Put The Boot In: Rolling Stones-“Rank Outsiders” 2-26-1973 Australia

by | Apr 30, 2013 | 3 comments


      Today in the ‘rock room’ I am enjoying a crisp soundboard recording of The Rolling Stones that hails from February 26 1973 during their Australian tour. The performance is from the Royal Randwick Racetrack in Sydney and the next to last show on the tour. The line recording is somewhat sterile, but features a well balanced mix of instruments and a powerful performance. The band lineup is the usual classic lineup, but featuring the additions of keyboardist Nicky Hopkins and the quintessential rock horn section of Bobby Keys and Jim Price, as well as an added percussionist. The Stones in this era were a fire breathing beast on tour, leaving destruction in their wake, and this show features them during one of the many peaks of their career.
     The performance accelerates right from the start with a triumvirate of fiery versions of classic Stones masterpieces. “Brown Sugar” in a sticky sweet stomp containing jiving horns and Mick Taylor’s syrupy thick lead lines. Jagger is on tonight and his vocal performance still contains a theatrical musicality, not yet deteriorating to the mid 1970’s “shouting”. A quick “thank you” and the band cooks up an amphetamine driven “Bitch”, punctuated by Richards sustained bee sting licks and crunchy Berry riffs. The horn section swings by feeling, deliciously interjecting funky counterpoints to everyone in the band. Under it all bubbles the in the pocket groove of Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman. “Bitch” settles into a drums and bass interlude followed by a dual guitar melody line segment that Jagger ushers into the conclusion of the tune with some “hey hey hey’s”.
     The third song in the opening triad is abrasive and smokey “Rocks Off’ that tumbles across the rock and roll landscape with an aggressive groove. Even more foreboding than the “Exile” version, Taylor and Richards swap jagged stoney licks while the band lifts about six inches off of the stage. Hopkins can be heard tinkling through the mix at this point, the group sounding muscular and every bit of “The greatest rock and roll band in the world”. A breathless reading of a personal Stones favorite and a great jumping off point for the rest of the show.
     “Gimmie Shelter” is given a jagged and slashing reading similarly to the previous songs, all containing a kinetic energy. The band is completely invested in this show, and no one is too wasted to give it their all, despite the legal and personal issues following the band at this point. Jagger spits the lyrics devilishly while Richards stabs serrated guitar strikes through Wyman’s  smooth and spooky
bass web.
     “Happy” follows, and is a drunkin romp through its melodic changes. Keith grooves out some raspy vocals as the rest of the band screams along. The guttural rumble of the horns twist up the rhythm of the song. No matter how many times the band perform this song it always cooks. Close to the conclusion of “Happy”, “Tumbling Dice”chugs forward with a conceited strut, the guys know they are hot now. Hopkins twinkles in some saloon style electric piano trills under Jagger’s vocals. Toward the end the band brings it down for Jagger to do some “roll me” improvisations as the instruments swirl, building in intensity around him.
     One of my favorite performances of the show, and a definite peak thus far is the version of “Love In Vain” that comes next. This is a rotund, heavy stepping version, with well enunciated and dynamic vocals by Jagger. Between Taylor’s watery slide playing, and the moaning horns this reading of the Robert Johnson classic gains an orchestrated touch. Steeped in the blues, the Stones ring out every ounce of mojo from this rendition. Taylor’s second guitar solo should be noted for the alchemy the band exhibits, and the deft touch by Taylor’s fingers.
     The band picks up some acoustic instruments for the rare “Sweet Virginia” that comes next. Featuring some heavy harp playing by Jagger, and Keef joining in emphatically on the chorus, the show has now reached special status. Charlie dances a rag time across his skins, shuffling his way under the campfire acoustic guitars. Bobby Keys steps into the spotlight for a funky sax solo, as well as echoing Jagger’s vocal lines immaculately. Classic Stones.
