Rallying around a cry for smaller venues, lower ticket prices and a revamped set list, a group calling itself the Rolling Stones Liberation Front has issued a series of demands in advance of an expected 50th anniversary tour announcement.
The protesters argue that “it is unacceptable to charge up to $350 for a single ticket,” saying “a band needing to charge $85-$100 for upper balcony seats is a band no longer in touch with their fan base.” The Rolling Stones Liberation Front suggests a ticket price of no more than $30 — including service charges.
Too, they argue that “the time has passed for gargantuan mega-arena spectaculars,” calling for a concert-length presentation similar to the B-stage set up in the middle of the venue at the end of 1994’s Voodoo Lounge Tour, which could provide a more intimate experience.
The group would also like to liberate the Rolling Stones from a setlist that, they say, hews to “the same 30 songs for every tour,” saying: “We refuse to sit through another airing of the played-out hits.” Among the favorites that these protesters would like to see offed: “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” “Brown Sugar,” “Honky Tonk Women,” “Start Me Up,” “Sympathy For The Devil.”
Other demands include the elimination of the horn section, backup singers and opening acts, as well. No word on the number of card-carrying affiliates of the Rolling Stones Liberation Front, but members reportedly are “threatening non-violent, disruptive action” if their concerns are not addressed: “Now, it’s time The Rolling Stones give back or we will push back,” the group says in its mission statement. “Why give them more of our money and then settle for the usual? We won’t.”
Here are some of our previous thoughts on the Rolling Stones, along with related solo projects. Click through the links for complete reviews …
ONE TRACK MIND: ROLLING STONES, “NO SPARE PARTS” (2011): A country-tinged number in the style of 1971’s “Wild Horses,” this Some Girls reissue bonus track couldn’t be further away from this album’s most famous tracks — the prowling disco vamp of “Miss You” or the grimy come-on of “Beast of Burden.” Still, “No Spare Parts” might have provided an important counterbalance on the brash, shit-talkingly frenetic Some Girls, and it’s a fun little extra.
ROLLING STONES – SOME GIRLS: LIVE IN TEXAS ’78 (2011): The full-on, balls-out Some Girls was perfectly uncluttered — no horn section, no guest stars like Billy Preston. That gives this subsequent live set from the summer of 1978 a chance to build off the record’s latent energy, rather than fruitlessly try to match it. Instead, this is a stripped-down wonder: no digital movie screens, no huge scaffolding for Mick Jagger to prance on, no big light show. Just a band playing.
BILL WYMAN’S RHYTHM KINGS – COLLECTOR’S EDITION BOX SET (2011): Comprised of each of the Rhythm Kings’ albums (from 1998’s Struttin’ Our Stuff through 2001’s Double Bill), the set works like a pocket history of 20th century roots music. A fun opportunity to catch up with Bill Wyman’s old-school R&B and blues revue arrives in the form of this sweeping five-disc retrospective focusing on the former Rolling Stones bassist’s subsequent band.
RON WOOD AND THE FIRST BARBARIANS – LIVE FROM KILBURN (2007): Ron Wood was still a member of The Faces when he put out I’ve Got My Own Album To Do. This live recording (and DVD) is from that tour, featuring Wood on guitar, Faces buddy Ian McLagan, and even an appearance by Rod Stewart. Future Rolling Stones cohort Keith Richards is there, too. I’ve always been more of a fan of Wood’s Gimme Some Neck, but that doesn’t stop me from turning this record up way too loud.
ROLLING STONES – A BIGGER BANG (2005): I listened to ‘A Bigger Bang’ expecting a lot of the generic glossy pop of their more recent output. Instead, the classic mid-period Stones sound is back. That sound is updated, for sure, and Mick’s voice is deeper. But Jagger’s swagger is back. Keith Richards (who actually sings with some effort on a few tracks) and Ronnie Wood are playing together as well as ever. And Charlie Watts can still lay down some mean rhythms. The results sound like the same band who put out Let It Bleed and Sticky Fingers, even if it’s not up to par with those classics. And at this point, that’s plenty good enough for me.
GIMME FIVE: ROLLING STONES IN THE 1990s: There was no reason to believe that the Rolling Stones, 30 years into their dangerously debauched rock career, would make anything worth a damn out of the 1990s. A band that made its name on skirt chasing and drug taking was softening into middle age. No one would have been surprised if the Stones simply ground to a halt. Only, they reformed in the wake of Richards’ successes with Talk Is Cheap, and by the middle part of the next decade, the Rolling Stones were in the midst of a small very-late career resurgence. Here are five arguments for continuing your Rolling Stones collection into the 1990s.
ONE TRACK MIND: KEITH RICHARDS, “TAKE IT SO HARD” (1988): After Tattoo You, the Stones were inconsistent, overly glossy and losing their world-renowned edge. By 1987, theyp seemed headed for breakup. Richards’ response to this predicament was the most logical one: Assemble his own band. The resulting Talk Is Cheap, returned Richards’ focus and found him for the first time in a long while playing what he wanted to play and not what the crowd expected to hear. Which means it isn’t a period Stones album, and in a lot of spots, isn’t the Stones at all, but is an expression of Keef’s fondness for rockabilly, soul and even funk.
ONE TRACK MIND: ROLLING STONES, “CAN’T YOU HEAR ME KNOCKING” (1970): The critics all declare Exile On Main Street to be the Rolling Stones’ magnum opus. Yeah, it’s a great album alright but for my money, I’ll take the one right before it, Sticky Fingers — and this often overlooked classic of the Richards/Jagger canon — any day. To me, “Knocking” encapsulates a lot of the best parts of the Rolling Stones; both the vocal and the extended jam parts of the songs play to their strengths. It’s also why I love so much of the music of that time, when the recording light never dared turn to red whenever a band got itself locked into a groove.
