(New York City – November 12, 2013) – The camaraderie between past and present Rolling Stones was on display last weekend, when Ronnie Wood and Mick Taylor commandeered a nightclub in New York to pay tribute to blues legend Jimmy Reed. The duo staged four shows over three nights – November 7, 8 and 9 – at the very intimate Cutting Room, located on East 32nd Street.
Ronnie hatched the idea when he was invited to play the London Blues Fest at Royal Albert Hall on November 1. He decided to recruit Mick Taylor for his band and to play a set of Jimmy Reed covers. Mr. Taylor, of course, was a permanent fixture of the Stones’ “50 and Counting” tour this year, during which time he and Ronnie – the man who succeeded him in the Stones – solidified their friendship and took their mutual admiration society to new heights.
After a brief warm-up show at London’s Troubadour nightclub on October 30, the duo pulled into a packed Albert Hall on November 1 to strut their stuff before 5,000 paying customers. They ran through eighteen Jimmy Reed numbers, the majority of which featured Ronnie on vocals. Paul Weller (formerly of the Jam) came onstage to sing “Shame Shame Shame,” while r&b legend Bobby Womack tackled “Big Boss Man,” “Bright Lights, Big City,” and the evening’s closer, “Going To New York.”
Ronnie and Mick T. indeed headed to New York after that gig, to take over the Cutting Room. They played two truncated shows on Thursday, November 7, which admittedly upset some audience members. In fact, when the band left the stage after 55 minutes, most fans – some who’d paid $300 a seat, face value – assumed it was merely a break. But they were informed by the club that the gig was over and that they had to make room for the late show. (The second set was an invitation-only freebie for industry and press, who didn’t feel as cheated by the band’s brevity.)
Ronnie and Mick T. more than redeemed themselves on Friday and Saturday, November 8 and 9 (photo above). They staged one show per night, clocking in at 90 minutes apiece. They traded blistering blues solos and offered performances that differed greatly from this year’s Stones tour. Ronnie proved to be a more-than-adequate harp player and front man, while Mick T. finally got to stretch his wings for an entire set (unlike the Stones concerts, where he was limited to two or three songs).
Ironically, the top ticket for the Friday and Saturday shows was $150, face value. (Almost twice the music for half the price of Thursday’s early show.) But with the club’s capacity at 300 or so, those tickets sold out fast (minutes after going on sale in the middle of the night, back in October) and could soon be found on Stub Hub in the thousand-dollar range.
Before Friday’s show, the club’s co-owner, actor Chris Noth (“Sex and the City,” “Law and Order”) introduced the band to the stage. Ronnie made it clear that that night’s set would be longer than the previous night’s, and proceeded to educate the crowd about Jimmy Reed. (“He died in 1976,” etc.) Ronnie adapted instantly to the nightclub atmosphere and made it feel like he was playing for a bunch of his closest friends. (True, he may have played some nightclubs with the Stones in recent years, but never with waitresses and plates of cheeseburgers passing through.)
With a band that included Simon Kirke on drums (formerly of Bad Company) and the legendary Al Kooper on organ, Ronnie and Mick T. ran threw a slew of Reed classics, like Honest I Do and Baby, What You Want Me To Do, as well as the brilliant instrumental, Blue Carnegie. (Click on the respective song titles to watch cellphone YouTube clips posted by audience members.)
At one point, Ronnie informed us that one of the first 45s he ever owned was Reed’s “Shame Shame Shame.” That was Gary Clark Jr.’s cue to hop onstage and plug in. (Photo below.) Clark, who is now a familiar face to Stones fans, sang lead on the song (watch it here) and represented the only guest during the three-night Cutting Room residency.
There were rumors that Keith would turn up for a guest spot on Saturday, but it was not to be. His guitar technician was in the house, and there was an extra mic and amp waiting for him, but they were never utilized. And despite the presence of some capable musicians in the house – from Steven Van Zant to Mickey Dolenz to, yes, John McEnroe – none of them were summoned. But these shows really didn’t need any guests. Ronnie and Mick T. thrived in this non-Stones setting and it’s a shame shame shame that more people didn’t get to see it in person.
Speaking of Keith, don’t assume he’s resting on his laurels. He’s slowly piecing together a new solo album. He visited a New York studio a few weeks ago to lay down a track called “Love Is Overdue” with reggae legend Lee “Scratch” Perry. And earlier this year, he rendezvoused with guitarist Waddy Wachtel and keyboardist Ian McLagan in Los Angeles, for a jam session that was captured on film by Johnny Depp, who plans to include it in his Keith documentary. There are no dates set for either the album or film release, but, as they sarcastically say in Jamaica, “Soon come, mon.”
Keith, by the way, did take the opportunity to see Ronnie and Mick T. while they were here in New York. He grabbed lunch with them on Veterans Day Monday (photo below, from Ronnie’s Twitter feed).
As for the other Stones, Charlie’s been keeping a low profile, while Mick’s been spotted at various fashion events. He attended the Harper’s Bazaar Awards in London last week, where he accompanied his designer girlfriend L’Wren Scott, who picked up the “Tastemaker of the Year” honor. He made some Stones news, however, when a reporter asked about the band’s future. Mick said he had a blast touring with the Stones in 2013 and that he’d “love to do it again.”
Rumors have already begun swirling for next year – shows in Europe? Asia? South America? Australia? – but none of them hold any water at this point. Even after Mick’s comments. For now, the Stones are encouraging their fans to reminisce about 2013. Out this week – in time for holiday gift-giving – is “Sweet Summer Sun: Hyde Park Live,” culled from their two concerts in London last summer.
As a DVD or Blu-ray documentary, “Sweet Summer Sun” offers two hours of onstage and backstage footage. As a double-CD, it offers almost a full concert, including songs like “Emotional Rescue,” which got cut from the documentary. And of course, there are all sorts of deluxe and super-deluxe options, like the ones that contain three vinyl LPs, a T-shirt, a book and/or a DVD of the band’s initial Hyde Park concert in 1969 (which marked Mick Taylor’s debut as a Stone). So pick your poison and play it loud.
Photos courtesy of Barry Fisch, Lynn O'Brien and Ronnie Wood.