The Rolling Stones
Grand Stage Theater; Shanghai, China

[04-08-06]

Sometimes, they walk backward in
China. They swing their arms the same way as everyone else, and they look
around at the scenery just the same, and they have conversations about
pigeons, and they have conversations about metaphysics, and they put stupid
shirts on their dogs and walk their dogs in those stupid shirts. They do
everything everyone else in the world does; they just do it a little
differently. They have humongous shopping malls, and they have pop music ear-fucking you, and they have food courts and places where you can buy music and
movies; but the shirts there are kinda funny, and there's a vegetarian
restaurant called Happiness Comes From Vegetable Dish, and the DVD shop
already has Season Third [sic] of Arrested Development. Everything we have and
do, just a little different. In the country whose population would go on
exponentially if you counted all the Chinese in a line (babies, stupid), one-by-one, what do they give the world's largest money-making tour? An 8,000-seat
venue. China doesn't give a shit about The Rolling Stones.

The crowd was largely expatriates, with about 90% being white. The
Stones show was apparently a "be there or be rectangular" kind of event for
whitey, as many of the only Chinese present were either the new, upper-class
elite or on the arm of their vis-à-vis boyfriend. And I guess I really
shouldn't say "whitey," as there was an international zest to the attendees'
whiteness. Upon first arriving at the stadium, after having spent the day in a
city of over 19 million Chinese; packed subways, difficult-to-maneuver
sidewalks, taxis, bikes, mopeds, countless honked horns, pedestrian,
pedestrian, pedestrian, one starts to think a little bit more about this
anomalous event.

The concert itself was rather conflicting. Here are four of the men who have
made some of the greatest rock music in history — "Brown Sugar," "Get Off of My
Cloud," "Jumpin' Jack Flash," Exile on Main Street
men who typified
good pop music, and now we see their picture and we cringe at their wrinkles,
and we talk about how much fucking money they're making on this tour and
whether one of them will die at this show, and how The Rolling Stones are
exactly what many of us have come to hate about music. Big money, moribund
creativity, mass marketing, and corporate tie-ins. Everything that's wrong
with pop music today just walked onto that stage and is going to play a show
for people who have touted their music like an anthem since the '60s, and to
them it's just another show. The news has made a seemingly big deal about this
being their first performance in China, but it's not important. It's not
historic, and it's not monumental. The government wants the good press just
like the Stones want the good press, and what's good for the goose is good for
the geezer. We've all been duped into a massive, two-hour-long PR session that
has been orchestrated by governments, corporations, and men with secretaries.
Everything I have ever believed music was about is, to its bone, at its core,
opposed to these things. Yet here I am, and there they are, and really, all I
want to do is listen to the Stones. I want to close my eyes and be able to
imagine myself in the '60s with my eyes closed, standing at the back of some
hole in the wall listening to The Rolling Stones, but I am in a seat, and the
music doesn't sound live enough, and a big screen behind the band is always an
undeniable temptress. Don't think, just listen. Walk backward.

Mick was surprisingly nimble. He still managed some of his swagger and
presence from "Gimme Shelter," and he even made it come off as more "classy"
sexy than "creepy-dad-singing-to-his-daughter's-friends-at-the-pool-party"
sexy. What can I say? The man is a professional. When singing "Wild Horses"
with Cui Jian, China's resident rock icon, things were sappy, wind blown
(literally), and just what you'd expect.

Along with Jagger, much of the energy for the show came from that
aforementioned bitch of a big screen and her use of cameras and video. Fades
on the slow parts, cuts on the fast, zoom in, zoom out

the swoop, can't
forget the swoop

the staged moves, and, of course, audience shots. If you were
ever tired of the show, you could simply look up and see an amped-up, MTV
version of the performance. The sound was nice and clean; there were two or
three wardrobe changes, and the lighting was excellent. Everything you'd
expect from one of the biggest bands in the world.

They played mostly classics (duh) and were met with mild, grumbling discontent
when announcing they would be playing a new song. The supporting musicians and
vocalists did an excellent job of maintaining the sound of the Stones, even
though they received little regard. Keith played a couple of songs and managed
an audible "It's good to be here...it's good to be anywhere," from that
somnolent voice of his.

I can't say that I wasn't impressed with the show. It was the Stones, for
Jeebus's sake. The music sounded just as good as it does on the albums, Mick
thoroughly awed, and fans could take pictures with their friends in front of a
Rolling Stones tongue-covered wall. Big, bright, loud

the show was everything
I've ever imagined a Rolling Stones concert could be. But the Stones have
turned into more of an event than a band, and everyone should really just save
their money. Wait until winter, light a heap of leaves on fire, and listen to
"Satisfaction" while smoke coddles your blushing cheeks.

Setlist:

1. Start Me Up
2. ---
3. Oh No, Not You Again
4. Bitch
5. Wild Horses (feat. Cui Jian)
6. Rain Fall Down
7. ---
8. Gimme Shelter
9. Tumbling Dice
10. Empty Without You
11. Happy
12. Sympathy for the Devil
13. Miss You
14. It's Only Rock ‘n' Roll
15. Paint it Black
16. Jumpin' Jack Flash

Encore
17. You Can't Always Get What You Want
18. Satisfaction

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