Rolling Stones at the Roundhouse, Roundhouse blog

It was March 1971 and the Rolling Stones were off to live it up in the French Riviera – but not before two farewell shows at the Roundhouse.

By Anna Behrmann

The Rolling Stones… quite a few years later

The band were leaving – apparently for good – and reportedly to become tax exiles.

Performing two shows at the Roundhouse on their chaotic, held-together “Goodbye Britain” tour, Financial Times critic Michael Wale describes in his 1971 review, “football proportioned queues” outside and, inside, “a hundred girls’ arms reached up in clamorous salute”.

They were performing in front of fans, friends and family as Roundhouse favourites. Photographer Pete Smith blagged his way into the gig – “you could still do that in 1971”, he writes underneath his images on Rockarchive.

He describes the crowd standing on the bare ground. “Underfoot was compacted earth, an old farm cart was being pushed worryingly close to the packed crowd.”

Mick Jagger the strutting leading man, Keith Richard vying for attention, Charlie Watts on the drums, Bill Wyman on bass, Mick Taylor on guitar, were tearing through the UK before releasing their album Sticky Fingers the next month.

Bobby Keys on the saxophone, Jim Price on trumpet and Nicky Hopkins on the piano – there just for the tour – were adding notes and variety.

The Rolling Stones played their new single Bitch, with renditions of Live With Me, Stray Cat Blues, Love in Vain and Midnight Rambler.

They opened with Jumping Jack Flash and Honky Tonk Women – “I met a gin-­soaked, barroom queen in Memphis.” Jagger is a stud in Wale’s 1971 review with a “gold lamé matador jacket unfastened and flapping open to his bared waist.”

He wears blue velvet trousers with a studded belt worn merely one felt so that it could be undone and used to thrash the stage with during Midnight Rambler.

“The body never stopped twitching, the bottom wriggled archly, those watery eyes and mouth stared out at the audience like a fish in an aquarium tank.”

But in the eyes of Mark Plummer, who reviewed an alternative performance, Jagger is flaccid. He has a “multicoloured baseball cap, red satin trousers, a belt fit for the devil, and a minuscule sequined bolero revealing his tubby frame.”

“The Rolling Stones circus came to town last Sunday, maybe for the last time,” Plummer declared in his 1971 review.

“The fire has gone out of their show, and Jagger (once the greatest showman in pop) is now little more than a caricature of himself.”

But after all the goodbye kisses and fanfare, the Rolling Stones were back from the continent a mere two years later.

And still working on new material 45 years on.

Published on The Roundhouse blog.

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