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The Rolling Stones
Palace Square 
By Kirill Galetski
The Rolling StonesAs far back as 1989, when the Rolling Stones were on the Steel Wheels tour and I was a wageslave teenager who turned down a gig rigging their lights at Sullivan Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts, they were already the butt of old-age jokes, such as some wag renaming the tour "Steel Wheelchairs." Well, the level of exaggeration in those jokes has stayed high as far as I'm concerned. The Stones are still to be taken seriously, even in their 60s, and they proved it at Saturday night's appearance in historic Palace Square in St. Petersburg.

Naturally, anticipation was high, with a 50,000-strong crowd, which featured about three generations of people from all over Russia. The band had only been to Russia only once before, nearly nine years ago (August 11, 1998) and that was in Moscow. They were supposed to play St. Petersburg last summer, but had to cancel due to complications from Keith Richards' coconut tree incident.

In a manner typical to Russian control-freak promoters, the square was divided into uninviting, enclosed cattle-pen sectors, with reserved seating on either side of a runway that would accommodate the stage moving forward, with a small, standing-room only area called the Fan Zone directly in front of the end of the runway. The lowest-price general admission tickets were even further away, behind the Fan Zone and totally separated from the other ticket sectors by a metal barrier lined with security guards.

Bursting suddenly onto the stage about an hour after the comparatively anaemic opener Steve Harley, the Stones started in with the appropriately titled and high-powered "Start Me Up." The lithe and wiry Mick Jagger, who had just celebrated his 64th birthday in town two days earlier, moved as fast as lightning most of the time, prancing, dancing and even running his way through a set that was kind to those of us wanting to hear the time-honored cuts off greatest-hits records such as Rewind. Richards, whose physical appearance showed his age more than the others, was nevertheless in fine form as well, showcasing his surprisingly good singing voice in "You Got the Silver" and "Little T & A."

The Rolling StonesDuring "Miss You," the moveable stage moved to the front end of its runway, staying there for "It's Only Rock'n'Roll (But I Like It)," "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," and most of "Honky Tonk Women." This part of the show, which should have been the icing on the cake for those of us (myself included) in the Fan Zone, was hampered by sound problems probably associated with the stage movement. The snafu rendered this part of the concert muddy and incoherent. Still, for a few fleeting songs, Mick, Keith, Ronnie and Charlie were only a few feet away from us with no security barriers in between, and squinting my eyes, I could just imagine how they would look playing one of their trademark short-notice club dates.

The highlights of the show came after a short break, starting with "Sympathy for the Devil," containing the famous lyric about the Devil in revolutionary St. Petersburg, which Jagger wisely sang without any particular emphasis or lingering. Here the Stones went all out with the theatrics, using their elaborate stage show to the hilt with a red color scheme, a video screen depicting symmetrical snakeskin patters, with the spaces between the ribcage protrusions from the screen as an extension of images on the screen, fireworks and finally Mick Jagger in a long and shiny red lam? coat with tails. It was a smart, contemporary version of the song and Jagger let the theatrics accentuate the well-worn stanza that cemented the associations with Palace Square being the key site of the October Revolution of 1917. The high point of "Sympathy for the Devil" turned into a double whammy when the band segued into the equally if not more powerful "Paint It Black," arguably the most well known Stones number in Russia, with every other teenager belting it out on acoustic guitars in the staid and stagnant Soviet '70s.

The best aspect of the concert's sound was the seemingly painstaking effort to pull off numbers that featured a bigger sound on record in a form fairly close to their studio versions. The renditions of "You Can't Always Get What You Want," "Tumbling Dice" and the James Brown cover "I'll Go Crazy" featured keyboards, brass and backing vocals provided by the formidable backing band consisting of bassist Darryl Jones, guitarist Blondie Chaplin, R&B diva Lisa Fischer, jazz musicians Bobby Keys, Bernard Fowler and Tim Ries and ex-Allman Brothers keyboardist Chuck Leavell, all of whom Jagger introduced individually after "Tumbling Dice."

Date: Saturday, July 28, 2007

Location: Palace Square, St. Petersburg, Russia

Start: 21:31
End: 23:37

Set List:

Start Me Up
You Got Me Rocking
Rough Justice
She's So Cold
You Can't Always Get What You Want
Midnight Rambler
I'll Go Crazy (James Brown cover)
Tumbling Dice[Bandmember intros]
You Got the Silver
Little T & A
Miss You [stage moves to the front]
It's Only Rock'n'Roll (But I Like It) [stage in front]
(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction [stage in front]
Honky Tonk Women [stage moves back to the rear]
Sympathy For The Devil
Paint It Black
Jumpin' Jack Flash
Brown Sugar (Encore)

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