The Rolling Stones - a study in groove

I love this band.

I didn't always like them. Growing up in the 90s, I thought the Stones were old, lame and embarrassing. With no internet and none of their 60s records around, I judged them as I did all bands, via their new music on radio and TV. "Anybody Seen My Baby" sucked, therefore the band sucked. Now it's 2017, I have access to more content than I have time to consume, and I understand that the Rolling Stones are amazing. Even when they're bad (Jagger) they're good (rest of the band).  Diminishing returns since the early 70s, but this is so worth your while. It's their full set from the UK's Glastonbury festival in 2013. Have been on a bit of a kick since I finished Keith Richards' Life on audiobook (tip: you can get them free from the library). Pulled it up out of curiosity and to my delight, they're in top form. 

Individually they're good, sometimes great, but flawed: Mick can't hit the high notes and needs his band, Keith doesn't have frontman moves, Ron doesn't sing or rip solos, Charlie has great feel but many of his choices strike me as weird. OK, Darryl gets a pass, he's great. But not an original member. Anyway, what's important about this group is that it's a unit. Watch the show - the songs, the energy, the presentation. Iconic. But the telling part is when Mick Taylor shows up around the 40-minute mark. [*FYI, Mick Taylor was lead guitarist during the Stones' creative peak (1968-1974), played on the legendary albums, then quit. Keith Richards has speculated that Taylor was too good a guitarist and got bored playing their music. Ron Wood replaced him and the Stones did away with the lead/rhythm guitar dichotomy, favouring a "weaving" approach.} 40 years on, Taylor still has more facility on the instrument, but he can't groove with the band. He takes an extended solo on "Can't You Hear Me Knocking" (just like he did on Sticky Fingers). Lots of licks, never feels settled. Ron and especially Keith's solos are almost laughably spartan by contrast, but sit perfectly (skip to 2:02:42 to see what I mean).

In conventional popular theory, Mick Taylor is the best guitarist up there. Quite a few YouTube commenters think so. In practice, his rhythm is all over the place. The rest of the group has developed an internal pulse that's totally in sync, from years of playing and, most importantly, listening to each other. Way more valuable than "impressive" chops. 50 years of huge crowds is all the proof you need. (Who's going to care about Dragonforce in 50 years? Does anyone still care about them now?)

Also, this set isn't perfect. Almost everybody flubs something. This is because they are OLD and SUCK. Just kidding. It's because they're HUMAN. You'll never play perfectly. But if you work at it, you can play WELL. It's not about perfection. It's about energy.

Ryan Brown