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Here is the complete text of the Rolling Stones Liberation Front’s six demands …
1. WE WANT SMALLER VENUES: We believe the time has passed for gargantuan mega-arena spectaculars; hardly anything good comes from these soulless shows. Scale it back. Throw away the lights, the inflatables, the fireworks and the catwalks. Keep it simple. Mick Jagger no longer needs to prove himself a physically fit older gentleman, we get it. The introduction of the considerably smaller B-stage set up in the middle of the venue at the end of 1994’s Voodoo Lounge Tour was a perfect step toward this philosophy. Ask any concert goer and they’ll tell you the best part of the last fifteen years of Rolling Stones shows has always been that time they play the three or four songs on the smaller stage. How much more of a hint do they need? We demand an alternative: establish a residency in theaters for up to seven days in every city on the perspective tour. You cannot tell us, in 2012, an organization as big and experienced as The Rolling Stones cannot pull off this task. Their fan is a dedicated one, almost to a fault and the band should not worry about loyalty, the people will come to them, it is all but assured. Leave your 400 tons of steel at home. Two guitars, bass, drums and a vocal mike, that’s it; the magic is in the music not in the lights. Cut the fat, less is more.
2. WE WANT LOWER TICKET PRICES: We believe it is unacceptable to charge up to $350 for a single ticket. The Rolling Stones do not need the money, but we need our money. We believe a band needing to charge $85 – $100 for upper balcony seats is a band no longer in touch with their fan base. We demand the ticket price for the next tour to be no more than $30 and without any and all service charges. The people have been burned many times before by useless and expensive incentives such as “fan club seats” and pre-sale tickets which only lead us to frustration and bad sightlines; experience has taught us there are no special seats for the proletariat no matter how many hoops we jump through. If you are within the first twenty rows on the main floor, a Rolling Stones show is an unparalleled experience. If you are anywhere behind row 30, the show is a drag, an expensive drag.
Like it or not, this has become a worker’s struggle; it’s the masses who fill a majority of the seats at The Rolling Stones concerts. Today it is only the bourgeoisie who can afford (or are given tickets to) seats near the front; fat cats, music critics and their sloppy, clueless friends who have only a passing interest in the band. We’ve been watching them for years from our positions high above; we watch with furrowed brows through binoculars as they stare up at the stage, in the glare of the lights, unmoving and jaded. This is an outrage. We demand the Rolling Stones to go back to regular, first come/first serve ticket sales, preferably at physical ticket outlets and not via the Internet. No promos, no guest lists.
3. WE WANT A SET LIST OVERHAUL: We believe with an immense back catalogue of songs to choose from, there is no reason why The Rolling Stones need to stick to roughly the same 30 songs for every tour; we refuse to sit through another airing of the played-out hits. Satellite radio has established the popularity of what is known in the industry as “deep cuts”, songs that were not necessarily “hits” in the usual sense of the word, but are fan favourites, none the less. The practice of playing uncommon songs was introduced by and large for the 1989 Steel Wheels Tour and we, the paying customers, were delighted. However, after twenty three years, further steps need to be taken. Therefore, we demand the following songs not to be played on the next tour: (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, Brown Sugar, Honky Tonk Women, Start Me Up, Sympathy For The Devil. Investigate your own catalogue; do not take us for granted.
4. WE WANT THE ELIMINATION OF THE HORN SECTION AND BACK-UP SINGERS: We believe The Rolling Stones have drifted too far from the true and basic rock ‘n roll aesthetic. It’s time to bring it back; back at least to the hugely successful 1978 Some Girls Tour. With all due respect to the honourable Bobby Keys, we believe the horn arrangements are needless and get in the way. We demand the removal of the brass section for the upcoming tour. Mr. Keys should only be allowed to perform on any songs from albums with release dates between the years 1970 – 1973. Additionally, with all due respect to the honourable Lisa Fischer, Bernard Fowler and Blondie Chaplin, the use of back-ups singers is now irrelevant and we demand their removal for the next tour.
5. WE WANT THE EXPULSION OF ALL OPENING ACTS: We believe the Rolling Stones have stopped challenging themselves. There was a time when they would bring an opening band talented enough to challenge the Stones themselves who, in turn, would have to step it up even further when it was time for them to take the stage. We ask you: how challenging can it be to follow Third Eye Blind? How challenging can it be to follow Johnny Lang or the goddamn Spin Doctors? Forcing an audience who just paid a lot of money to sit through such tripe is a rip-off as much as it is an insult. While there are in fact hard working bands today who could give the Rolling Stones a run for their money, they never seem to appear on the bill. Additionally, even if those bands did open the show, most of those in attendance won’t have the patience for them. Therefore, we demand The Rolling Stones forgo the use of opening acts on this last tour. Cut the fat, less is more.
6. WE WANT ALL FANS TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THEMSELVES: We believe the fault also lies with fans willing to do the bidding of their favourite band, no matter the cost. How many suckers does it take to fill an auditorium? Ask The Rolling Stones. We are all suckers, victims of their apparent cynicism and money hungry ways. We urge all self-respecting Rolling Stones fans to heed our warnings and join our ranks. Don’t be taken for granted. We’ve bought the albums, we’ve bought the cassettes, we’ve bought the CDs, we’ve bought the DVDs, we’ve bought the Blu-rays, we’ve bought the re-masters, we’ve bought the elaborate re-issues, we’ve bought tickets to the movies, we’ve bought tickets to the concerts and we’ve bought anything with the tongue logo on it. We’ve bought it all, hook, line and sinker. Now it’s time The Rolling Stones give back or we will push back. Why give them more of our money and then settle for the usual? We won’t.