Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 9, 2018)
Over the years, the Rolling Stones developed a well-established plan when it came to their tours. Going all the way back to 1972-73, they would play North America the first year – usually in late summer/fall – and then hit Europe the spring/summer of the next year, with occasional visits to other territories interspersed.
This trend largely held through the band’s 1997-98 Bridges to Babylon tour. The Stones did alter the pattern somewhat in that they carried over the 1997 North American dates to allow more in those territories across January/February 1998 and then a few extra in April 1998.
After that, though, the usual schedule held, as the Stones played Europe from June to September 1998. One unusual aspect of this tour occurred, however, as the Stones played just a single concert in their homeland of England.
Why just the lone show? Taxes, as it happens. If the Stones had played more UK concerts in 1998, it would’ve ensured they had to pay higher taxes due to too much time spent in that realm.
As such, the band decided to postpone the majority of the UK dates to summer 1999, a choice that seemed to leave those shows as outliers. Rather than come back together after a nine-month break just for four concerts, the Stones selected to add a whole bunch of dates, and thus the 1999 No Security tour was born.
In addition to four UK dates, the Stones played six additional European shows across May/June 1999, all of them at stadiums. If you look at Wikipedia, it classifies these concerts as part of the No Security tour, but that’s not accurate, as they’re really just a resumption of the Bridges to Babylon tour.
No Security offered something different and on a smaller scale. Rather than play giant football stadiums, the Stones stayed with basketball arenas – still relatively large venues, but much more “intimate” than the outdoor locations. This wasn’t new – the 1998 North American shows mostly went toward arenas – but it was the first time the Stones had solely played those venues in decades.
In addition, No Security offered a stripped down presentation. It wasn’t a totally no-frills show, but it lacked the usual effects and fancy stage found on prior tours. These concerts would focus on the Stones as a band without a lot to distract.
In fall 1998, a live album called No Security hit the shelves, but as one can tell from the release date, it didn’t represent a show from the No Security tour. Instead, it cobbled together performances across the prior Bridges to Babylon dates.
That makes this 2018 release called No Security San Jose ‘99 the first official product to cover the tour. The Stones completed nearly three months of North American shows with a pair of April concerts at the San Jose Arena, and the first one of those generates this Blu-ray.
Across the show’s 20 songs, we find only two from the then-recent Bridges to Babylon: “Saint of Me” and “Out of Control”. 1994’s Voodoo Lounge brings us “You Got Me Rocking” but then we jump back 13 years for the next-newest track, “Start Me Up” from 1981’s Tattoo You.
1978’s Some Girls produces its title song, “Before They Make Me Run” and “Respectable”, while 1974’s It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll also brings its own title tune. 1972’s Exile on Main Street offers “Tumbling Dice” and 1971’s Sticky Fingers boasts “Brown Sugar”, “Bitch” and “I Got the Blues”.
As we head back into the 1960s, 1969 brings the single “Honky Tonk Women” and two tracks from Let It Bleed: “Midnight Rambler” and “You Got the Silver”. 1968 offers the single “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” as well as the Beggars Banquet number “Sympathy for the Devil”.
1966’s single “Paint It Black” appears, as does 1965’s 45 “Get Off Of My Cloud”. Finally, the band’s cover of Nat King Cole’s “Route 66” comes from their 1964 debut album.
Back in 1999, the No Security sets seemed eclectic, but compared with many of the shows since then, they now look less exciting, as the Stones have churned out a lot of obscurities over that time. Still, a tour that lacked “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”, “Miss You” and a couple other warhorses deserves praise.
By my count, No Security contains 10 of those warhorses, and I can’t claim the rest of the set boasts many true rarities. Beyond “Route 66” and “I Got the Blues”, we find a show heavy with songs most fans will know.
I do appreciate the band’s attempt to shake up the set, though. They’d do even better with subsequent tours, but No Security represented a solid baby step.
Setlist aside, No Security offers a strong performance and comes at the tail end of the period during which the Stones were “consistent” on stage. I put that last word in quotes because the Stones have always been hit or miss live, but once the 2002 tour rolled around, the warts became more pronounced, mainly because guitarist Keith Richards began to encounter more problems.
I saw the 2002-03 tour something like a dozen times, and I can still remember some of the awful fretwork Keith produced. Again, he and fellow guitarist Ron Wood always had their ups and downs, but with a particular emphasis on Keith, these flared up more often once we got to the 21st century. 1999 represented something of a “last gasp” tour during which we could actually expect both Ron and Keith to sound good on the same night on a regular basis.
Vocalist Mick Jagger and drummer Charlie Watts were – and still are – much more consistent, and they both fare well here. While the occasional flubs pop up, the Stones really sound pretty tight here, and the combination of small (for them) venue and end of the North American tour appears to energize the band.
No Security lacks a listing for director, so I don’t know who to credit – or blame – for the production we see. For the most part, the director – let’s call him “Alan Smithee” – does a competent job, but that’s the best I can say.
On one hand, No Security lacks aggressively flashy editing and camerawork most of the time. “Out of Control” offers a predictable exception, as its more “out of control” moments come with wacky quick zooms, but otherwise, the production seems relatively restrained.
Nonetheless, editing can become a bit more rapid-fire than I’d like, and there’s not a lot of rhyme or reason to the presentation. This leaves us with a watchable version of the show but not one that adds to the experience.
Lackluster direction aside, I find a lot to like about No Security. The release brings us a solid performance by one of the greatest bands ever to grace the concert stage – what can a poor boy do except purchase a rock ‘n’ roll Blu-ray?