Photo by Laura Kirazian Email
Typically, I wouldn’t bother writing a live review, regarding a “tribute band” (especially, one playing at an outdoor swap meet). Seemingly all the rage lately, at small venues, and local bars, these musicians are feeding on the older generations nostalgic music memories (I include myself in that group), in order to make a name for themselves. Rather than write new, original material (that, in all fairness, would not survive in today’s world, of Katy Perry’s, Justin Bieber’s and Lady GaGa’s, anyways), these “tribute bands” get together, pick a group, and off they go, drawing in that particular bands fan-base. The problem was this, however, is, the majority of these groups seem to lack any true enthusiasm, or dedication in their live delivery. Easily, any musician can replicate a bands music, but, can they preserve the true heart and soul of the music? When it comes to delivering an impressive display of true tribute, most fall on their faces. The two most blatant errors that are made, are 1) failing to faithfully reproduce that particular bands sound, and/or musical identity and 2) not looking anything like the actual band. This 2nd point is emphasized more, when the band is recognizable, ala The Rolling Stones, or Led Zeppelin. Apparently, most of these “tribute bands” just wanna jump on the bandwagon, satisfy drunken patrons, and feel it is justifiable.
And then we have The Ultimate Stones, who apparently know what it takes to be effective, and do it on such a superior, professional level, it makes the rest of the “tribute bands” look all the more inferior. It is apparent, they love The Rolling Stones (the greatest band ever) and the music is the driving force behind this 8-piece group.
The brain-child of The Ultimate Stones (formerly Rolling the Stones) is drummer Vince Lupo, who has assembled this amazing cast of characters. Not only has he found facsimiles in the very charistmatic, larger-than-life persona’s of The Rolling Stones, he has also put together musicians that are several notches above decent (read: impressive), and can faithfully recreate the sound, and the moves of the actual band. This is all the more impotant when you’re dealing with such a beloved band, like The Stones. Die-hard fans are going to be looking at you a tad more meticulously, and there is no room for error. Luckily, there are no weak links here. That’s what makes The Ultimate Stones one of the best (if not the best) “tribute bands” out there (hell, even that term seems to undermine their professionalism).
The Rolling Stones haven’t been on the road for quite some time now (their last performance was August, 2007, in London), and it doesn’t appear as if we are getting that 50th anniversary tour, we all so eagerly awaited (for those that could afford the tickets, of course), so this is the closest we can get. Honestly, The Ultimate Stones are so damned good, that’s just fine with me.
Performing 2 separate sets, both running at an hour-plus, and a 15 minute encore, fans were treated to an array of songs that covered all eras of the Stones. The Ultimate Stones kicked off the first set with Street Fighting Man, and covered early material, such as Get Off Of My Cloud (from 1965’s December Children). They went on to run the Stone’s musical gauntlet, from the down-and-dirty Exile on Main Street (Tumbling Dice, Rocks Off, All Down the Line, Happy), Goat’s Head Soup (Angie, Bitch, Wild Horses, Can’t You Hear Me Knocking), and even 1994’s Voodoo Lounge (You Got Me Rockin’). The Ultimate Stones even ambitiously tackled You Can’t Always Get What You Want. That’s a risky selection to meet head-on, but with their spit-polish, near perfect rendition, all 8-members made it look effortless. Actually, this proved to be true, regardless of whatever song they performed. The beauty of it all was, the band delivered every song right-on-the-money, never swaying from th e faithfulness of the actual recorded versions.
Vince Lupo has all of Charlie Watt’s jazz-ridden grooves-and-fills down pat. If I had failed to have my glasses on, I may have thought I was actually witnessing one of my idols live.
The front-man himself, Mick Jagger, is portrayed by Mick Adams. Actually, he may be too good of a Jagger, showing signs of a richer, higher range voice, that the real Stone lacks. And yes, Adams has all the chicken-dance moves down pat, but never borders on campiness. Adams wandered out from the soundboard, amidst the crowd, attired in flashy glam-era coat, and voodoo-inspired top hat, to deliver an eerie, show-stopping Sympathy for the Devil.
Rick Harchol is the band’s Keith Richards, with all the rock-star charisma and couldnt-care-less ‘tude. Harchol was lacking only the eyeliner, but with the intense heat, that afternoon, who can complain? Keeping in check, he also provided the lead vocals, on Happy.
Bernard Yantz, keeping “in character” as Bill Wyman, stood off to the back, never missing a note, and looking as if he was totally unaware of his own amazing 4-string skills. You know, exactly like Wyman. Terry Myers, as Ron Wood, has that same mischevious, up-to-no-good grin on his face, with ciggy in mouth. Myers often stepped ever-so-slightly away from Wood’s style of playing, hinting at his own, personal, blues-influenced talent, but never wandering out of the Stone’s musical boundaries. Bobby Campbell, as Bobby Keyes, was simply amazing on sax, as was Albert Margolis, banging out honky-tonk-bluesy melodies on keyboards.
Not to downplay any other of the Ultimate Stones performers (after all, every member knows “their place,” and make no attempt to outdo any of the others), but backup vocalist Justine Ducloux at times was on the verge of stealing the show. Dueting with Mick Adams on Live With Me, and Honky Tonk Woman, she truly burst out on Gimme Shelter. Ducloux was like a wild tigress uncaged, showing dynamic range that demanded (and received) a standing ovation from the fans. She managed (for a moment or so) to draw attention away from the rest of the band, and focus on her, but, thankfully, was not executed in an arrogant, showoff-ish manner. Now, that’s true professionalism.
The day’s performance finished off with Satisfaction (natch), Brown Sugar, and an encore of Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Bitch, and Rough Justice (from the under-rated A Bigger Bang). Simply put, the crowd was blown away, and loved every damned minute of both sets/encore. The blazing sun may have zapped the fans a bit, but it seemed to be ineffective on the band, and their performance. In closing, more power to all the tribute bands out there, but they need to witness The Ultimate Stones, and pick up (more than) a few pointers. Until then, The Ultimate Stones will continue being many cuts above the rest.