Stones Give Us A Bigger Bang at The Phoenix

Blue Lena’s Phoenix Club Tour Diary
(all photos & scans copyright Blue Lena unless otherwise noted & may not be copied without permission)

Stay tuned for a longer, more in-depth review of the songs and the show itself in the next issue of Stones Planet Fanzine due out in September. This is just a more personal diary excerpt.

I had the surreal pleasure of seeing the Stones perform to roughly 1000 people at the Phoenix Club in Toronto on Wednesday August 10th. My husband and I left the house in Pittsburgh at 6:30am and we arrived in Toronto around noon the day of the gig and headed directly to the Four Seasons to hook up with some friends and pick up our tickets and wristbands. Sincere thanks to the MFTQ for that honor and for her hilarious comment to my husband “Don’t give her shit for seeing all these shows, she’s special to us!”.

Upon entering the hotel I was promptly greeted by my friends and none other than Bernard Fowler himself, newly dreadless in a knit cap, who said “Hey Blue Lena, gimme some sugar!” which I certainly obliged. The lobby was basically empty and after securing our tix and wristbands my friends headed off for lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe and my husband and I headed to the bar. Lo & behold if it wasn’t Blondie Chaplin sitting in his old familiar place-déjŕ vu from July 2003 because he was on the exact bar stool where I last saw him right before he left for the SARS gig! We discussed doing an interview in Boston, something Blondie has been promising to do for Stones Planet since December of 2003! Let’s hope he keeps his word. After having 2 drinks for a gastly $30 tab, we headed out.

After walking around trendy upscale Yorkville for a bit, we took the subway to Eglington to eat at the best Chinese buffet in town…but it had just closed for lunch and then we got stuck in a pop up torrential downpour. So, since it was now 3pm and we hadn’t even checked into our hotel yet, we headed back by TTC to the Cosmopolitan and finally at 3:45 were let into our room. I made a quick change into my club show attire and at 4pm we headed out for dinner. I was so nervous that I could barely eat, even though I hadn’t eaten all day. I had a glass of sangria & a bunless burger and grilled veggies. Gotta stick with that pre-tour diet ya know.

At 6pm I headed downstairs and caught a cab to the Phoenix at 410 Sherbourne St. The line was already about 50 people deep or so, and I saw several familiar faces. Media was swarming the place, photos, interviews, TV, radio-a zoo! The cab driver asked me “are they filming a movie here?”. I went to the front of the line & chatted with a few old friends, then got in line at the end. Funny enough, I ended up being in line behind friend’s of Darryl Jones’ whom I had met at the Keith 60th Birthday Bash in Toronto in December 2003. You always manage to re-connect with people during Stones tours, and pretty soon you end up knowing mostly everyone! My friends arrived around 25 minutes after me and got in line 20+ or so people behind me. It looked like rain again, and we felt a few drops, but luckily it held off until we were inside. I was dying to call my friends back home from the line and report in on the excitement, but my cell phone bill from Canadian calls was already stretching mightily, so I didn’t.

At 7:30pm the doors opened, and Jake Cohl and some RS.COM crew scanned through the crowd with their camera asking us to hold up our wristbands. Security was very tight and we were thoroughly searched by hand held metal detectors. Many people had their cameras confiscated. I had wanted to bring my digital to get pix for Stones Planet, but knew it was a risk, so I left it at the hotel. I wasn’t going to fuck this show up in any way, besides there would be plenty more shows to take pictures. Once inside the door a woman asked “Where did you get your ticket?” and I looked confused and she said “This is not a trick question”. My answer I guess was correct. They were just checking to see if anyone had obtained scalper tix. Evidently, some did.

Once inside, I made a B line for Keith’s side in the front. I was surprised at how empty the club still was and how easy it was to get up front compared to other club shows I’ve gone to. Even during the show we weren’t shoved or pushed or squeezed like sardines. I was right outside the backstage curtain that led to the dressing room, and I saw Bobby, Bernard, Chuck & Rose Lane, Blondie, Lisa and Mr. Charlie Watts arrive! The picture of Charlie that appears online of him getting out of the car at the Phoenix is exactly what I could see from my vantage point-he had this huge smile on his face. I could also see Ronnie’s guitar case, and marveled at the axes inside. It was odd that there was a big gap in the curtain, but I was sure glad there was. I was also right next to the bar, which was a plus, although I only had one Beck’s beer during the show for fear I’d have to pee-and that we not going to happen if I could help it!

My friends arrived inside about 20 minutes after me and we secured the rest of the rail on Keith’s side in front of the speaker stack. We took turns hitting the loo before the Stones came on, so our bladders were empty and our spots on the rail were saved.

Around 8:30 The Trews, a Canadian rock band came on. They were clearly nervous as this was the gig of their young lives. They played well, but they played LOUD. So loud that we had to literally hold our ears the entire set. Some even stuffed cocktail napkins in their ears! I wanted to be able to hear the Stones, and didn’t want to risk blowing my eardrums before they came on stage. They finished at 9:00 and the crowd was polite and appreciative, which isn’t the case for all bands who open for the Stones.

Just after 9:30pm, pretty much on schedule, the lights dimmed and Michael Cohl stepped out onto the stage and boomed “Please welcome the Rolling Stones!” God I love hearing that, it reminds me of the bootlegs from the 70’s when they announced the band…”Please welcome the Rolling Fucking Stones!”.

