Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 19, 2018)
I first discovered the Rolling Stones for myself as a 14-year-old in 1981. I can still recall how badly I wanted to see them during their tour that year, but it wasn’t to be, so I waited for another opportunity.
And waited… and waited… until 1989, when the band finally hit the road again. While I should have been massively excited to see the band, I wasn’t.
For reasons unknown, my enthusiasm for the Stones had quelled significantly by this point. To be certain, I was still very fond of them, but I was in the middle of a massive Bowie jag at that time, and I lacked tons of passion for the Stones.
Ultimately, I saw the band three times on the 1989 tour, twice from excellent vantage points. I possessed a front row seat for their September 24th DC stadium show, and I also had a 12th row spot for the final performance of the American tour, a special arena date in Atlantic City in December. I enjoyed the concerts but found that they didn’t knock me for a loop like they would’ve eight years earlier.
When the Stones came back around in 1994 for their Voodoo Lounge album and tour, my attitude hadn’t really changed. I still loved the Stones in my heart but the thrill was gone.
Normally when one of my faves hits the road, I plan to see multiple concerts and travel to different cities. That tendency wasn’t as strong in 1994 as it is today - I can afford these treks much more easily now - but nonetheless it definitely existed back then, and given my long-term affection for the Stones, I probably should have planned to see them many times.
However, with my interest at a relatively low ebb, I didn’t anticipate multiple viewings. I planned to see them during their two DC shows and that was it. Since the band started their tour here, that left open the option to travel elsewhere for later concerts, but I assumed that wouldn’t happen.
We all know what occurs when one assumes, and this took place in 1994. To my surprise, I absolutely loved the Voodoo Lounge show.
Much of the concert still relied on the same old chestnuts they’d performed billions of times over the years, but I felt they downplayed these to a surprising degree. “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” actually was deposed from its normal set-ending or encore place and plopped in the nondescript spot a handful of songs in the concert.
I fully believe the Stones chose to do this for symbolic reasons. While unwilling to totally lose the song, they diminished its status in the set and sent a message that this show would be something different.
In addition, the Stones offered a much more significant roster of Voodoo songs than I expected. Normally they trot out a fairly token list from the new album – like the three Steel Wheels tracks at the first 1989 show - but in 1994, they played seven tunes from Voodoo at the tour’s start.
Since Voodoo was a strong release, I really loved this aspect of the show. The band also trotted out a series of excellent songs that hadn’t been heard for a while.
We got “Monkey Man” from 1969’s Let It Bleed as well as “Rocks Off” and “All Down the Line”, the two best songs from 1972’s Exile On Main Street, arguably the Stones’ top album. Mix in some serious oddities like “Hot Stuff” and “Memory Motel” from 1976’s Black and Blue and we encountered a much more varied and unpredictable set than I ever anticipated would be possible.
I ate it up and immediately recaptured a lot of the passion for the Stones that I’d lost. Ultimately I went to see them five more times in 1994, and my interest continued into the future, a development that’s led me to see the Stones 45 more times from 1997 to date.
On this release of Voodoo Lounge Uncut, we find one of the 1994 dates I attended, a November 25 show from Miami. The Miami concert was one of the three longest of the entire 1994-95 Voodoo Lounge tour, as along with the two opening DC dates, in Miami they played a whopping 27 songs.
Unlike the DC concerts, though, the Miami show semi-minimizes the tunes from Voodoo Lounge itself. This means a mere four tracks: “I Go Wild”, “You Got Me Rocking, The Worst and “Sparks Will Fly”.
The show offers nothing from the prior three albums, so the next-newest song arrives with “Start Me Up” off of 1981’s Tattoo You. 1978’s Some Girls brings “Miss You”, “Beast of Burden” and “Before They Make Me Run”, while 1974’s It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll boasts the title track.
