When the Rolling Stones toured stadiums in the 1980s and 1990s, they faced criticism from some fans for having a big-budget stage show that featured, among other things, elaborate lighting and giant blow-up dolls. The Stones were becoming too slick, too “Vegas,” griped the critics. The DVD “The Rolling Stones From The Vault: Live at the Tokyo Dome 1990” (released by Eagle Rock on Oct. 30, 2015) should reaffirm the notion that the Stones, no matter how big the venue or stage production, can still bring the kind of fire and energy to a concert that can electrify audiences and make a stadium feel like a packed nightclub.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the middle of the concert, starting with “Mixed Emotions” (the first single from the Stones’ 1989 album, Steel Wheels, which was the band’s most recent studio album at the time), followed by “Honky Tonk Women” and then the concert’s high point: Mick Jagger’s tour-de-force performance of “Midnight Rambler.” Donning a fedora and at times channeling moves from James Brown and Michael Jackson, lead singer Jagger prances, prowls and storms his way through “Midnight Rambler” like a shaman possessed. And when he leans on guitarist Keith Richards during a pause and flashes a knowing smirk, the joy of performing with his longtime musical partner is written all over his face.
This concert is one of 10 that the Stones performed at the Tokyo Dome from Feb. 14 to Feb. 27, 1990, in what were the first concerts that the Stones ever did in Japan. And even though the Stones have to do a “greatest hits” show, they always do about one or two songs that are rarely performed on previous or subsequent tours. For this tour, those songs were “2000 Light Years From Home” and Richards doing lead vocals on “Can’t Be Seen.” During “Paint It Black” and “2000 Light Years From Home,” Jagger at times looked like he was doing some mystical tai chi exercises, but for most of the concert he was quintessential Jagger, doing the aerobics-like green-eyed-soul-strut dancing that has become his signature.
On this tour, the backup singers were Lisa Fischer, Bernard Fowler and Cindy Mizelle. During “Gimme Shelter,” Mizelle handled the solo originally sung by Merry Clayton on the studio recording. Mizelle’s inability to sing the high notes (which Fischer adeptly handles) made the performance of the song somewhat of a disappointment, and it just underscores how much of asset Fischer is to the Stones’ stage show. (Fowler and Fischer still tour with the Stones. Mizelle does not.)
Meanwhile, the rhythm section of drummer Charlie Watts and bassist Bill Wyman are as tight as ever. Lead guitarist Ronnie Wood brings an impish quality to the stage show. But for the filming of this concert, the closeups are mostly on Jagger. Having the benefit of already touring North America in 1989, the Stones were a well-oiled touring machine at this point.
No doubt about it: the band is having fun at this concert. And that’s one of the enduring reasons why audiences still flock to see the Stones perform. People can joke or complain about the ticket prices or how old the Rolling Stones are, but this concert is a great example of how the band, no matter what ages the members are, can enthrall a crowd with exceptional songs and the infectious love of performing.
Here is the track listing for “The Rolling Stones From the Vault: Live at the Tokyo Dome 1990”:
- Continental Drift
- Start Me Up
- Sad Sad Sad
- Harlem Shuffle
- Tumbling Dice
- Miss You
- Ruby Tuesday
- Almost Hear You Sigh
- Rock and a Hard Place
- Mixed Emotions
- Honky Tonk Women
- Midnight Rambler
- You Can’t Always Get What You Want
- Can’t Be Seen
- Paint It Black
- 2000 Light Years From Home
- Sympathy for the Devil
- Gimme Shelter
- It’s Only Rock and Roll (But I Like It)
- Brown Sugar
- (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction
- Jumpin’ Jack Flash