Steel Wheels Live, the latest in a series of CD/video concert releases from the Rolling Stones, is better and more wide-ranging than its title would suggest: the moniker evokes a recording that simply offers stage versions of the named album’s tracks. In fact, though, this set features only five of Steel Wheels’ 12 numbers (“Can’t Be Seen,” “Mixed Emotions,” “Rock and a Hard Place,” “Sad Sad Sad,” and “Terrifying”) alongside nearly two dozen of the best and best-known songs from the Stones’ catalog.
Recorded in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in the latter part of 1989, near the end of a 60-date stadium tour—the group’s last with bassist Bill Wyman—the 27-song concert mines late 1960s and early 1970s albums for a long list of classics that should need no introduction here.
Among them: “Ruby Tuesday,” “Paint It Black,” “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” “Sympathy for the Devil,” “Salt of the Earth” (with Guns ‘n’ Roses’ Axl Rose and Izzy Stradlin), “Let It Bleed,” “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” “Bitch,” “Brown Sugar,” “Honky Tonk Women,” “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It),” and “2000 Light Years from Home,” which at least until this tour had rarely if ever been performed live.
Also on the bill: covers of Willie Dixon’s “Little Red Rooster” (a 1964 Stones single) and John Lee Hooker’s “Boogie Chillen,” the former featuring Eric Clapton and the latter with both Hooker and Clapton; “Happy,” from Exile on Main Street; “Miss You,” from Some Girls; and a handful of other numbers.
Though the studio Steel Wheels album is not likely to be remembered as a Stones high point, the tour that followed its August 1989 release found the group revitalized after a three-year split that seemed for a while as if it might continue indefinitely. This was their first tour to cover the U.S. since 1981, and it included generously long shows. In the two-and-a-half-hour concert preserved here, Mick Jagger sings powerfully and prances around the stage as exuberantly as ever, Keith Richards’s guitar work shines, and the rest of the band is not only in fine form but clearly having fun. Even the frequently stone-faced Charlie Watts often fails to suppress a grin.
The remixed and remastered audio is excellent on the CDs, and it’s even better on the included video, which offers surround sound and, on the Blu-ray version, DTS-HD-Master audio. (DVD and vinyl releases are also available.) The picture is not widescreen or HD—this is, after all, a 31-year-old show—but it’s not bad at all. You can certainly see, hear, and feel the energy on stage.
Rudy De Anda, Tender Epoch. Southern California–based guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter Rudy De Anda makes an impressive solo debut with this difficult-to-categorize album. The record—which is sung mostly in Spanish and employs bass, keyboards, percussion, synthesizer, and organ—draws on genres ranging from Latin and pop to rock, soul, and punk. The music takes lots of surprising twists and turns: one minute, it might conjure up traditional Mexican music or Malo; the next, it may evoke Question Mark and the Mysterians.
Darlingside, Fish Pond Fish. The 10-year-old folk/pop quartet known as Darlingside employ bass, guitar, violin, mandolin, and cello, but the group’s multilayered harmony vocals are the star of the show on this consistently likable third album. The lyrics, which are permeated with references to nature, can be more than a bit abstruse. (The first song, for example, begins, “Ghost dog running down the rocky edges / To the churned up under of the ocean bed / No, I’m not running and I never have been / To the true blue bottom where the light ends.” Huh?) The music, however, is rhythmic, lilting, and often ethereal. And the vocals, which sometimes recall the pop group America, are exquisite.
Radio Receiver, Radio Receiver. You’re bound to think of Bob Dylan when you first hear the eponymous 12-track debut from Radio Receiver, the brainchild of Portland, Oregon–based singer/songwriter Nate Wallace, who also serves as frontman for a psychedelic rock outfit called Hearts of Oak. His nasal vocals sound redolent of latter-period Dylan, and the production recalls the albums that Daniel Lanois produced for him. Listen a while, though, and you’ll hear a unique voice emerging.
Jeff Burger’s website, byjeffburger.com, contains more than four decades’ worth of music reviews and commentary. His books include Dylan on Dylan: Interviews and Encounters, Lennon on Lennon: Conversations with John Lennon, Leonard Cohen on Leonard Cohen: Interviews and Encounters, and Springsteen on Springsteen: Interviews, Speeches, and Encounters.