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Rolling Stones in Austin 2006: ‘the best show of the year’

Joe Gross
The Rolling Stones played Austin for the first time ever on Oct. 22, 2006, in Zilker Park. [RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN]

(Editor‘s note: This article was originally published on Oct. 23, 2006, the day after the Rolling Stones’ first-ever appearance in Austin. The band will play its second concert here on May 24 at Circuit of the Americas.)

In this day and age, your average Rolling Stones fan pays a great deal of money to be entertained by one of the most consistent rock ’n’ roll acts out on the road. Fans expect to hear the hits of their youth and maybe the occasional surprise.

The Stones managed to stun a Zilker Park crowd of 42,000 (not a sellout) by playing a rarities-packed set, including the Waylon Jennings tune "Bob Wills is Still the King."

Many fans who had seen previous concerts on the "Bigger Bang" tour were certain the Stones would open with "Jumpin' Jack Flash" or "Paint It Black." Instead, the veteran rockers, now celebrating their 44th year as a band, opened with a propulsive "You've Got Me Rockin’,” which surely could be heard in a 10-mile radius around the park.

They followed it with the mod-era chestnut "Let's Spend the Night Together."

Guitarist Ron Wood took most of the solos, with the iconic Keith Richards providing his singular rhythm. Decked out in a shiny red shirt and the world's tightest black pants, Sir Mick Jagger bounded around onstage, telling the fans repeatedly how good they looked.

The set continued with an explosive version of "She's So Cold" and the still astonishing classic "Sway," played slightly faster than its normally narcotic tempo. Now and then, the rarities weren't so welcome, as with the completely uninteresting "Streets of Love." But the Stones made up for it with a Motown cover and the "Sticky Fingers"-vintage song "Bitch."

The entire evening was compressed by a late gate opening. Austin-based opener Ian McLagan and his Bump Band played a tight 40-minute set of organ-driven R&B and rock.

After acknowledging the greatness of a Stones appearance in Austin, McLagan told the crowd, "They might be your favorite band, but they were my favorite band first." After all, McLagan and Stones guitarist Ron Wood did time in the Faces, England's ultimate bar band.

Although Wood did not join the Bump Band onstage, McLagan mentioned him, mostly when he played one of Wood's old songs, "Cindy Incidentally."

The band alternated between songs from that record and McLagan tunes such as "Got a Date with an Angel." The band sounded fit and warm, bolstered by guitarist Scrappy Jud Newcomb's bluesy solos and Mark Andes' propulsive bass playing.

The sun setting directly into their eyes, San Angelo-bred Los Lonely Boys peeled off song after song of self-described "Texican rock ’n’ roll." This essentially meant blues rock, often en español. Songs were crammed with solos and found the sweet spot between Stevie Ray Vaughan and Carlos Santana.

The Garza brothers have this power trio thing down cold, even if they were augmented by a keyboard player, whose runs sometimes added texture and sometimes felt superfluous.

But from the opening tune "Heaven" onward, every one of Henry Garza's Stratocaster solos was met with Ringo's hard-swinging drumming and Jojo's intricate bass playing (though Jojo has yet to convince anyone that any bassist needs more than four strings).

The Stones have always chosen their opening acts carefully, and when the Boys' rhythm section concentrated on grooves rather than fills or solos, their songs of love and loss felt more than appropriate for a cool Austin evening.

The coolness extended to the marquee act; the Stones weren't content to play only their own obscure songs.

After a brief introductory salute from Keith Richards, for instance, he sang the Buddy Holly obscurity "Learning the Game," a song the band is unlikely to play again.

After 9:30 p.m., they played some hits, closing the set with smashes such as "You Can't Always Get What You Want" and "Brown Sugar."

All right, I give. This is very easily the best show of the year.