    An epic “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” follows with Mick Taylor again taking over with intricate and intense riffing. A song often played to death gets an honest and enthusiastic reading here. “Honky Tonk Women” is a dirty version containing swampy Richards guitar and breathy horns that give it a larger than life feeling. Everything about this show feels “big” with aggressive instrumentation at every turn. Another great version with Wyman taking big blue elephant steps all over the downbeat.
     Mick yelps out an “Allright” as Keith whips out  the opening lick of “All Down the Line”. “All Down the Line” runs until its out of breath in a speedy and slick version. Taylor slathers the groove in silvery slide work, while Richards distorted Telecaster teeters back and forth on Watts steady hands. The crowd has to be absolutely destroyed at the rock being put on display. I’m worn out just by listening!
     After the tiring “All Down the Line”, Mick’s harmonica prelude signals the start of the 10 minute “Midnight Rambler” that stalks the stage menacingly. The tune hits a delicious syncopated peak that rides Jagger’s swelling harmonica and the dual guitars of Taylor and Richard’s. Breaking down into a thick murderous blues groove the band rocks back and forth dangerously, Jagger screaming well timed “Owww’s!” that get a reaction from the assembled crowd. Mick moans seductively and then whispers, leading the band to the recognizable start and stop middle breakdown. While not a definitive 1969 version, this “Midnight Rambler” holds its own, with magical efforts by all involved. The Stones scream back into the central riff, running for their life, or running from taking a life, you be the judge. Lubed like greased lightning the band slams into the songs conclusion.
     Mick now takes the time to introduce the band, forgetting Bobby Keys in the process as the group takes off into the concluding songs of the show. “Little Queenie” and “Rip This Joint” are quintessential Stones, straight rock, no chaser. A hearty serving of rock solid rhythm, distorted and loud Richards riffing, swinging horns and bluesy vocals.  Jagger lets out a blood curdling scream at “Little Queenie’s conclusion ushering in the supersonic “Rip This Joint” that follows. Wow, keeping true to their word the Stones do indeed “Rip This Joint” with a frenzied version the borders on going off of the rails. Again, the horns take the band to another level, as when Price or Keys take a solo the band just explodes! It’s no wonder why they were kept on board after the 1972 tour when they were undergoing a trial by fire nightly.
     The soundboard portion of the recording cuts off after “Rip This Joint” on the version I have which is called “Rock and Roll Stew”. Regardless, an average sounding audience segment picks up and gives us the rest of the show which is the double punch of “Jumping Jack Flash” and “Street Fighting Man”. Incendiary versions follow which give the listener a different view of the performance than the soundboard, as the crowd is going loony tunes! The “Street Fighting Man” builds to a steamy peak, with Taylor playing with a “wah wah” tone, and Keef striking distorted bells with his guitar. A huge wave of instrumental sound covers the venue, and then they are gone. The crowd erupts with disappointment as the MC announces the conclusion of the performance.
     During 1972-1973 the Rolling Stones were delivering every night. The addition of their own horn section, the blossoming of Jagger and Richards in the midst of their best songwriting period, as well as rock crowds hungry for whatever the Stones could give them, added up to legendary tours and unforgettable performances. This snapshot from the Australian tour of 1973 is just a brief moment in an era bursting with prime gigs. This is the stuff of rock lore, check it out if you haven’t, if you have, throw it on again. Listen to the Stones when they were the reigning “Greatest Rock and Roll Band in the World”.


Love In Vain-2-26-1973



  1. Jonno

    Oh, I forgot to mention [I'm 60, or as I've styled it HOW THE F DID THIS HAPPEN?] it was Nicky's birthday, so that may have had summink to do with the festive mood. Plus, Sydney was the next and final stop of the tour.

  2. Jonno

    I think this is the most energetic show from the 1973 Pacific Tour. Mick is just right on it from the word go, and doesn't let up. I believe it's the audience that makes these shows stand out.


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