The Checkerboard Lounge, Chicago 1981, recently issued by Eagle Rock, captures an oft-bootlegged – but majorly improved –
rock/blues summit of epic proportions. Check out the video clips, below.
By Hal Bienstock
1981 was something of a tipping point for The Rolling
Stones. It was the year they released what many consider their last significant
album, Tattoo You. It also was the
year they crossed the threshold from band to stadium spectacle, much to the
detriment of their music as anyone who had the misfortune to suffer through the
live album Still Life or VH1
Classic’s endless reruns of the accompanying movie Let’s Spend the Night Together knows all too well.
The DVD/CD release, Live
At The Checkerboard Lounge, Chicago 1981 (Eagle Rock Entertainment), of
their oft-bootlegged appearance with Muddy Waters at Chicago’s Checkerboard
Lounge shows that it didn’t have to be that way. Mick Jagger may do more actual
singing in this one hour than he did on the entire 1981 tour when he either
shouted to the rafters or ran out of breath trying to sprint across giant
Clearly thrilled to be performing alongside one of his
heroes, Jagger sings with depth and
emotion, but also with a playfulness that is a perfect foil to Waters’
authoritative delivery. Keith Richards
and Ron Wood are in top form as well. It’s tough not to be when you have to
hold you own alongside Junior Wells, Buddy Guy and Lefty Dizz, who also take
the stage to round out a legendary jam session. (It’s worth noting that despite
the packaging, this isn’t the full The Rolling Stones onstage – just Jagger,
Richards and Wood).
The quality of the music isn’t in dispute. The real question
is whether fans need to upgrade from their bootleg. The answer is a clear yes.
The sound quality and video quality is far better than any bootleg of this
performance that I’ve found. Those who only have the music will definitely want
this, as the video is full of great moments – from watching Keith climb over a
table to get onstage while a middle-aged waitress in hair curlers takes orders
to seeing Mick balance his electric stage presence with his desire not to
overshadow the headliner.
Bonus features are slim. There’s a nothing-special clip of
the Stones performing “Black Limousine” on the 1981 tour. I guess it was
included because it’s bluesy. And there’s another warmup track from Muddy
Waters’ band before he takes the stage. It’s the main event that makes this DVD