Rolling Stones fans frothing at the mouth over the recent news of the legendary British rocker’s return to the recording studio in December can whet their appetite with the band’s recent archive release, “From the Vault: Live at the Tokyo Dome 1990,” which hit shelves in multiple formats on Oct. 30 via Eagle Rock.
The concert film captures the “Satisfaction” hitmakers back on road for the first time since 1982’s European tour, during their massively successful stage comeback – 1989’s Steel Wheels Tour. The performance was recorded during a 10-night stand Feb. 14 – Feb. 27, 1990 at Japan’s Tokyo Dome, which closed out tour and marked the band’s first-ever live appearance in Japan.
After a turbulent decade which saw major infighting between The Stones’ principal songwriters Mick Jagger and Keith Richards and couple of critically panned studio albums, the pair finally buried the hatchet (sort of) and returned to the studio to produce their strongest collective effort in years, 1989’s Steel Wheels. With fences mended between the Glimmer Twins and buoyed by the band’s 1989 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, the band undertook their biggest and longest tour to date.
The Steel Wheels/Urban Jungle Tour is a turning point in the band’s career for numerous reasons. It marked the arrival of Canadian promoter Michael Cohl and the late great stage designer Mark Fisher as the band adopted many of the high production stage values and theatrics that even young fans would easily recognize today. The band would amp up the number of backing musicians from four to a dozen and fans would get their first look at future Stones touring regulars like Lisa Fischer and Bernard Fowler, as well as enjoy the final studio and live stage contributions of veteran Stones bassist Bill Wyman.
Some Stones purists perceive this tour to be the point where the band ceased to be The World’s Greatest Rock n’ Roll Band, trading sweat equity, musicianship and risk taking to become more of a glitzy Las Vegas show band, content to line their pockets by leaning on spectacle, side players and past glories. What can’t be argued is that the tour was massively successful and it helped return The Rolling Stones to full commercial power.
Highlights from the 24-song setlist include the return of many Brian Jones era chestnuts that hadn’t been performed live for many years, including: “Paint It Black, “Ruby Tuesday” “2000 Light Years From Home” and “Sympathy for the Devil,” which had been summarily dumped from live shows in the wake of The Stone’s Altamont concert tragedy. The Steel Wheels album gets decent representation with five tracks making the setlist, including the hits “Mixed Emotions,” “Rock and a Hard Place,” and “Almost Hear You Sigh” along with the long list of obligatory greatest hits like “Start Me Up,” “Honky Tonk Women,” “Brown Sugar,” (I Cant’ Get No) Satisfaction” and “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.”
Jagger and Richards get most of the camera’s attention and seem genuinely happy to be back on stage, both putting in strong musical and visual performances. The rhythm section of Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman are rock solid and guitarist Ronnie Wood carries a good share of the grunt work, though all three tend to remain in the shadows while longtime keyboardist/band director Chuck Leavell ensures the huge entourage of backing players remain on the money.
Though the Steel Wheels Tour has been well fairly well covered with past entries, which includes their “25×5” TV documentary, a pay-per-view special and “Live at the Max,” “Live at the Tokyo Dome” still represents a strong live outing from the band and the culmination of a triumphant comeback, making it a good investment for casual fans and a must for Stones completists. The footage benefits from being fully restored and augmented with a new sound mix by Bob Clearmountain. “Live at the Tokyo Dome” is available in Blu-ray+2CD, DVD+2CD, LP/DVD and digital formats. For more information, click here. For the latest details on The Rolling Stones, click here.