' side by side." Rather than expand the set with more new songs, the Stones kept the "Bigger Bang" representation to three by eliminating "Rough Justice," a song from the album that was played Friday.

Otherwise, the band did a commendable job of shuffling the set list. Though it played 11 signature hits, including "Jumpin' Jack Flash," "Brown Sugar" and "Start Me Up," both nights, the band dropped five numbers from Friday's set to make room for some generally richer, more resonant material.

Dropped in Sunday's show: "She's So Cold," "Ruby Tuesday," "Bitch," "Miss You" and "Paint It Black." Added to the set list: "Wild Horses," "Dead Flowers," "Live With Me," "Midnight Rambler" and "All Down the Line."

The playing Sunday was again frequently inspiring, as guitarist Keith Richards, drummer Charlie Watts, guitarist Ron Wood and the rest dressed up several of the classic songs with new arrangements that added freshness without violating the tunes' vintage character. In the intimacy of the Bowl, the band left behind the elaborate stadium stage and focused solely on the music.

Another great night, yes. But also another missed opportunity.

Robert Hilburn, pop music critic for The Times, can be reached at Robert.Hilburn@latimes.com.

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