Keith was the first to stroll out & the boys all followed cranking into their new single “Rough Justice”. Immediate satisfaction from the Stones hungry crowd. Mick was stellar in his energy and voice-he had everything “down”. Mick was wearing tight jeans & a beautiful teal shirt under his jacket-his best color I think. Keith looked genuinely “glad to be back” as he says, and cool in his raggedly fashionable way. Ronnie was all smiles and Charlie was sleek & stylish. I really like this new track, it rocks and has some way cool lyrics-the opening line about “I was your little rooster, now I’m just one of your cocks” is great.

From there we were treated to a kicking “Live With Me”, always a pleasure to hear and I sang along to every word “Don’t you think there’s a place for you in between the sheets?”

A re-working of “19th Nervous Breakdown” into a slow bluesy groove was wild & unexpected.

My first definite thrill came with the start of “She’s So Cold”. I had just watched the Seattle ’81 show on DVD (thanks to a friend) the day before the show and that tour was the last time this track was played live-so this was cool. Not to mention, it had been part of my Stones wish list I had submitted to Chuck Leavell before rehearsals. I was jumping and clapping and singing “I’m so hot for you and you’re so cold!”.

What more could I want? “Dead Flowers” a total surprise and one of my faves. Keith singing harmony vocals, aaahhhhh, the sweet ecstasy.

The new song I was most hoping they would play was the blues number “Back Of My Hand” and they certainly came through in Technicolor on that one! This song is just classic, back to the roots, gut wrenching blues ala Muddy Waters. And Mick played slide guitar! Awesome! The extended jam in the middle just melted my inner core.

Onto “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” and the crowd went mad. Mick was a banshee. The moves he made tonight were beyond belief. Ass shaking, stuffing the mic down the front of his pants, the thigh & stomach caressing-the Mick chicks were wetting their collective panties I’ll tell you that!

I got a couple guitar picks during this song and was told that I could send my scarf backstage to Keith-holy shit, and I didn’t even ask! Heartfelt thanks to TR. I asked to wait until Keith’s set was over though before parting with the skull scarf…it’s a necessary accompaniment to Keith’s songs, LOL.

Band intros, and everyone got loud applause. Then came the chants of “Keith, Keith, Keith” as Mick put his arm on Keith’s shoulder and introduced him to sing. Keith was genuinely touched, you could see it in his eyes which sort of welled up and his body language. He kept his words few and christened the crowd as the Stones “guinea pigs” and launched into his new tune “Infamy”. Right away this song reminded me of an old Winos song, and that was corroborated by several fans right after the show. Gritty lyrics and guitars, a rolling bass line and an extended jam in the middle. It’ll be a great addition to Keith’s set for the arenas & stadiums.

Mick bounced back on stage and the band kicked into their other new single “Oh No Not You Again”. This time, the performance was well polished and fast, much better than the earlier press conference version, “oh no not you again, fucking up my life!”.

The next surprise was “Get Up Stand Up” the Bob Marley/Peter Tosh reggae tune. WOW, that was a crowd pleaser, we even got a reprise as the crowd kept singing & trading vocals back and forth with Mick & Keith. Keith even did a little dance. Surely a keeper for other venues right boys?

Another cover, this time Otis Redding’s “Mr. Pitiful”, nice heartfelt soul vocals from Mick on that one. I wonder if this was a one night only performance of that one?

Now we were nearing the end of the show & I got tapped on the shoulder from the other side of the barrier, sent my scarf away (#14 I think, I lost count) to be given to Keith and was rewarded with the set list in return. Could the Keithian Gods have been smiling on me any more than they were tonight? I guess all that wishing on shooting stars, wearing my dream bracelet and prayers to the Keith Shrine actually helped!

Tumbling Dice, that familiar Keith riff rolled out and then onto “Brown Sugar” as the show came to an end. We chanted and roared our approval and the band returned for the encore of “Jumping Jack Flash”, always a fitting way to end a show. The energy from the band just dripped from the stage like the sweat that dripped from our bodies.

As the tune ended, Mick, Keith and Ronnie came out to center stage for the customary bow, but where was Charlie? As the three left the stage, out walked Charlie alone for his own final bow-a fitting tribute to the World’s Greatest Drummer and the crowd expressed their sincere gratitude-it brought tears to our eyes thinking of how Charlie had battled and won over his earlier diagnosed throat cancer.

The crowd continued to scream, hoping for a second encore, but soon the lights came up and everyone just looked stunned & happy. People muttering stuff like “fucking awesome”, “I can die now” and “I can’t wait for opening night”. We tumbled out onto the street, hoping for some air, but the 90 degree heat was no relief. We were again to be greeted with a massive media presence & they began interviewing fans right away. I hopped a cab immediately after saying good bye to my friends and I was surprised I didn’t have to wait at all and headed back to the Four Seasons for the after party in the bar.

I was surprised that the bar was fairly empty, not empty, but certainly not packed like after a regular Stones gig. Gave my congrats on a well done show to Blondie, Bernard and Darryl during the evening there. Met & chatted with Tim Ries, sax player for the Stones, whom I had interviewed just about a week ago for Stones Planet regarding his new cd “The Rolling Stones Project”. Chatted with Jerry Stone, from Stone’s Place in Toronto, whom I’d last seen 2 years ago. Sat at a table with some new friends I made earlier in the day, and one of them tried to convince me to go to another bar after the Four Seasons closed at 1pm, but I had to decline that offer. I had to get back to my hotel, get some sleep and then be home to Pittsburgh to work on Friday morning. Ugh! You could not wipe the smile off my face. In fact it’s now 3 days later and the smile still has not faded. This gig got my tour off to a Bigger Bang for sure! See ya’ll in Boston on the 21st!

-Blue Lena 8/13/05

AP wire Photo

Photo of sign courtesy of Nate Miller

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