With 1973’s Goats Head Soup, we get “Angie” and “Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)”. 1972’s Exile on Main Street offers “Tumbling Dice”, “Rocks Off”, “Stop Breaking Down” – here referred to as “Stop Breakin’ Down Blues” - and “Sweet Virginia”, and 1971’s Sticky Fingers features “Brown Sugar” and “Dead Flowers”.
From 1969’s Let It Bleed, we locate “Live With Me” and “Monkey Man”. 1969 also gives us the single “Honky Tonk Women”.
Back in 1968, we get the single “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” as well as “Sympathy for the Devil” and “Street Fighting Man” from Beggars Banquet. From 1965’s Out of Our Heads, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” pops up, as do “It’s All Over Now” from 1964’s 12X5 and 1964’s “Not Fade Away” off of their American debut.
The final song brings out guest Bo Diddley to perform his “Who Do You Love?” from 1956. Note that Robert Cray accompanies the band for “Stop Breaking Down” and Sheryl Crow appears to duet with Mick on “Live With Me”.
Given the 24 years that have passed since I saw this Miami concert in person, I won’t pretend to remember my circa 1994 impressions well. As noted, I saw six other Stones shows that year - add to that the 45 since then and it becomes tough to isolate specific memories.
I do recall that Miami offered one of the weaker of the seven 1994 concerts I witnessed, partly because of its “event” status as a pay-per-view program. While I won’t claim the Stones suffered from nerves/pressure, I think that the presence of the guest stars and the desire to make it a “bigger” performance for the home audience took away some of the more natural flow of a standard concert.
Like I mentioned, Miami came with one of 1994’s longest setlists, but I prefer the roster of songs they opened with in DC. Not only did the tour-opening shows boast more new tracks – seven Voodoo Lounge tunes vs. the four here – but also they included serious rarities like “Hot Stuff” and “Memory Motel”.
By Miami, the set became more conservative and less exciting – at least for a diehard fan like me. As I noted, the ambitious nature of the DC shows was what did a lot to endear the tour to me, so a more “traditional” set like Miami creates a bit of a disappointment.
The veteran of many concert videos, director David Mallet knew his way around the format. However, even his experience can’t overcome the restrictions imposed by a truly live broadcast.
Had the pay-per-view gone out as a taped program, Mallet would have benefited from increased freedom, but live experiences of this sort necessarily suffer from “lowest common denominator” direction. To minimize gaffes, the choices remain fairly conservative, so this means that Lounge offers a decent representation of the concert, but it doesn’t possess much visual flair or spark.
Still, I prefer Mallet’s subdued approach to the edit-happy trend found in so many other concert videos. Mallet doesn’t bring a lot of life to the proceedings, but he also doesn’t screw them up with gimmicks.
Despite some criticisms, I’m happy to get Voodoo Lounge Uncut, as it’s the first Blu-ray or DVD representation of a full 1994 show. A prior video release offered a severely edited version of Miami that lost a whopping 10 of the concert’s 27 songs, so it’s great that Uncut lives up to its name and restores them.
As a performance, Uncut works pretty well. The band seems slightly weary – as one would expect, given that Miami served as the 50th show of the 60-concert North American leg – but they still give us solid representations of the songs.
A pleasant surprise, Mick proves chattier than usual. Normally he offers little more than “are you feeling good?” and thank yous, but he seems loose and lively in Miami, and that adds a fun factor to the performance.
Miami came with one unique factor: the “B”-stage. That was a small platform placed in the middle of the field, and the band played a mini-set of “Angie”, “Dead Flowers” and “Sweet Virginia” there.
Though it’d become a staple of future Stones tours, Miami was the only 1994-95 show to use it. I don’t know if the Stones pioneered the concept, but at least the “B”-stage added a unique vibe to the Miami concert.
Overall, Uncut seems fairly satisfying. Miami didn’t represent the best of the Voodoo Lounge tour, but it’s a reasonably sold show, and it’s good to finally get it unedited after all these years.