None of the Rolling Stones showed up, but the 50 year old greatest rock and roll band in history got a sweet tribute last night at Carnegie Hall. Produced by Michael Dorf, the show presented the group’s greatest hits album, “Hot Rocks,” from 1971, in order, with different guest performers taking on each song. “Hot Rocks” was a double album released by Allen Klein on ABKCO as the Stones left him in ’71 for Ahmet Ertegun and Atlantic Records.But it stands to this day as the best example of the Stones at their peak. It even includes two songs that started the Atlantic phase–“Brown Sugar” and “Wild Horses”–which the Stones had recorded while still under contract to Klein.
As usual with these things, some worked, some didn’t. Some were good surprises, some weren’t. I still remember when the late Phoebe Snow simply rattled the house and stole the entire show when Dorf did a tribute to Elton John and Bernie Taupin. By the time Phoebe finished “Empty Garden,” the audience was levitating.
At this show, I had my own preferences. Marianne Faithfull was featured, singing “As Tears Go By” and “Sister Morphine.” She’s timeless. The Stones wrote the first song for her in 1964, and she had a hit with it. She co-wrote the latter with Jagger. They were famously lovers, It’s all in Keith’s amazing memoir. Also on the bill, coming up second and just hitting a home run, was the immortal Ronnie Spector on “Time Is On My Side.” She could have done the whole show, frankly.
Featured throughout were some big names: Jackson Browne, Rickie Lee Jones, Rosanne Cash, Marc Cohn, and John Sebastian on harmonica. They were all just fine; Cash was especially good. The New York Dolls’ David Johansen, aka Buster Poindexter, sort of the punk Mick Jagger, made “Get off My Cloud” swing with some vibrancy. Taj Mahal turned “Honky Tonk Woman” into a New Orleans blues. He said, “The thing about the Rolling Stones songs is you can deconstruct them back to their blues and country roots.” Amen.
Some standouts: Glen Hansard, of “Once” fame, took on “Under My Thumb” with just himself on guitar and a bass player. He said. “Imagine what headspace they were in when they wrote this. It must be a Keith song.”
Actress Juliette Lewis was not so lucky trying to preen around and Move Like Jagger on “Satisfaction.” But I liked the Carolina Chocolate Drops, The Mountain Goats, Jovanotti with members of TV on the Radio. Art Garfunkel took off his toupee to sing “Ruby Tuesday,” and Steve Earle was pungent on “Mother’s Little Helper.” Angelique Kidjo continued to defy logic–she should be a superstar.Why isn’t she? Her “Street Fighting Man” was a tour de force.
No celebs in the audience to speak of. I ran into Keith’s longtime manager Jane Rose, who said she liked the show but thought Keith “might find it difficult” to listen to all those different interpretations. The Stones celebrate their 50th anniversary next January. Soon we’ll have news of celebration-related items. Until then, this will have to do.